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Manufacturing Processes and Methods Process

Updated on November 24, 2011

Manufacturing Process Selection

The selection of a manufacturing process is done very much on the basis of a manufacturer choosing the process that best suits his needs. Consideration must be given to a number of factors before deciding on a manufacturing method and 3 primary ones are quality, flexibility and cost.

This can be tricky to define, but it really refers to whether a product meets specification? A process that consistently fails to produce items that are in specification is clearly inappropriate for the task in hand. But this factor also highlights the need to get the specification right and not to over specify unnecessarily. Producing products to unnecessarily tight specifications can lead to the wrong manufacturing process being selected and will invariably lead to increased production costs.

Flexibility is about how easy it is to adapt the manufacturing process for required changes to the product, whether that is in terms of shape, materials or finish. A flexible process means that changes can be made relatively easily. An excellent example of a manufacturing process that is highly flexible and can be easily adapted is CNC machining.

Operating costs refer to the investment that needs to be made when setting up a process and can involve both the cost of capital equipment and labour charges. There are different ways of dealing with capital costs where they are required. Some companies (assuming you are outsourcing, not always the case) will charge for the provision of necessary capital equipment as a one off cost or in some cases the costs can be amortized over the production schedule i.e. the price per unit is made more expensive to cover capital costs.

Sometimes there are no obvious capital costs, for example a specialist vendor might be employed that has already invested in the required equipment and offer their services in producing products at a quoted price per unit. Clearly the capital purchased in order to provided the service was a capital outlay which the supplier made, so you could consider this as an amortized option in which your decision was simply whether to use that particular vendor or not.

Manufacturing Processes

Manufacturing Processes Courtesy of PhotoXpress
Manufacturing Processes Courtesy of PhotoXpress

Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals - 5 Stars

Other factors that affect the selection of a manufacturing process

The selection of a manufacturing method is all about resolving problems. The problems that need to be resolved relate to the product specification and what is required from a product to ensure that it meets the required specification.

So before choosing a manufacturing process the product design specification needs to be in place. A product design specification is generally a dynamic document that may start life as an idea which needs to be converted into a salable product. Or alternatively it could be considered the skeleton upon which a full body of information can be grown in order to produce a highly detailed and well considered account of what a company needs to produce to take an idea through many development stages to become an innovative commercial product.

See the table below for a list of factors that need to be considered when creating a Product Design Specification when it is heavily influenced by marketing requirements.

Another and inextricable factor that influences the choice of a manufacturing process is the materials selection.

The physical properties of the materials either rule them into consideration for a product or conversely rule them out, this is very often done on a common sense basis in relation to the PDS requirements. Utilising a hierarchical structure, it is possible to narrow down the choice of materials, that can satisfy all requirements, to a few front runners. This statement applies equally to manufacturing process choice. Once a material that can meet specification is selected, there will be a natural culling of available processes that can be used for the material chosen.

Unique and innovative use of materials can be used to gain a relative advantage over competing products in terms of cost, performance or other factors defined in the Product Design Specification.

So the selection of material is critical both in terms of the manufacturing process chosen and the product design specification. It should not be forgotten that the manufacturing process chosen can also affect the physical properties of the material. For example a high strength steel that is supplied in bar from will be significantly different to a high strength steel that has been cast.

It is also possible that the development of new manufacturing processes may be required to realise the objectives of a product design specification. Where this is the case, it becomes as important to protect the intellectual property rights of the new process as it does the product itself.

So in summary, the manufacturing process selection criteria is very much dependent on the Product Design Specification and the material choices made, but it goes further than that. It also depends a great deal on the quantities required and the level of investment that will be needed to meet production targets

Factors to be considered for a Product Design Specification

What must the product be capable of?
Where does it need to operate and what are the conditions under which it must meet its performance requirements e.g. temperature.
Target Production Cost
An existing market will greatly influence this factor.
Nature and extent of existing competition
Quantity & Manufacture
Will heavily influence the type of manufacturing process and the materials chosen for the required shape
Again will heavily influence the type of manufacturing process and should be chosen in order to achieve the required shape.
Quality & Consistency
What are the market expectations, to fall below these expectations would be disastrous.
Product should conform to existing standards unless it is strong enough to create new standards e.g. Compact Disc
Be wary of infringing existing patents and consider taking out new patents to protect innovative ideas.
Packaging & Shipping
Packaging needs to send the right message and should be suited to shipping options.
Aesthetics & Ergonomics
Consider user interface and attraction to target consumer base.
Market Constraints
Price limitations, life expectancy, likely volumes etc.
Company Constraints
Does product fit business strategic objectives?

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