Design for X, Where X = Everything

Lionel Grealou CAx Engineering Manufacturing PLM 2 minutes

Design for X” (DFX) is not new (it was introduced over 30 year ago). DFX stands for detailed design techniques aimed at improving the product lifecycle efficiency, productivity, quality, flexibility, resource optimisation, etc. It brings feedback loop benefits in a systems engineering way: improved decision making with early risk and issue identification and holistic resolution.

The “X” in DFX refers to lifecycle processes x and performance measure (ability).

Huang, 1996

DFX refers to a systematic approach to implement concurrent engineering / manufacturing, and expands throughout the new product introduction (NPI) lifecycle – such as:

  • Design for Manufacturing and Assembly: to reduce the number of standalone parts, and / or the number of operations, resulting in simple and more reliable design with less assembly and lower manufacturing costs; this is typically relevant during the concept phase of a new product to reduce cost of redesign later, by involving early suppliers and manufacturing engineers for waster identification, experimentation and error-proofing. 
  • Design for Validation / Verification: to ensure that the design meets requirements, while providing the right level of traceability.
  • Design for Serviceability: to diagnose, remove, replace or repair any component of sub-assembly, to original specifications, with relative ease; to reduce warranty costs, customer dissatisfaction, loss of loyalty and sales.
  • Design for Reliability (quality over a period of time and risk management during service life): to gain insight into how and why a proposed design mail fail and identifies aspects of design that may need to be improved; this can be achieved through load-strength relationship analysis to design out inherent weaknesses (e.g. by performing FMEA analysis) and planning for correct testing and reliability improvement.
  • Design for Maintainability: to ensure that the design will perform satisfactory throughout its intended lifecycle with a minimum effort, to minimise maintenance downtime; this is typically aimed to improve preventive, corrective, or recycle and overhaul actions.
  • Design for Lifecycle Cost: to achieve cost efficiency and better business decision making through optimised activity-based cost analysis; this includes the associated costs of defects, litigations, buybacks, distributions support, warranty, etc.
  • Design for the Environment: to meet legislation requirements, including manufacturing, supply chain and post-production transport efficiency; the aim is to minimise environmental impact, including strategic level of policy decision-making and design development
  • Design for Excellence: to leverage a feedback loop or learning cycle in order to enhance collaboration, early identification and resolution of issues, mitigation of risks, optimisation of operations, and improve product or service quality; this is also similar to lean and continuous improvement approaches.

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and DFX serve the same purpose or vision: PLM provides the tools and processes by which DFX is implemented. In other words, PLM focuses on the process framework (the operating model), while DFX focuses on the outcome (the product). As the operating platform and engineering backbone, product data is managed in PLM which provides a platform for cross-functional (concurrent) teams to operate. It is down to them to make the relevant informed decisions to sustain and improve product quality – using DFX principles. Process excellence does also play a key role in supporting cross-functional and cross-disciplinary collaboration (enabling and integrating master data across typical organisational silos).

What are your thoughts?


  • Huang GQ (1996) Design for X: Concurrent Engineering Imperatives, Chapman & Hall, London

This post was originally published on LinkedIn on 28 February 2016.

About the Author

Lionel Grealou


Lionel Grealou, a.k.a. Lio, helps original equipment manufacturers transform, develop, and implement their digital transformation strategies—driving organizational change, data continuity and process improvement, managing the lifecycle of things across enterprise platforms, from PDM to PLM, ERP, MES, PIM, CRM, or BIM. Beyond consulting roles, Lio held leadership positions across industries, with both established OEMs and start-ups, covering the extended innovation lifecycle scope, from research and development, to engineering, discrete and process manufacturing, procurement, finance, supply chain, operations, program management, quality, compliance, marketing, etc.

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