Strategies to Design For Supply

Even though it’s a topic the doctor mentions regularly (see AMR’s 7 Supply Chain Best Practices, and Procurement Lead Time Optimization, and The Benefits and Risks of Global Product Development, for example), it’s something that he rarely dedicates a post to. However, since, Supply and Demand Chain Executive recently published an article by Heather E. Domin, James Wisner, and Matthew Marks on nine strategies you an apply when you Design for Supply Chain, now seems like a good time to dedicate a post.

Design for Supply Chain, or, Design for Supply, is the process of optimizing the fit between supply chain capabilities, product designs, costs, and expected revenues. It is the application of supply chain management processes, techniques, and innovations that aim to simultaneously increase customer satisfaction, minimize total costs, mitigate risks, and maximize the flexibility to adapt to unexpected events.

The authors are right when they note that, “efficient product design is not just a way of squeezing out cost savings, but a competitive weapon to be leveraged for strategic advantage” (especially since good design for supply uses TRIZ). Furthermore, as the article notes, “applying a product life-cycle management mentality as early on as the conceptual design stage, a product can be developed from the ground up to be a truly supply-chain-efficient creation.

But what the doctor really liked about this article was that all of the the nine strategies outlined in the article were sound. They were:

  1. Optimize Levels of Product Integration
    Determine the optimal level of pre-assembly at upstream suppliers. Balance flexibility (the ability to configure parts in different ways, replace parts, or use parts in alternate products) with assembly time (as assembling all of the parts yourself can take time and add labor cost).
  2. Leverage Industry Standards
    Whenever possible, use industry standard parts unless the proprietary part creates a competitive advantage.
  3. Minimize Premium Freight
    Thanks to continuously rising fuel costs, increased regulatory requirements, and continuously shrinking free capacities, freight costs are no longer an insignificant part of the total cost of any buy. Sometimes, they are a majority cost – especially when you have to ship express. Be sure to design the chain with acceptable lead times and sufficient safety stock of common components or alternate components.
  4. Design for Life Cycle
    The product design should be amicable to potential component or configuration changes throughout its intended life-cycle.
  5. Configure the Selected Supply Chain
    Make sure the supply chains are designed in accordance with the company’s strategic network plans, at the category group level and not the individual product level.
  6. Design for Demand & Supply Planning
    Good designs include commonality, modular design, universal function, and final configuration postponement to allow for pooling of demand and labor.
  7. Minimize Inventory Costs
    Design your supply chain to maximize velocity and minimize lead times as much as possible to reduce the amount of stock and safety stock you have to keep on hand.
  8. Optimize Order Management
    Products should be designed to provide the maximum amount of flexibility to the customer with little or no additional internal cost.
  9. Minimize Warranty / Service Costs
    Create a reliable, high-quality product with easy to diagnose faults and customer replaceable parts that have a high warranty redemption value.

And this is a good start.