Process Design Requirements
This article addresses the requirements that some of the current manufacturing trends put on manufacturing process design and the implications of those requirements. It explores the challenges and many of the tools that process design engineers use to translate those requirements into effective and efficient manufacturing designs.
Keywords Cell Manufacturing; Design for Manufacturing; Flexible Manufacturing Environment; Just In Time Manufacturing (JIT); Manufacturing Design; Manufacturing Design Collaboration; Manufacturing Execution System (MES); Manufacturing Reuse; Mass Customization; Modular Design; Process Design Requirements; Process Design; Process Engineer; Product Design; Product Lifecycle Management System (PLM); Simultaneous Engineering; Systems Integration; Target Costing
Manufacturing: Process Design RequirementsOverview
In today's global, ultra-competitive marketplace, new ideas need to be turned into products rapidly in order to build brand loyalty, maximize revenues before competitors can launch similar products, and create barriers to switching brands. Being the first to market can also create opportunities for the company to set standards for new technologies, which provide huge advantages in the creation of future products.Product Realization
But how does a new idea turn into a tangible product? Lu (2006) defines three stages for product realization (bringing a product from conception to reality):
- Product Design;
- Process Design;
- Process Execution & Process Improvement.
Product design, the first stage of product realization, takes place once a market opportunity has been identified and a conceptualization of a new product to address that opportunity has been completed. At this time, product engineers, usually in the research & development arm of the company, create conceptual designs, develop prototypes, and prepare detailed blueprints for the new product. These blueprints meticulously specify the components of the product, what it will do, how it will work and what it will look like.Process Design
While the first stage defines the product itself in great detail, it does not address the equipment, materials, skills, layout and procedures required to actually make it. This is the job of the process engineers in the manufacturing arm of the company tasked with making the product, which today is very likely to be a contract manufacturer in a far-flung, overseas company. In this stage, the equipment needed to make the product is identified and acquired, raw material and component suppliers are engaged, detailed procedures are written for every step of the manufacturing process, and workers with the appropriate skill sets are hired or transferred to the project.Process Execution & Improvement
In the final stage, the product is actually manufactured, and refinements to the production processes are made over time to improve efficiencies and ensure quality.Importance of Process Design
Much has been written about product design, and even more has been written about manufacturing processes and continuous improvement. However, process design has been given relatively short shrift even though it's clear to see in Lu's product realization model that process design is a crucial step to successfully bringing a product to market. This is especially true as the marketplace applies more pressure for customization and rapid turnaround, as we will see later in this article.
Although we live in an increasingly virtual world, manufacturing is still, by its very nature, grounded in physical medium. Raw materials, parts and assemblies are manipulated in very complex ways to produce goods used by consumers and businesses. Manufacturing environments not only contain machines and equipment for production, but also material handling equipment (e.g. conveyor belts, fork lifts, automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), etc.), communication and control systems and maintenance support structures (Barros, 2003). A manufacturing environment must provide for efficient and safe flow of work, minimal waste (in time and materials), maximum concurrent processing, and proper quality control measures.Product Failure
Because these processes are complex, and require expensive equipment and skilled workers, it is clear that a poorly designed manufacturing process can result in the failure of even the most brilliant product. At their worst, these failures are manifested by quality issues that result in safety hazards which can cause consumer injury and hugely expensive product recalls.
Probably the most glaring examples of quality issues in manufacturing are the recent recalls of products manufactured in China, particularly lead- and magnet-laden toys. While the US-based companies that designed and branded these toys did not purposely design lead paint and dangerous magnets into the product, poor oversight and surreptitious cost cutting on the manufacturing side resulted in inadequate or nonexistent quality control processes.
While more subtle, costly failures can also be attributed to poor process design beyond the realm of quality. A design process that is inefficient can lead to higher than expected product costs, which in turn lead to reduced profit margins or underperformance in the market due to higher consumer prices and eventual termination of the product.Goals of a Well-Designed Process
In essence, a well-designed process for manufacturing will:
- Maximize profit margins through cost-effective manufacturing processes;
- Speed products to market by maximizing the efficiencies of layouts and flow;
- Ensure high quality in the finished product by implementing appropriate control and assurance procedures.
One shortcoming in Lu's sequential depiction of product design and process design is that it does not show the crucial interdependence between product and process designers, and how significantly a lack of collaboration can result in delays to product launch, quality issues and inefficiencies, which can often depress profit margins. Schilling (1998) takes a speed-to-market perspective when she identifies her own product life cycle; including the development of the idea into concept (quality control is included in commercial production).
- Opportunity Identification
- Concept Development
- Product Design
- Process Design
- Commercial Production
Importantly, Schilling draws attention to the fact that these processes should not be sequential and identifies the greatest need for parallelism between product design and process design. This parallelism, she asserts, is necessary to shorten time to market (cycle time) in order to reap the most economic benefit from the product. This parallelism also addresses quality and efficiency.
Parallelism is particularly vital in complex products, like automobiles, that include a number of technologies and disciplines in a single product — e.g. electronics, mechanics, metallurgy, aerodynamics and much more.
Particularly with modern process simulation capabilities, it makes ever more sense for product designers to collaborate with process designers to ensure that products are designed in ways that minimize production costs and maximize speed and quality. A 2000 study of 137 North American manufacturers, conducted by Associate Professor Morgan Swink and doctoral candidate Dongsong Zeng at Michigan State University, found that the "crucial factor in achieving quality and speed" is the extent to which a company's manufacturing processes can deliver what the product designers envision" (Moody, 2001).Design for Manufacturing
Yet another way to look at process design is the extent to which a...
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