Manufacturing strategies are the plans and methods that are particular to furthering the goals of a company that makes products. This article outlines features of five strategies that are frequently used by manufacturing companies: Strategic management; design for manufacturability; lean manufacturing; Six Sigma; and manufacturing for a sustainable society. The article includes a glossary of relevant terms.
Keywords Additive Manufacturing (AM) Technologies; Concurrent Engineering; Control Chart; Design for Manufacturability; DMAIC; Lean Manufacturing; Manufacture; Offshoring; Outsourcing; Poka-yoke; Product Lifecycle Management (PLM); Quality Control; Rapid Prototyping; Remanufacturing; Six Sigma; Statistical Quality Control (SQC); Strategic Management; Strategy; Sustainable Manufacturing Initiatives; Sustainable Society
Manufacturing: Manufacturing Strategies
The manufacturing industry is composed of companies that make products by hand or by machine. In this article, the focus is on manufacturing strategies for products that are made by machine.
What is Strategy?
Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary includes multiple definitions for the word "strategy," including definitions that focus on the art and science of military maneuvers for overcoming the enemy. While there certainly may be common elements between military strategy and business strategy, the definition of strategy that is considered for this article is the following:
Strategy: "A careful plan or method; the art of devising or employing plans or stratagems toward a goal" (Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary, 2000).
What are Manufacturing Strategies?
Manufacturing strategies are the plans and methods that are particular to furthering the goals of a company that makes products.
One or more of the following five strategies are frequently used by manufacturing companies:
- Strategic Management
- Design for Manufacturability
- Lean Manufacturing
- Six Sigma
- Manufacturing for a Sustainable Society
This section examines the five strategies that are frequently used by manufacturing companies. Some of the strategies overlap with others. For example, the first strategy examined, strategic management, may incorporate the remaining four strategies. And the third strategy, lean manufacturing, may incorporate design for manufacturability and Six Sigma.
The first manufacturing strategy is strategic management. Strategic management revolves around devising and following a detailed plan for capturing and maintaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Presumably, most manufacturers would have some sort of plan for competing in the marketplace, so how does strategic management elevate that plan to "strategy" level? A strategic management plan does the following:
- Determines broad concepts of mission and goals;
- Defines long and short-term objectives;
- States the specific details of analysis and decision-making;
- Assigns roles and responsibilities for implementing the plan;
- Establishes timelines for accomplishing each aspect of the plan.
As you can see, strategic management is comprehensive and is characterized by a clear, detailed plan for competing in the marketplace; it is this detailed plan that elevates strategic management to "strategy" level.
Design for Manufacturability
The second manufacturing strategy is design for manufacturability.
The manufacturability of a product refers to characteristics that make the product suitable for reproduction (manufacture), usually on a large-scale basis.
Manufacturability is dependent upon two conditions:
- The ability to consistently manufacture a reliable product without problems.
- The ability to manufacture the product at minimal cost.
When these two conditions for manufacturability are given foremost consideration during the design cycle of a product, the concept is known as design for manufacturability (DFM), also known as design for manufacture.
The principle behind DFM is to create the ability to economically manufacture a reliable product into an initial design rather than to fix problems later in the manufacturing process. This principle expands the idea of "do it right the first time" into "do it right the first time, but as inexpensively as possible."
DFM generally relies upon standardization practices; it incorporates manufacturing processes that use standard parts, reduce the number of parts, and minimize handling during production. However, the most sophisticated DFM strategies allow for a range of product customization.
Depending upon the product or manufacturing process, DFM may incorporate a variety of tools to reach its goal.
The following is a brief description of four DFM tools:
- Additive Manufacturing (AM) Technologies
- Concurrent Engineering
- Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
Additive Manufacturing (AM) Technologies
The first DFM tool is Additive Manufacturing (AM) Technologies. AM technologies, also known as "rapid prototyping," allow a manufacturer to fabricate customizable parts of any shape from complex materials. (Rapid prototyping refers to quicker-than-average production of models for the purpose of working out problems. ) Because of its intent to tackle the manufacturing issues involving the complexities of shape and materials, AM technologies have the potential to move beyond providing cost-cutting benefits to actually achieving new, higher manufacturing capabilities (Rosen, 2007, p. 585-586).
The second DFM tool is concurrent engineering. Concurrent engineering is a method of product or process design that includes simultaneous input from everybody with a stake or role in the final product, including engineers, salespersons, support personnel, vendors, and customers, throughout the entire design process (Sapuan, 2006).
The third DFM tool is Poka-yoke. Poka-yoke is the concept of mistake-proofing the entire manufacturing process by preventing mistakes in the product design, the process, and from human actions. Poka-yoke refers to the mechanisms used throughout a manufacturing process to ensure that proper conditions exist before a process step is begun. Or, if it is not possible to invoke poka-yoke before the process actually begins, then it is used to detect defects at the earliest point in the process (Manivannan, 2007). Poka-yoke is also frequently employed as part of a lean manufacturing strategy. (See also "DFM Tools: Lean Manufacturing.")
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
The last DFM tool is Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). PLM integrates all the people, processes, and information related to a product in order to communicate information across the enterprise, from initial product concept to the end of its life. PLM takes the concept of concurrent engineering (people and process integration throughout the design cycle) further, by applying the principles throughout the product's life, from inception to disposal.
The third manufacturing strategy is lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing refers to a company's ongoing, systematic effort to eliminate the sources of waste in a production process.
Syddell (2005, p. 20), notes that Brad Perkins, senior director, auto and industrial, for Oracle Asia Pacific, indicates that there are eight major causes of waste in the production process:
- Over Production
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