Cost reduction needs to be built into all engineering and design actions/decisions. It is never too early to work on this. In fact we always find the best results in achieving cost targets when the initial engineering efforts are constrained by the targeted cost.
The natural tendency of many engineers, in the absence of cost targets, is to design in future additional functionality. This is rationalized by categorizing it as “good forward thinking engineering”. It may be good forward thinking but if it makes the cost target unattainable, how much is it worth? We have this discussion with our engineering teams regularly; it’s what I call “positive tension”.
When developing your product, every decision needs to be evaluated for both the potential cost impact and the value of future additional functionality. Beware of being trapped into adding future functionality at the expense of your cost target.