A Customer Perspective on the First Step Difference for NPD
Three years ago, we launched our First Step program at Hobson & Motzer, which is our revolutionary project-based rapid precision prototyping and new product development (NPD) platform. It was a natural progression to the NPD work we had been doing with major medical device OEMs for the better part of our 111-year history in precision metal components. With a depth of experience working with advanced industries, we know that today’s development cycles call for a different set of rules—so we made some of our own in the creation and successful execution of First Step: delivering innovation, manufacturing insight, advanced technology, next level metrology, and of course, precision components.
The last three years have provided a lens into the powerful impact our NPD program has for customers. After all, it was listening to customers—and their needs—that brought First Step to fruition. Customers in advanced industries have expressed a need for higher level NPD support: prototyping that is executed to precision tolerances, and greater metrology depth. It provides an opportunity for both the part and manufacturing process to evolve simultaneously. This approach yields valuable data and learning that does not occur when the two processes are separate.
In the spirit of listening to our customers, we spoke with one Medical Device Development Engineer, who has worked in med device for decades, currently with a company that has worked with us on multiple NPD projects for very different products developed with our dedicated First Step team. His feedback inspired this article. When directly quoting him, we will refer to him as “DE” in this article.
Primary Factors when Choosing a Manufacturing Partner
Choosing a manufacturing partner involves much due diligence, and there are primary factors to consider when engaging a manufacturing partner for machining and stamping. They include:
Quality certification—ISO 13485; 9001:2015 (among other standards Hobson & Motzer upholds)
Medical device product experience
Manufacturing capabilities that match medical components under review
Price, delivery, quality, capacity
Development speed—includes design for manufacturing and design for assembly (DFM, DFA)
Top-down engagement by the organization
Company culture—company goal is thoroughly aligned with the customer’s goal
Specifically, DE said of Hobson & Motzer that the top-down engagement is impressive: “The president, VP, directors, all sectors of engineers, quality, and production are present and embedded in this initial R&D stage—and they are fully and consistently engaged throughout the process. Not every company commits this way, leaving gaps, because sometimes there are layers in the organization that don’t know about a project. And we all know that gaps can translate to lost time and missing information. At Hobson & Motzer, this top-down collaboration bears its full force during the lifecycle of the project. This is also felt in the culture of Hobson & Motzer. They have a culture of innovation with a common goal focused on helping customers be successful.
DFA is a subset of any DFM project, and as important in terms of the overall success and longevity of the production cycle. Most vital here is that any parts or components be verified for fit, form, and function (FFF). And while part 1 and part 2 might not be assembled at the initial supplier’s facility, the verification ensures that the parts function optimally and efficiently in the final assembly. DE pointed out that Hobson & Motzer, “… intrinsically understands the FFF of components being assembled, which helps drive the next phase, as they simultaneously assess DFM for the long term. This allows them to generate detailed production quotes because Hobson & Motzer has the most advanced technology to capture these details for themselves and customers—and it is simultaneous and seamless. They have the speed to deliver prototypes with good quality. Customer benefits include speed, capability, design, and manufacturing information (cost per part, raw materials, etc.), development and feedback (and any iterations and recommendations). First Step does deliver all of this. With DFM, considerations for variables such as the raw materials, for example, are a particularly strong suit with Hobson & Motzer. They know, based on over a century of experience and expertise, what raw materials and process steps will be most efficient. It is important to look at options and have an understanding why one option has pros and cons against another option’s pros and cons—and be able to assess them. The best companies have the depth to compare and assess process options for NPD to bring to bear the best innovative and efficient solution—as does Hobson & Motzer.”
Expectations and Collaboration
Building trust with a manufacturing partner involves meeting expectations and targets consistently. The clearest path to this is through transparent communication. Once engaged, expectations in terms of design, timing, and collaboration between your team and your manufacturing partner’s team must be met and/or discussed in real time with agility and re-aligned goals, if changes need to be made.
“Communication is the glue,” DE said of Hobson & Motzer when speaking to this issue. “We made it through all gates and hit the schedules. Communication is strong at Hobson & Motzer—every stakeholder is very aware. We meet bi-weekly for an hour. When we had schedule pauses (for our internal reasons), they were very agile and met our changes fluidly—and they hit all the dates, original and re-scheduled. This is when their ability to act with the resources of a big company, and the response of a smaller, agile, open-minded company really shines. They can restart with new, fresh information and make recommendations and pivot, when necessary.”
We created First Step based on the voice of our customer. What we heard consistently is that the most important requirement for engineers to meet in the design phase of any NPD or NPI is to have a documented process. We have been operating this way for decades, and wrapped it officially into our First Step platform so we can consistently delivery this process for customers. As such, prototype lessons learned are documented for DFM in a process flow control plan PFMEA (Process Failure Mode Effects Analysis) draft. When prototyping, all info is captured. If the process moves on to full production (which is the inherent design of the First Step program), we are able to leverage all of the data.
As a customer, DE felt the full benefits of this, and said, “We acquire all of this data early on; it becomes the road map and the process steps we are confident with. We have clear process points: inspection of raw material here and here; production checks at this point, etc. The PFMEA affords us processes we can verify. This is the best use of ISO standards in action. When in development, the best companies enact a streamlined version of the ISO documents and capture lessons learned. DFM early in, ultimately, helps speed-to-launch and prevents production start-up issues.”
Hobson & Motzer works from an engineering blueprint, which is evident in our approach to everything we do. DE is impressed that the team assembled for each meeting consists of Hobson & Motzer’s president, Bruce Dworak, along with department heads from sales and marketing and technical leadership to business and quality development engineers, management leadership, and CNC experts. DE commented, “All are very aware of the speed and all milestones leading the project.”
For each team from DE’s company, they had the same format for all projects. Of this, DE said, “Hobson & Motzer has a repeatable format and process for each project. They really embody project management for their design and development process, with customer collaboration at the helm. We find them to be very curious and enthusiastic about learning new innovation, which allows them to deliver the best innovation they possibly can. As a company, we’ve experienced the added value from their heavy investment in innovation and automation. This investment in the most advanced technology and equipment to make rapid, precise prototypes to help our timeline is just part of the overall approach of this dedicated program. Each team from our company received a high-fidelity prototype. They produced exactly what we were looking for. And the verifications ensured that the device is functional. With the processes captured, we know we can launch into production with stability.”
Iterations and Agility
Revision happens. It is the nature of design and improvement. Iterations, for whatever reasons they occur, require agility, resources, and versatility. A manufacturing partner’s agility is as vital as their ability to produce precise parts. The hallmark of a production partner’s ability to pivot and make recommendations that work comes from a trait that may sound surprising, according to DE: “Curiosity. A good supplier needs to want to know more and know what questions to ask. Ask the why of a situation. Hobson & Motzer thinks independently to understand what you are trying to do, as well as execute what you are asking. They act and react nimbly, intelligently, independently. They are agile thinkers—it’s like having someone in the office with you. At our meetings, it takes on this sense that we continue to build a bigger team. A precursor to asking the right questions is that you must be a good listener—and these folks are! All told, this adds up to superior communication—constant, honest, reliable.”
There were some unique design and production challenges on the table with this customer that involved tolerances. Of this, DE noted, “There were requirements for tight tolerance areas on a component. There were options for manufacturing processes, and Hobson & Motzer made recommendations and explained the reasons for those recommendations. We were at a very important juncture—our team was not sure about the options. Hobson & Motzer was very sure and had comparison data sets to make the recommendation. We often remind ourselves to “listen to the supplier”—they have experience and capability to back it up. Hobson & Motzer can offer reliable options, along with the data to support the recommendations they are making. Most importantly, it did—indeed—work out. We have confidence in their opinion and their recommendations.”
Mission Critical Applications
Clearly, in medical and surgical device production, precision is the ultimate requirement. To be chosen as a manufacturing partner for a major EOM in the industry means that Hobson & Motzer must meet these stringent demands. So, we asked DE, “Why Hobson & Motzer over others?” The reply: “We are most impressed with their top-down engagement and vertical integration. The toolroom to final assembly to ship, along with automation is all very valuable—and necessary for well executed DFM. The tool room is impressive. Everything being produced is done so, from its inception, to meet all requirements—this is the hallmark of an awesome design team. The tool room produces the specific documents needed from the beginning, so all data is captured and available from the start. It’s a very well-oiled group who listen to customers; they can pivot. We consider Hobson & Motzer a valued partner (and it is obvious they treat us likewise). We are always impressed with their company culture and commitment to quality and innovation. We can count on them—on their word and their products. If they can’t do something, they will say they cannot. This process is data driven to document and they are transparent in their communication and with the data. When we had challenges meeting a critical requirement—they helped develop the solution. We combined all our knowledge as a cohesive team, and we delivered. Not all companies have all these ingredients.”
Curious to know if there is anything that stands out in Hobson & Motzer’s ability to exceed expectations for a valued customer, we wanted to know how our model may differentiate us from other manufactures. DE first reinforced, “Hobson & Motzer strongly meets component quality, innovation, and delivery in an R&D environment—and are expected to meet it in a production environment in the future. The differentiator is that their First Step team is extremely cohesive and knowledgeable. They are a well-oiled example of how to do this work well. You feel like you are talking to a group of experts who value each other’s opinions and experience, all of which brings value and success to your project and goals. Their approach: You have tough problems? Let’s meet and work through them. They bring their cohesive collaboration and experience to the table to solve problems and create solutions for us. We do not see this kind of cohesive team elsewhere. We trust Hobson & Motzer to deliver all our components reliably and consistently.”
Make Your First Step Count
At Hobson & Motzer, the best First Step is one that employs the same proven processes that are applied in large-scale production programs from the get-go—with the full force of our team and talent behind it. An engagement with Hobson & Motzer’s First Step program is just that—the First Step in a successful product development project.
Are you getting the most out of your prototypes? Take your First Step towards a collaboration that delivers precision tolerance prototypes and—from the start—assesses your components for their entire lifecycle. Hobson & Motzer’s project-based approach delivers precision and optimizes your NPI/NPD components, from every angle, and helps get you to market faster.