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Volume 6   Issue 5                June 2005


Design for Manufacturability
Preventing a Clash Between Manufacturing and Marketing
by Mike Biffl

As with companies in all industries, window manufacturers are looking for new and improved ways to differentiate their products from those of their competitors. While this is necessary to the market success of any company, it can be a difficult task to combine the wants of the marketing department with the needs of the manufacturing department.

Marketers want unique and appealing aesthetics while manufacturers want a window that goes together quickly with minimal labor and no chance for mistakes. How to balance these issues and keep peace in the family is a question with which many companies wrestle.

Marketing Input
When a company plans to introduce a new vinyl window to its product line, it makes sense to bring in the sales and marketing team at the beginning. These individuals are on the front line and see what the competition is doing every day. They know what features they are selling against and what they can use to overcome the benefits of the competitors’ products. 

However, as we all do, they see it mainly from their own vantage point. For example, the manufacturing and engineering departments cannot fully understand what it is like to go out and try to sell against a product that may be perceived as superior to their own offering.

Similarly, the sales and marketing group will not fully understand what it means to design and manufacture a window with all the aesthetics and performance ratings they would like to be able to offer. Rather, their input is valuable from a “what if” standpoint. It will help the engineering and manufacturing groups to understand what their products are competing against and what features are available from the competition. 

Once the wish list is generated, engineering and manufacturing need to see what makes sense given existing equipment technology, processes and labor resources. Preliminary designs that meld the wants of the marketing group with the restrictions of the plant then begin to take shape. At this point it is also time to call on the vinyl supplier to begin discussing the costs of new extrusion dies and the timeframe required to begin manufacturing new profiles. This can be a considerable length of time so it is best to find out early when the new product will be introduced. 

Gain Supplier Feedback
After some preliminary ideas have been put on paper, equipment suppliers should be brought in to the discussion. Many times, what looks great on paper may be limited by the constraints of available equipment. Although a reverse cove may be exactly what the salesperson wants, making it look good on a consistent basis may cause issues for the manufacturing plant.

Today’s vinyl fabrication machinery is generally very flexible and very capable. However, when put in a production setting and running day in and day out, tools become dull and vinyl dimensions vary. This can result in scrap losses and inferior products. It is best to discuss the designs with the equipment suppliers to find out where the happy medium between form and function is.

The give-and-take usually occurs when the extrusion supplier, the equipment supplier and the window fabricator are all in the same room. This provides a forum for brainstorming with all interested parties. Passing information among companies is never the best way to make sure that everyone is on the same page. A thorough understanding of the opportunities for the fabricator, the issues of the extruder and the challenges of the equipment manufacturer is required by all parties in order to determine the best scenarios. Once this understanding is reached, a thoughtful design can be finalized that supports everyone involved. 

The projects that the extruder and fabricator are involved in early in the design discussions invariably go most smoothly from start to finish. Although the initial discussion phase may take a little longer, the final launch of the product generally occurs on schedule with minimal technical issues in the field. 

Mike Biffl serves as national sales manager for Sturtz Machinery Inc. in Solon, Ohio.

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