I'm attending Boothrooyd Dewhurst's 2010 DFMA (Design for Manufacturabilty and Assembly) forum in Providence, R.I. The software puts the capabity to cut costs from parts directly in the hands of design engineers. According to speaker Mike Shipulski of Hypertherm (see his nifty blog on innovation and product design), companies must change their mindsets from focusing only on lean manufacturing tenets for continuous improvment (usually in the range of, say 3% a year) to "discontinuous improvement" -- the very heart of innovation. Boothrooyd Dewhurst's software comprises two areas: DFM and DFA. DFM is a method to change designs to reduce costs, while retaining part function. DFA is a method to reduce the costs of putting together an assembly without reducing part function. In Shipulski's scenario, "goodness" = function per unit cost, and "innovation" = discontinuous improvement. Innovation abruptly boosts design goodness over time. Continuous improvement only gradually improves design goodness over time.
Shipulski says that continuous improvement methods such as Six Sigma work well once a part has been manufactured. But the idea with DFM/DFA is to cut costs earlier; that is. in the design phase. He says companies need both and should aim high to inspire faith -- don't go for 5% cost cutting; go for 50%. He also says the biggest thing in the way of U.S. companies doing better is, ironically, their very success. As world leaders, they are too used to doing things the same way and thus have their heads in the sand, so to speak.
The analogy he gives: Mechanics need tools to fix cars; engineers need tools to drive out costs. Engineers must be trained on the software and use it on existing products to learn how to implement it in the improvement of new products.