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Design it Right — for Manufacturing and Service!

I am a big believer in an engineer that can “do it all.”  By that, I mean an engineer that understands future technology, today’s technology, what it takes for a user to easily interact with a product and can make it easy to manufacture and service.  I know that is asking a lot, but it is no more than I expect of myself.  Recently my wife and I completed our annual ritual of putting out a unique Christmas greeting for family, friends and business contacts.  My wife and I have now done this 24 times, with each one being a challenge.  It starts with a theme that we come up with as early as the year before, but no later than August.  We make prototypes of the card in September and October.  This is a critical time for the production side of the card.  Since we put out 350 cards this year, and it often involves cutting, folding, stamping, stippling and other processes.  Prototyping is when we experiment with how to produce the card with the least amount of steps.  Since my father and brothers all worked in automotive factories as die makers, jig and fixture makers and electricians, I have a sensitivity to the production side of things.  I include small, hardly noticeable fold and cut marks.  I purchase staplers with 12 inch long arms for getting to the middle of a card.  I’ve learned to leave enough room at the edges for printers and even more room for the occasional misfeed of the paper.  Anyone that is involved with printing brochures and other materials for advertising will understand well all these considerations.  November, then, is the time for the artwork part of the development.  Choosing fonts and colors, choosing pictures, arranging them to look nice and be consistent with the theme chosen.  With so many cards to put out, hand addressing each one is not possible.  So we try to create labels that are consistent with the theme we have chosen.  Finally, in early December production starts.  It takes several days of long hours to carefully fold, stamp, cut, stuff, address and get each card ready.  You may not think it possible, but each one that is addressed has been carefully considered and each person that gets one has had memories of our interactions during the year or earlier go through our minds.  We know that people enjoy receiving them by the comments they give us throughout the year.  We are glad people enjoy them.  So, the point is it takes a lot of work from the very start to “get it right.”  There are lots of considerations required to make a product–or any creation–right from so many different perspectives, including right for manufacturing and service.  Think about it the next time you start a project–start with the end in mind.  Don’t think about the manufacturing and service requirements as unnecessary constraints that hold back your creative juices.  Just the opposite. There is a whole field of innovation that suggests the best ideas come when we consider constraints.  These same thoughts go for anything you may be doing.  Think through what Mom does every holiday to put together a great gathering of family with food, decorations, activities and more.  She’s doing the very same things–sometimes with a checklist or two–sometimes all in her head.  She is amazing–don’t you think!!!  Happy Holidays.