Partnering with a manufacturer prior to finalizing your device’s design provides the opportunity to optimize the design for cost effective and timely production. We asked Nicole Sroka, Product Development Engineer at Orchid Orthopedic Solutions, three questions about how product development teams can better work with their contract manufacturers and what is the positive outcome of those early relationships.
You’ve talked about smart design before. How do you define smart design? How is it implemented in action?
Sroka: Smart design is leveraging your product and process design to reduce costs and time to market. The most impactful time to consider the effects of the design inputs on the cost and time to manufacture and inspect is before the design is frozen. Smart design means investing more time and engineering into the planning process to balance simplicity with innovation, rather than attempting to squeeze out costs in other ways later in the process.
In action, device companies should encourage their design engineers to work with manufacturers and suppliers even during the concept phase of design, where possible. Manufacturers will work with device companies’ engineering teams to identify the design inputs that affect manufacturing and inspection methods and costs, and together ensure the best design for the product.
What best practice can device companies implement to ensure that outsourced product development and manufacturing is on time and on budget?
Sroka: On the development side, it’s key to perform a thorough project risk analysis and come up with a mitigation plan early. Clearly defining the scope of the project is also critical, so that later on out of scope requests can be identified and reduced as much as possible. From a manufacturing standpoint, requesting manufacturing feedback early can help save time and cost in the end. Working with a vertically integrated development company or one that has close working relationships with manufacturers can help ensure the success of both.
What question do you wish your device company partners asked you about the product development process? Why?
Sroka: We wish that we would hear the question, “How can we ensure we are designing for manufacturing and for inspection?” more often, and particularly earlier on in the project. Receiving cost estimates or discovering that the product cannot be made to the original specifications late in the development process can severely slow a project. We encourage our customers to consider this early on so that we may thoughtfully design products that will meet their cost, timing and production expectations.