This manual provides background material for an introductory course in modern design and manufacturing methodology. It demonstrates ways to increase profitability by applying modern design tools and procedures.
It includes a discussion of gradual introduction of computer assisted design (CAD) and computer assisted manufacturing (CAM) technology in a small, fictional, secondary wood-products manufacturing operation.
The course goals are to increase your company's overall operational efficiency and to save you money. Participants will learn new ways to look at their own manufacturing processes.
Computer Integrated Manufacture (CIM) has been sold as a way to lower the costs of manufacturing by downsizing or eliminating labor force, replace working people with depreciable machines (especially with flexible manufacturing systems based on programmable multi-functional robotic manufacturing cells (FMS)). Because cell cost is high, and manufacturing technology can become obsolescent earlier than anticipated, the promised cost savings have not always materialized. At the same time, the social impact of this strategy can be substantial. In my lifetime, I have watched a nearly complete shift from a production based economy to a service based economy and watched machinery replace working people again and again.
This Design Manual offers an alternate vision: the use of machines to facilitate communication between people at all levels of the organization. Increasing the effectiveness of labor is a more humane and sustainable path to increased profitability than merely lowering or eliminating the cost of labor. The goal is to reduce the per unit shipped labor cost by "working smart".
This course will provide a realistic look at the cost and the benefits available through the use of PC's running "off the shelf" CAD, Time Management, and Information Management software to organize your business information. It also provides a glimpse of the technology of the very near future, and arguments why it is important to get skills and information in place now so you will be ready to use it as soon as it is available in this area.
Ultimately the Design Process begins with subjective information. It begins with a hunch that a market exists for a new or improved product. In an effort to validate this hunch, additional subjective information about the product is collected from potential customers. Through the Design Process, the collection of information is structured to allow useful information, in the form of a product specification, to be developed.
Applying new tools changes the way things are done.
Applying new tools efficiently often requires a substantial redesign
of our products as well as the processes we use to manufacture
them. This provides an opportunity to refine our products and
to craft a better fit to our customers' needs
Manufacturing operations require two distinct teams or divisions: Marketing and Production. Each team builds on its own specialized skills and develops its own specialized knowledge. Production people know what can be done with the tools and materials at hand, how long it takes and what it costs. Marketing people know what is needed if the product is to sell, and how much it has to sell for. In the development of a new product, Design provides a bridge over the apparent gulf between the capabilities of manufacturing and the requirements of the market.
In a small firm, there is no full-time "Design" department or resident "Designer". Therefore, in the process that follows "Design" is represented by a team pulled together from marketing and production. In this way Design's "bridge" function is maximized.
The Design Process is the application of multiple disciplines simultaneously. Experience in companies large and small has established that the three major aspects of product development: product design, production engineering, and market analysis, are best approached simultaneously.
This combination of disciplines and activities is called by several names in current engineering, design and manufacturing literature. Some of the names used are concurrent engineering, simultaneous engineering, or concurrent design. The terms are used interchangeably, and the use of one versus another does not necessarily imply any special variation on the process.
We will use the name Design Process in this manual.
The split of the Design team into two branches, Marketing and Production, is somewhat arbitrary, but is a traditional separation and is appropriate in a small firm. In most organizations the line between sales and production is fairly clear, however, there are many areas of overlap between Marketing and Production other than the design of new products. For example, Finance is an aspect and a concern of each branch, and governs decisions which affect the entire operation such as the acquisition of increased manufacturing capacity, resolution of make - buy decisions, and the balance between inventory and cash-flow.
In the "traditional" model of product development, Marketing researched the needs of the consumers and defined their requirements, then Manufacturing came up with the product. According to the Design Process, we assemble a design team to develop a new product together.
The design team represents people with a wide range
of experience in marketing and manufacturing, as well as people
whose primary experience is in engineering, communication, and
organizing information. In a very small company, this team will
probably include everyone available. The process begins with
somebody's subjective hunch. This can originate at any level
of the organization, but somehow, it must be validated by the
owners or managers before it can take root.
The process that follows is truly generic. It does not matter what kind of product you are developing. Descriptions of this process can be found in many textbooks. Non-critical reviews of the benefits of Concurrent Engineering flood the engineering and management journals. The process set forth in this Manual is not new. Concurrent Engineering is essentially the same process Henry Ford used in the design and development of the Model-T. It was codified as a method in 1927 by Norman Belle Geddes, and provided the basis of his design studio. Much of it will be familiar to you. What is important is that you follow the entire path - that you actually implement all the steps of the process without skipping over anything essential. And that you move quickly.
There are no guarantees. The world is constantly
changing. While you are wrestling with the details of your new
design, someone else with the same information can beat you to
the punch by moving faster. Consumers' concerns and preferences
will shift, and your hard-won marketability criteria will become
obsolete. Following this process does not guarantee success,
because it can only address the aspects of your business that
are actually under your control. But following it will eliminate
many of the most common causes of failure.