Episode 41 | April 6, 2023

Design to Value For Product Development

Software can speed up value creation exponentially when engineers and cross-functional teams take a design to value approach to product development.
Neel Gupte , VP of Engineering, Dover Food Retail


Design to Value or DTV is the Best Methodology for Product Development

Product development in manufacturing is rife for productivity gains, but these gains can only be realized if companies lean in to design to value initiatives, otherwise known as DTV. While the methodology behind DTV is well known in product design ecosystems and promoted by consultants such as McKinsey, it takes a lot of know how to implement DTV across cross-functional teams, where each stakeholder is taking their own guess at how to best make tradeoffs between design product costs and customer needs.

What these product development teams need is a unified software that brings design-to-value (DTV) and design-to-cost (DTC) into a single decision making matrix, so that every iteration of their design decisions is based on verifiable insights.

This was with the case studies revealed at aPriori’s most recent Manufacturing Insights Conference. There, I spoke with a VP of Engineering, who has personally seen the benefits of deploying this cost savings technology. In the conversation you’re about to hear, Neel Gupte explained to me some of the challenges and benefits of adopting a company-wide insights platform for product development and value creation. In his previous deployments, Neel Gupte has realized a six month payback period from design standardization, and he’s planning on the same success, if not greater, at Dover Food Retail in 2023. I think you’ll be encouraged to hear that no matter what adoption challenges you may face, real financial benefits are a promise of the value approach. Here’s my conversation with Neel Gupte.

Leah Archibald: Neel, tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do for your work.

Neel Gupte: I have been with Dover Food Retail for about one and a half year. I’m the Vice President of Engineering there. And Dover Food Retail is primarily engaged in commercial refrigeration. We make refrigerated equipment for the supermarket industry.

Leah Archibald: And so you’re here today at aPriori’s conference. What problem were you having that you’re looking to aPriori to try to solve?

Neel Gupte: So we are currently in the process of purchasing software from aPriori to help with Design to Value (DTV) and Design to Cost (DTC). I have prior experience with aPriori in both value engineering and in new product design. Right now, the basic problem we are trying to solve is accelerating our design to value and the cost reduction programs to the point where we can become more profitable.

Leah Archibald: And at your previous companies where you deployed aPriori, were you able to accelerate design to value?

Neel Gupte: Yes. So in the previous companies, we used aPriori in various manners, not only for VA/VE or value engineering initiatives, but also in design-to-cost, or DTC. So when we were trying to hit target costs, we wanted to know whether or not we are going to meet the those target costs while we were in the design phase. A lot of times, costs come up in late stage redesigns, and those surprises throw the program back and it can cause some delays in product launches. So we were successful using aPriori to achieve lower cost while making design decisions throughout the product development process.

DTV combines Value Engineering and Customer Value

Leah Archibald: So you’re really hitting it from two angles. You’ve have both your VA/VE folks using aPriori for value engineering, but then when you get your design engineers using it in product development, that’s when you can really see the benefits of getting the lowest cost out of each of your design decisions.

Neel Gupte: Absolutely. And of course the other thing is Design for Manufacturability, or DFM. The DFM methodology is very useful for us because, a lot of times, design engineers don’t have enough background to know what product features are manufacturable. And this tool in aPriori actually allows them to choose the right process or the right design to make a new product add customer value and at the same time be manufacturable . Sometimes even trading tolerances in a design can be very valuable because engineers will design tolerances in a vacuum and then they find out, at the end of the day, that it’s very expensive and they don’t know why. Versus if they find out which tolerance is driving product costs, then they could actually reallocate their tolerances and do a better design to meet the cost objectives. So getting the software into the hands of cross functional teams will be part of my game plan to help everyone make better design choices.

Leah Archibald: In your last company, did you find any surprises when you brought in Design for Manufacturability or DFM? Did you find any surprises in the ways the designers used the DFM software to make design decisions?

Neel Gupte: Actually, it’s a very interesting question because, a lot of times, what I found, in my previous companies — not just one company—is that manufacturing sometimes can get into a little bit of a denial syndrome about their decision-making in the product development process. In other words, design engineers can get stuck saying, “I would make this part in such and such way,” and getting them to consider trade-offs and work through iterations actually requires a little bit of a change culture. So you have to say you are not challenging them, but you are asking: “what if?” Or “How about this?” “Why not?” Those are the type of questions, if we can ask them, that get you started getting some better collaboration.
We did find that, at many times, when we try to standardize a part, there are trade-offs to consider at what level you want to standardize a part versus to what level you want to allow variation. I think that design decisions often become intuitive, but using design to value we can actually put some logic behind a designer’s decision-making and convert the design choices into data and facts so it becomes a objective discussion.

Project Management Must Take a Value Approach

Leah Archibald: I wonder if it helps design engineers when you take the interpersonal out of it, when it’s a software and not a manager who’s saying, “What if this could be a little bit better, this could be a little different?”

Neel Gupte: It’s not quite that, I would say. A value approach becomes more like a tool for engineers, something that helps them in their project management achieve target cost, manufacturability, and even sustainability. Engineers are used to tools. We go and search something on Google, that doesn’t take anything away from them. In fact, using a software is easier because the knowledge is very fast. So the same thing applies here. Software is a vehicle to get there, as long as the design to value mindset is built in. As long as people have that mindset, the software will aid them to speed up the things that they are already doing.

Leah Archibald: Are you evaluating your payback period for aPriori?

Neel Gupte: Yes, of course. Every CFO wants us to evaluate the payback period. That’s part of a software’s value proposition. But I would say that, based on my past experience, the payback period has always been less than six months.

Leah Archibald: What does 2023 look at for you?

Neel Gupte: So in 2023, we have very aggressive plans and definitely we are counting on aPriori to get minimum 2x of savings of how much we are going to invest. That’s pretty much in line with the six month payback period. And of course, we believe that we can get there because we have a lot of opportunity. When we look at our designs, our industry has pretty much been prone to customization, so there’s a lot of lack of standardization that we see. So opportunities are just written all over. It’s just like how fast we get them, and aPriori is going to put this thing into a top gear. Without the software we can do a lot of stuff by hand, but we will be so small that we will take five years to find all the opportunities. Whereas all the five-year opportunities, if we can find and work on them immediately, that would be a great cost reduction for us. So that’s what we are looking for from aPriori in 2023.

Leah Archibald: It was great to talk to you. Thank you so much.

Neel Gupte: Thank you very much.


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