Factory Automation

Design for Manufacturing and Design for Assembly

You’ve got a great new or updated product that you’re rushing to put into production as quickly as possible. While it may be tempting to take shortcuts in the early design phases, make sure that design for manufacturing (DFM) and design for automation (DFA) are included early. 

What are DFM and DFA?

Design for manufacturing often referred to as DFM – the goal of DFM is to ensure that the most cost-effective materials, parts, and processes are used to produce a product.

Design for automation, also referred to as DFA – traditionally, DFA meant design for assembly. Now designing for assembly must also take into considerations for automation. DFA can reduce labor costs, improve quality, and increase consistency in the production process.

Why can’t DFM and DFA be done closer to production? 

The early design stages are when it’s much easier to make changes. Late changes will delay your time to market, cost more, and be more difficult to implement. Including DFM and DFA early and throughout the design process minimizes costs while improving quality and efficiency. Even if you’re redesigning an existing product, it’s worth tearing down the current design and making the best choices for your current manufacturing and automation capabilities. 

How can DFM and DFA minimize costs and speed time to market?

Prevent problems

The earliest choices made about materials and processes are critical.  Either the material or the process can drive decision-making.  If several materials could be used, then look at the production processes for each material. If you want to use an existing production process, then look at the materials that are most compatible with that process. 

Designing for automation includes answering the engineering questions around how you are going to grip the part? What features will make assembly easier, such as chamfers on mating parts. What features will the tooling need? Will your pallet need a left and right considerations, and how will they be error proofed if there is a manual load station. DFA will cover all these special considerations.

Speed production

Designing for automation allows the product to seamlessly move into production without having to start thinking about automation late in the game. What setup is required? How quickly can changeovers be done? By asking these questions at the earliest stages, the overall part design can accommodate faster production and automation tooling design.

+fastening methods, type of adhesive used

+modular design? Applicable to small part assembly?

+automation: tooling

Minimize errors

Make assembly mistake-proof by using tabs, slots, foolproof orientation, colors and other best practices.

Ensure that tolerances are reasonable for the processes being used, and that quality can be checked  easily and frequently.

+DFA: self-locating parts

Maximize yield

With fewer mistakes in assembly, waste can be minimized if not eliminated; which maximizes yield.

Reduce costs

By making choices with manufacturing and automation in mind, you can 

  • actively select common materials and parts to reduce inventory.

DFA- what level of automation makes the most sense? This usually depends on volume and tooling flexibility.

Manufacturers that use DFM – design for manufacturing and DFA design for automation can get to market faster as parts fit together tooling works better and the entire assembly process is smoother.

At Ehrhardt Engineered Solutions we are experts at helping our clients design parts that are easier to feed, pick, place and assemble. Contact us at 877-386-7856 or email us at