Cost Reduction and Simplification
“You know you have achieved simplicity in design not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.”
(adapted from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
Achieving a simple design requires experience in design, knowledge of manufacturing processes, and a culture that encourages simplification. Although much easier to solve engineering problems by adding more parts to fix an issue, it takes true skill to achieve a reliable result with as few parts as possible.
Simplexity is dedicated to creating simple designs – it’s in our name and tagline, “simplifying the complex®.”
By following our simplification process, our clients have experienced the following results:
- Saved money and improved product performance when we reduced the number of unique parts from 22 to 9 for Senaptec Strobe Eyewear. The remaining parts required less complex injection-molding tools, resulting in additional savings.
- Received a 50% savings on their bill of materials cost on an X-Y stage assembly for a scientific imaging instrument by switching from off-the-shelf parts to a Simplexity custom-designed and tooled solution. Even with the cost reduction, the product exceeded requirements by holding repeatability to under 10 microns.
- Decreased assembly time from 8 hours to 1 hour for a metal subsystem. This was accomplished by switching from a series of 25 unique parts that needed to be fixtured and welded in place to a subassembly of 5 unique pre-formed sheet metal parts that were positioned with datum references and bolted together. An additional benefit was that the new design was about 30% lighter and had about twice the torsional stiffness as the original design.
- Eliminated the need to buy a bigger EEPROM chip for their product. By changing the behavior of the EEPROM from a static, in-place write model to a cached model, the writes went from 1.5 million to 70,080, a drastic 95% reduction over the previous model. This was critical since the EEPROM was only rated for 1 million writes.
- Decreased the cost of a custom tool for moving a page-wide array print head by 66%. Also reduced the time to assemble it by over half and reduced the size and weight so it could easily be carried by one person instead of two.
- Improved reliability of a camera-based imaging system by designing it with a flexture which has infinite life instead of traditional bearings and rails that need maintenance and can only last a finite number of cycles. The new design was also simpler to assemble and cost less than half of the price of a bearing/rail system.
- Simplified the design of a HSI CPR Loop to one interface area (placing the product on the chest of a manikin) instead of adding sensors in the mouth or a chest strap to measure breath. This was achieved by replacing the accelerometer with an accelerometer-gyroscope combination and writing new control algorithms.
“They have a process for boiling down complex problems into their essence. They delivered one
solution that is so elegant that we actually display it in our conference room as artwork.”
- Scott Jewett, CEO, Portable Composite Structures, Inc.
Cost reduction goes hand-in-hand with simplification.
There are two key approaches to cost-reduce a product. The first is to evaluate the existing parts and determine how each one can be made more cost-effectively. It may be unnecessary to use a ½-inch-thick plate if a ¾-inch plate is strong enough. Perhaps two or more parts could be combined into one to save on tooling costs. Those examples are valid ways to cost reduce a product and usually yield in 10 to 20% cost savings.
However, if the goal is to reduce the cost of a product by 50% or more, the solution is to modify the overall design. We design simplicity into complex products, as early as possible, by designing with a systems approach. For example, we could replace a series of 6 mechanical parts with a motor or we might use sophisticated firmware algorithms to eliminate the need for additional sensors.
For a more in-depth look into Simplexity’s approach, read the blog post on If I Could Only Do 3 Things To Simplify A Design, What Would They Be, by Simplexity CEO Dorota Shortell.