The ability to have all the relevant talent to design and manufacture a product in-house really is amazing, not to mention unusual. Most large product manufacturers outsource the bulk of their manufacturing overseas. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this approach, but there are three inherent benefits of in-house manufacturing that are lost when the work is done by outside parties.
1) Direct & Frequent Communication Increases Efficiency
My favorite part of having in-house manufacturing is the quick turnaround during the prototyping process. After I get the product brief (how many circuit boards it needs, whether it needs a power supply, etc.), I design the overall architecture of the product (how everything will fit together) based on my brains before beauty (but there will be beauty) focus, send the preliminary 3D files to the manufacturing engineers, and I get a prototype on my desk a few days later.
Once I have that prototype in my hands, I can look at it and say, “Okay, this isn’t going to work because it needs to be 0.040″ wider to fit the board,” or “It would be so much cooler if we could use snaps instead of screws here.” I can then walk out to the manufacturing floor, and talk through what’s working and what’s not with the manufacturing engineers. They’ll tell me, “Kim, you can’t do that because it actually defies the laws of Physics,” or “If you want this then we’ll have to do that. What if we did this instead?”
So we test and prototype, and test and prototype again until we get it to where we want it. It’s fantastic. It’s like the fast food of design thinking. Instant feedback, instant brainstorming, a high-quality product guarantee.
2) Minimizing the Cost of Parts
Once we’ve got the architecture in place, we can estimate the cost of parts and then make some intelligent decisions based on that information. Let’s take the snaps versus screws in TesiraFORTÉ, for example. During the design phase, we realized we wanted to minimize the screws because it would result in a simpler, lower-cost product. We can very accurately estimate the end cost of the parts, and the product as a whole, because all the teams (manufacturing, engineering, and purchasing, in this case) work so closely together. So, working to provide a cost-effective TesiraFORTÉ, we were able to innovate on the chassis design by minimizing screws and simplifying the overall artchitecture design.
We had to work through other design challenges as well, including re-thinking how parts were made. That process was made significantly easier by having someone in the building I could ask. In addition to being extremely integrator-friendly, the snaps also made TesiraFORTÉ look cleaner and slicker than anything we’ve designed before.
The question we always seek to answer is: How can we make the highest-quality product possible, while still making it cost-effective for our customers? We answer it as a team.
3) More Control Over Manufacturing Means Higher Quality
Because everything from the concepting to design to manufacturing to shipping happens in-house at Biamp Headquarters, it means that we get complete control over how our products are built and represented. We get to see every part of the process as it’s happening, and make real-time changes as needed.
The alternative would be a process that could lead to miscommunications, longer time to market, and untold manufacturing inefficiencies as prototypes are sent back and forth from the outsourced facility (likely from overseas). Why not just walk out to the engineer on the manufacturing line and say, “Hey, what do you think about this?”
Biamp’s design for manufacturing (DFM) process creates a level of communication and collaboration that allows for incredible innovations that can only happen when you work together as a team. Speaking as a mechanical engineer, in-house DFM is the ideal way the manufacturing world would work. Biamp designs products to make their manufacture easier, more cost-effective, more aesthetically pleasing, and more relevant to our customers.
The ability to communicate so efficiently, and hash-out problems and solutions almost instantaneously is a dream come true.