I have been brought back to this topic many times over the past few months. Hits production is sort of like “hitting the fan.” We release our product after development and then put our fingers in our ears hoping to not hear the metaphoric explosion at the plant. It is no wonder. We have the culmination of all of our development activities as well as the risks associated with the transition from prototype part volume to sometimes significant product volumes – with the associated time demands. We have manufacturing personnel that may have all too recently learned of the product change and any requisite process changes required. We have a situation fraught with uncertainty.
The things we can do to improve this situation are:
- attention to details in the manufacturing area as in the development area, for example use of Process Failure Mode Effects Analysis (PFMEA)
- manufacturing personnel in the development team early and use the objective feedback
- prototype part used also by manufacturing personnel
- design for manufacturing in conjunction with the development work
We have seen “run at rates” or “trial production runs” help improve this transition. During these events, we stress the manufacturing line as if we were in production mode but we do it well before start of production. We will see where there are issues on the manufacturing line (process or tool related), whether our line layout will in fact, achieve the volume rates and quality of our objective. However, we also see organizations balking due to the costs associated with these activities. We believe this may be a case of penny wise but pound foolish.