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9 June 2020

What is DFSS?

Olof Brown

Olof Brown

Dealer Sales Engineer

FlexQube DesignOnDemand meeting

DFSS stands for” Design for Six Sigma,” and it is a methodology of improving your product and service design. DFSS can help you create higher quality products and services. It aims to help organizations meet the needs and expectations of their customers. The impact of this trickles throughout the whole process, from designing the products to manufacturing the products.

This method was born out of the original six sigma theory created in the 1980s by Motorola employees Bill smith & Dr. Mikel J. Harry. The innovative Six Sigma system was developed to reduce the waste of existing products by aiming to reduce the number of abnormalities to 3.4 out of 1 million.

While Six Sigma was an excellent method for reducing waste and improving existing products, it didn’t prove helpful when a current product needed to be recreated or a new product needed to be designed. This then led to the creation and introduction of Design For Six Sigma, which is an original method to help in the design of new products. DFSS looks at ensuring the product or service being designed is done correctly from step one. Instead of looking at how the products meet the customers’ expectations after the fact, DFSS looks at doing more work in the beginning planning stages to ensure that the products being created meet all expectations. DFSS can also be summarised as a type of design focused around the needs of the customers and is commonly referred to as customer-oriented design.

What is a customer-oriented design?

The customer-oriented design takes wishes and wants from the customers and transforming these into product designs that fulfill these needs. Customer-oriented design is a complicated process, and many organizations aim to develop products this way, but it is no easy feat. This process is usually developed over several phases, but most commonly, it is separated into two different steps. The first step is a more creative phase where diverse ideas are crafted and brainstormed to see whether they are feasible. The second step is then the problem-solving phase of what was created in the first step. Most commonly, the second step takes up much of the customer-oriented design phase, whereas, in theory, each step should have an equal amount of time.

How it works

So, what is design for six Sigma?

The primary objective in design for six Sigma is to design the product or service right the first time. DFSS saves the hassle of needing to go back through the design process to make corrections after the design has been released to the consumer. The term six Sigma within this is all about ensuring the vulnerabilities within the model are kept at a minimum. A vulnerability would be defined as anything that would require the product to go back downstream and return to the design stages of the product or service.

In general, two vulnerabilities are most common, the first being vulnerabilities in the design phase that don’t meet the customer’s actual desires. Many times this could be the design and creation of products that are not needed or unwanted by customers. There are many examples of products that have been designed only to be released to the market and fail. The second type of vulnerabilities are ones in the design where it does not meet the robustness or environmental demands. This may include products that were designed for extreme environments that cannot match these demands. Also, products that have been designed with too much ambition to solve customer needs but fail because of the high technology demands. Most commonly, there is a delicate balance between these two vulnerabilities, which would lead to designing and producing a successful product.

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The stages of DFSS

In this post, we will outline four different stages of the Design for Six Sigma to help articulate the actions that need to be taken.

  • Identify Requirements
  • Characterize the design
  • Optimize the design
  • Verify the design

Below we have provided summaries of each of these four stages.

Identify Requirements

In this stage, whether it is a new product design or a redesign of the requirements of the user or in most cases, the customer needs to be outlined. In this stage, you will need to draft the criteria that will be critical to satisfy the user’s needs. This criterion is referred to as the criteria-to-satisfaction (CTS). Without identifying these criteria designing a product to fulfill a user needs would be like driving somewhere without a map. You will end up wasting time and money on unwanted design alternatives.


Characterize the Design

Once the requirements have been outlined, the next step is to turn these criteria into different functions or functional elements that can fulfill these criteria. If doing a redesign of an existing product, in this stage, you would need to outline if the current product functions meet the customer’s requirements. If beginning a new product design, then an entirely new list of functional requirements will need to be created.

Optimize the Design

The purpose of this phase is to optimize the design so that the functions of the design meet all of the critical requirements outlined in step one. Then from here, it needs to be optimized so that the product can be manufactured to a six sigma level. This phase also includes a lot of testing to improve and optimize the overall design.

Verify the Design

In this stage, pilot testing will begin with the design and product. No products should be released without real-life evaluation or pilot testing. It will be in this phase that it is determined that the product/ design functions fulfill the requirements outlined in stage one in a real-world environment.

To summarise, Design for Six Sigma is a fantastic tool to improve the process of product design. DFSS re-focuses the design process back towards the needs of the customer. This process helps companies and organizations ensure they have the user’s requirements at the top of the mind. In doing this, it can save a lot of invested time and money on having to redevelop or redesign existing products. It also helps organizations reach six Sigma levels within their manufacturing by having products designed with six Sigma in mind from the beginning.


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