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Nuts To Screws

By Marketing Research Team , 3EA
Nuts To Screws

Putting together NCR Corp's new 2760 electronic cash register is a snap. In fact, William R. Sprague can do it in less than two minutes - blindfolded. To get that kind of easy assembly, Sprague, a senior manufacturing engineer of NCR insisted that the point-of-sale terminal be designed so that its parts fit together with no screws or bolts.

The entire terminal consists of just 15 vendor produced components. That's 85 percent fewer parts, from 65 percent fewer supplier, than in the company's previous low - end model, the 2160. And the terminal takes only 25 percent as much time to assemble, installation and maintenance are also a breeze, says Sprague, "The simplicity flows through to all of the downstream activities, including field service."

The new NCR product is one of the best examples to date of the payoffs possible from new engineering approach called "design for manufacturability," mercifully shortened to DFM. Other DFM enthusiasts include Ford, General Motors, IBM, Motorola, Perkin-Elmer, and Whirlpool. Since 1981, General Electric Co. has used DFM in more than 100 development programs, from major appliances to gearboxes for jet engine, GE figures that the concept has netted $200 million in benefits, either from cost savings or from increased market shares.

Nuts to Screws
One US champion of DFM is Geoffrey Boothroyd, a professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering at the University of Rhode Island and the co-founder of Boothroyd Dewhurst Inc. This tiny Wakefield (R.I.) company has developed several computer programs that analyse design for ease of manufacturing.

The biggest gains, notes Boothroyd come from eliminating screws and bolts may run mere pennies apiece, and collectively they account for only about 5 percent of a typical product's bill of materials. But tack on all of the associated costs, such as the time needed to align components while screws are inserted and tightened and the price of using those mundane parts can pile up to 75 percent of total assembly costs, "Fasteners should be the first thing to design out of a products," he says.

Had screws been included in the design of NCR's 2760, calculates Sprague, the total cost over the lifetime of the model would have been $12,500-per screw. "The huge impact of little things like screws, primarily on overhead costs, just gets lost, he says. That's understandable, he admits, because for new-product development projects, "the overriding factor is hitting the market window. It's better to be on time and over budget than on budget but late."

But NCR got its simplified terminal to market in record time without overlooking the little details. The product was formally introduced last January, just 24 months after development began. Design was a paperless interdepartmental effort from the very start. The product remained a computer model until all members of the team - from design engineering, manufacturing, purchasing, customer service and key supplier - were satisfied.

That way, the printed circuit boards, the molds for its plastic housing, and other elements could all be developed simultaneously. This eliminated the usual lag after designers throw a new product "over the wall" to manufacturing, who then must figure out how to make it. "Breaking down the walls between design and manufacturing to facilitate simultaneous engineering," Sprague declares, "was the real breakthrough."

The process began with a mechanical computer aided engineering program that allowed the team to fashion three-dimensional models of each part on a computer screen. The software also analysed the overall product and its various elements for performance and durability. Then the simulated components were assembled on a computer workstation's screen to assume that they would fit together properly. As the design evolved, it was checked periodically with Boothroyd Dewwhust's DFM software. This promoted several changes that trimmed the parts count from an initial 28 to the final 15.

No Mock-Up
After everyone on the team gave their thumbs-up, the data for the parts were electronically transferred directly into computer-aided manufacturing systems at the various suppliers. The NCR designers were so confident everything would work as intended that they didn't bother making a mock-up.

DFM can be a powerful weapon against foreign competition. Several years ago, IBM used Boothroyd Dewhust's software to analyse dot-matrix printer it was sourcing from Japan - and found it could do substantially better. Its Proprinter has 65 percent fewer parts and slashed assembly time by 90 percent". Almost anything made in Japan," insists Professor Boothroyd, can be improved upon with DFM-often impressively."

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Case Study by: Marketing Research Team , 3EA