3 Manufacturing and Design Engineering Trends for 2023

Fielder Hiss

Another year of peaks and valleys ends. Manufacturers continued to face challenges in 2022, many as a result of the pandemic, but also made great strides in becoming more resilient.

What did they accomplish? Where did they fall short? How can they do better in 2023?

We’ve identified a few trends that we think will be on the design engineering radar in 2023. Then we can take a proactive approach to how we will design better, more sustainably, and more profitably.

In this article, we will share our design engineering trends (or need-to-knows) for 2023. We also will provide practical advice for addressing and/or implementing them.

2022 Challenges Persist into 2023 Along with Sustainability Ramp-Ups

Manufacturers have a lot to contend with in their industry. Disrupted supply chains, inflation, increased profit pressures, and labor and skills shortages are among the myriad challenges they’ve faced over the last few years.

As if those weren’t enough, there is mounting pressure to address the industry’s impact on the environment. One-fifth of carbon emissions come from global production with those same sectors consuming 54% of the world’s energy sources. What’s more, it’s not just the manufacturers who are consuming energy and emitting carbon. Their supply chains are as well. The World Economic Forum noted that supply chain emissions are over 11 times higher than operational emissions.

What does it all mean? It is a clear indication that many of the challenges and objectives that manufacturers must meet have a ripple effect. It doesn’t just stop with their own initiatives and actions. It works in tandem with the other branches of its operations including supply chains.

Furthermore, it must be a collective effort. One’s sustainability efforts are only as good as the sum of its parts including the suppliers it relies on. To that end, manufacturers and others are collaborating to shore up these efforts – sharing carbon dioxide-equivalent data to gain a comprehensive understanding of the supply chain’s carbon footprint.

These issues, and others, can be effectively addressed. In 2023, we see three key areas where design engineers can have a profound impact on meeting these challenges while achieving their organization’s goals.

Design Engineering Trends in 2023

Design plays a significant role in a product’s cost, manufacturability, and sustainability as well as how quickly it can get to market. Manufacturing process simulation software enables design engineers to leverage insights to address the issues mentioned above and build resilience for the operation. Here are three trends for 2023 where we believe design engineers in conjunction with manufacturing insights can lay the foundation for a strong, more agile manufacturing operation:

  1. Design for manufacturing will play a key role in addressing disruptors such as supply chains and margin pressures. Design for manufacturing (DFM) is based on designing and developing parts cost-effectively without compromising their performance. With the proper tools and a good design engineer, many of these challenges can be resolved with DFM.

Where this process gets sticky is ensuring that the physical manufacturing and more intangible components such as supply chain access and sustainability goals can be achieved at the product’s seminal point – the design phase.  By employing design for manufacturing, designers can help build resilience throughout product development including the supply chain.

DFM insights bridge traditional communication and collaboration gaps between design engineers and sourcing as well as their suppliers before a product goes into production, mitigating supply chain issues and keeping costs in check without sacrificing quality

Moreover, most design engineers are often removed from the actual production process. DFM insights via analysis and 3D prototyping enable all personas within the manufacturing process to communicate, collaborate, and recalibrate designs in real time. As a result, supply chain delays and cost outliers can be addressed early in the design phase. The production team can identify potential issues with the manufacturing of a part at a product’s genesis, circumventing late-stage designs and lags in time to market.

Advanced Manufacturing Technology Adoption

As more companies grapple with supply chain delay side effects, they will work towards integrating them into their operations rather than viewing them as a stand-alone.

How do they plan on integrating their supply chain? The NAM survey indicated that companies are significantly increasing digital adoption over the next two years to create a more streamlined supply chain.  It is further proof of the power of DFM and digitization in general.

A design for manufacturing insights bonus is the ability to train novice designers more quickly and precisely. These insights can serve as a compelling visual training tool and condition less experienced designers to think beyond conventional wisdom and training. With a shortage of highly experienced designers, these manufacturing insights solutions allow designers to focus on what they do best rather than having to physically visit the production floor to learn about how their designs affect manufacturability.

supply chain resilience

Manufacturing process simulation reveals a lot more about the suitability of the design for manufacture since all product development facets can be considered upfront. For instance, manufacturing insights will allow production to identify a part that might not have the proper tolerance for the product. The design engineer can then address that before it gets to production, lessening the chances of a late-stage redesign, additional product cost, or worse, a product failure or recall. Sourcing can determine in the design stage if access to specific supplier parts is achievable. If not, design engineers along with sourcing, cost engineering, and production can decide if the product can be redesigned to work around a supplier problem.

A recent article noted that there is less emphasis placed on DFM than there should be.

DFM provides design flexibility while ensuring manufacturability. What’s more, reviewing DFM feedback and design guidance is a powerful tool in training less skilled designers for a shortage of more skilled design engineers. It also fosters real-time collaboration between all players in product development. The DFM review stage can further be streamlined by using manufacturing process simulation software to remove the bottleneck of time with manufacturing experts.

design engineering education

While it can be a significant initial investment, its benefits pay off. Design changes can be made earlier in the process; thereby saving more money in the long run. It also builds more agility into organizations, allowing them to develop new products faster and pivot when necessary to react to market changes and other factors. From a sustainability standpoint, DFM reduces cycle times, which lowers the manufacturing carbon footprint. Finally, as the article reinforced, more emphasis on DFM helps future-proof your designs and production, helping keep pace with growing demand in areas such as additive manufacturing (more on that below).

2. Digital Twins will gain greater prominence in product design. Once a design specification is fleshed out, a blueprint is needed to take it from concept to product. That’s where the digital twin comes in. In short, it’s a virtual representation of a physical product, usually in the form of a 3D CAD model. It includes the product’s digital design and pertinent product and manufacturing information. Additionally, it may include product lifecycle management (PLM) and related data.

The digital twin can be a designer’s greatest ally. Since it acts as a virtual prototype of a product, the digital twin helps to:

  • Reduce costs
  • Optimize the product development cycle
  • Encourages greater collaboration among all manufacturing personas
  • Create a better product and lead to faster time to market
  • Enable a more agile process and a nimbler organization

A recent article referenced a report by Research and Markets. The report predicted that by 2027 digital twinning will become a standard feature in IoT (Internet of Things) apps. These digital twins connect to digital factories in real time, accelerating the design process and collaborating cross-functionally to share data across the product lifecycle.

With aPriori, both design and cost engineers can analyze parts for DFM and design to cost (DTC). They can gain valuable insights to inform decision-making, minimize costs, accelerate cost estimations, reduce communication bottlenecks, and get to market faster. Learn more about the digital factory and digital twin.

With and Without aP Workspace

3. Additive manufacturing will continue to grow. With an emphasis on greater sustainability, more margin pressures, ongoing supply chain issues, greater competition, and accelerated time to market, additive manufacturing will continue to grow in 2023.

Depending on a manufacturer’s current technologies, additive allows them to innovate products faster, with less waste and minimal post-processing. They can take a hybrid approach (additive and traditional) or move fully to additive.

Additive manufacturing provides a multitude of benefits:

  • Less inventory required. Additive manufacturing enables companies to reduce the number of parts in inventory since they can be produced on demand.
  • Cost-effective. There is more efficient energy usage. Less raw materials waste and lower inventories.
  • Greater customization and flexibility. Since there is less reliance on fixed toolings and molds, parts can be tailored to specific needs and conditions. Nearly any 3D or geometric shape can be produced without the limitations of traditional processes.
  • Faster time to market. There is no need for fabrication or toolmaking in order to produce a part. Additive also supports faster time to market since manufacturers can reshore many functions that may have been offshored.

Finally, additive manufacturing creates more sustainable products. For instance, a vehicle manufacturer can replace some metal parts with lightweight materials, improving energy efficiency. There is also usually less waste compared to traditional manufacturing methods. Read more about additive manufacturing.

Manufacturability, Profitability, and Sustainability Will Be a Reality in 2023

Sustainability will be a driving force in 2023. Many manufacturers still believe the cost of implementing more sustainable manufacturing methods into their business models is too high. An article in The Engineer stated that 69% of manufacturing decision-makers restricted their sustainability strategies due to cost pressures. Less than half (43%) focused on waste reduction. Just 43% and 29% focused on improving efficiency and power usage reduction, respectively.

Sustainability initiatives may be complex to get started and potentially perceived as expensive upfront. In the long run, the savings will be tremendous not only for the manufacturer but the planet in slowing climate change.

Why are manufacturers not onboarding these trends faster? We have the digital tools to achieve manufacturability, profitability, and sustainability. We’ve got the answers within our manufacturing insights solutions to address supply chain issues, reduce carbon emissions, alleviate the labor shortage, ensure profitability, get to market faster, AND create quality products.

Make it your design engineering new year’s resolution to be ahead of the curve. Optimize the innovative and impactful technologies that are at your disposal.

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