What’s the issue?
As is common knowledge but often overlooked, a finalised fully functional prototype in itself is not necessarily ready for volume manufacture. Usually there is a lot of work to be done beyond this stage. This article covers this with the assumption that final prototype stage has genuinely been reached, i.e., the prototype satisfies every requirement of the Specifications.
What activities are necessary to prepare and configure for mass manufacture?
Actually, there is probably more to do after successful prototyping than before. This OPG takes a 30,000 ft view and is certainly not comprehensive. It is just a taster that identifies some of the many things that may need attention:
- Product Definition: it is important to make sure that the product is configured in a cost effective way and that it doesn’t include elements that are problematic to produce in volume. This section shouldn’t need too much attention if DfM (design for manufacture) has been considered during prototyping, but in the real world it rarely is. The product should break down into testable subassemblies – saves cost and increases yield because errors found late in the assembly process can be expensive to correct. Also, there may be basic issues that wouldn’t really be a problem at prototype but are in volume production (heavy components on both sides of a PCBA – component has to be glued, inadequate thermal relief – prototypes might have been hand soldered – less of a problem). The better the product is researched and defined in consultation with manufacturers, the greater the chance manufacturing will economic and problem free.
- Process Mapping: it pays in spades to properly process map. It will facilitate lean thinking, focus the team on quality planning with emphasis on continuous improvement (six sigma techniques), and provide a visual map for all to consider and refer to.
- Quality Planning: risk assessment is a prerequisite for this usually. Have critical processes and components been identified? If so, what steps are in place to reduce any associated failure risks? Is there too much inspection – process lean or not? it is essential a thorough Process Map exists before compiling the Quality Plan. Supplier quality assurance (supply chain SQA) is another essential element of the Quality Plan.
- Component Sourcing: particularly with electronics, component sourcing is critical. Has it been addressed and risks mitigated?
- Cost Control: the cost of taking a product to market is not limited to the component and assembly costs. How much inspection is being paid for, for example. The reasons costs can change are multitudinous, and that means that processes, targets and monitoring should constantly be in place.
- Resources: a Resource plan will need attention, e.g., if a key supplier has been identified, who is auditing them to confirm compliance?
The EM can go into much more depth on this topic if you require. Please don’t hesitate to CONTACT US if this is the case.