Sustainable Product Design Considerations

Being innovative is something that every company strives for, but what makes a company truly innovative? Maybe the answer lies within how companies design products and what they focus on. Traditionally Product Design has focused on desirability, functionality and manufacturability. Designers already have a very demanding job already, but what happens when we introduce sustainability and lean principles into the design mix? It gets designers to ask questions that they don’t normally ask; leading to innovation. Millennials are demanding green products with cutting edge technologies that seamlessly blend form and function. Companies that recognize this and push the limits of design will be successful. Here are some things to consider in relation to your company’s design process.

  1. Simplicity is key:

Innovation doesn’t always mean creating more complex products. Creating simpler products often adds benefits and increases product satisfaction. Sometimes extra bells and whistles get in the way of a products main function. For example, take the simple but highly functional Tip Ton chair.

This award winning chair is a perfect example of how simplicity can beautifully align with functionality. The simplicity stems from the fact that it is made from a single step manufacturing process with one material and mold. An added benefit is that this chair is completely recyclable as well. Minimizing the number of parts, material, and part variation is also the best opportunity to reduce manufacturing costs. Great products are crafted to be efficiently manufactured while minimizing material and manufacturing waste. The challenge exists in balancing a product’s desirability, function, and ability to be manufactured. By designing simpler, more modular products, all of the above can be accomplished, and sustainable principles can be incorporated.

  1. Making key decisions early in the design process:

The biggest mistake many companies make when developing new products is failing to front load the product development process to extensively explore product design variation. Many times a products material costs, manufacturing costs, recyclability, toxicity, and ability to be recollected are often unknowns until late in the project.

Trayak’s solution suite has product sustainability considerations covered. Our software is designed to perform Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) earlier in the design process. This enables strategies to improve the environmental impact of products and gives companies an opportunity to balance tradeoffs. The result is minimizing recurring design and engineering expenditures and a well balanced product.

  1. Design Synergy & Collaboration:

One of the most important aspects of the product design process is the effective communication between engineers and designers. This is an area of frustration in many companies and it can hamper product development. It is essential that products are produced within the shortest possible lead-times and that design iterations between designers and engineers flow swiftly. One way to encourage effective communication is by having designers and engineers use the same tools. Common solutions that foster collaboration include Solid Edge, SOLIDWORKS, and Autodesk. Using common tools can also keep designers engaged during the entire engineering cycle and eliminate the frustration of a designer demanding detailed changes at the end of a process. Design synergy is also crucial. When an engineer is met with critical feedback from a designer about an issue they haven’t even begun to think about, it doesn’t encourage the engineer to engage the designer as often in the future. Communicating clearly, in the right manner, and at the right stages of the design process is key. Effective collaboration may be easier said than done, but will propel your firm to innovate, stretch boundaries, and become a place of ongoing learning.

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