Where did DfSS go?

At Warley Design Solutions we’re currently working on a project where we are assisting in the development of a extremely high-end product.  The end user will expect unparalleled levels of quality and performance – failure of any kind is simply not an option.  It struck me as being an ideal candidate for DFSS.

When I worked for a multi-national I, along with many colleagues, had the benefit in being trained in DFSS to “Black Belt” level.  This involved intense study over a number of residential course modules, followed by a prolonged period of hands-on project work.  One such design project was on a medical device (an SpO2 monitor) which took 18 months to complete.

I truly believe our MBB / instructor was amongst the very best in the business and gave us the best tuition possible, so no quibble about the quality of training.  Having been involved in a number of successful projects I am now totally convinced by the potential power of DFSS.  If you have the right project, the right project team and the right company support it is an amazing methodology that can deliver truly great results.

Since leaving the corporate world eight years ago I have been at the sharp-end of providing design & engineering services.  Our world of engineering consultancy is formed around clients who call you when they need a fast result, with limited budget and for short-term ROI.  Even the multi-nationals with whom we work now seem to be more inclined to skip some of the up-front engineering activities in favour of a more “build it and see” approach.  In some respects it seems to be a regressive step and it feels like a return to the days when Britain produced poorly engineered products – just think of any British motor car of the eighties!

Is it that with companies having to become more competitive they are cutting their cloth to suit their budgets and have dropped methodologies like DFSS, or is it that the externalisation of services has only gone part way?  Perhaps large companies externalise when they need the quick response and agility that only a small company can offer but keep in-house the longer-term projects that warrant a thorough job doing?  As internal costs are less apparent and more difficult to measure than internal ones then from financial accountability perspective this would superficially appear to make sense.

The upshot is that for the last eight years I have seldom had opportunity to use any more of the DFSS methodology beyond the odd tool here-and-there.  On this most recent project I took the opportunity to dust-down my DFSS training material and it reminded me of just what a great tool it can be.



Warley Design offers mechanical design, engineering and product development services to a broad range of industries. If you’ve got a project we can help you with please contact us.


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