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  Home  >  Technical Articles  >  Product Development  >  Step 6 - Production
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Steps of the Process:


Step 1 &
    - Process Overview.

Step 2 -
    - Requirements.

Step 3 -
    - Info & Planning.

Step 4 -
    - Design.

Step 5 -
    - Prototypes.

Step 6 -
    - Production.

 


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Process Notes

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Step 6 - Production Details and Production:
 

When the design is ready to go out to the world -- Design done, Testing complete, Requirements satisfied, Business Plan and Marketing Analysis thumbs up -- it is ready for production.  For many products -- and especially for inventors -- this is where the real work begins.  The Production phase is usually, by far, the most expensive.

Documents like the Business Plan and Marketing Analysis, if done honestly, will tell you if you should go to production long before you complete the earlier steps.  This is the big money step, so make sure you're ready for it -- long before it comes.

The first step into production is to thoroughly document the design.  This means detail drawings for the applicable parts and thorough model construction for others.  This means final design optimization with an eye to minimizing costs in manufacturing.  This means documentation for assembling the product (where appropriate) including bolt torque specs, adhesives application, painting, labeling, assembly order, etc..  This documentation is usually a combination of:

  • Part detail drawings
  • Component specifications - materials, processing, colors, textures, etc.
  • Assembly drawings
  • Assembly process drawings
  • Assembly instructions
  • Product specifications – Bill of Materials, assembly techniques, purchased parts, packaging, etc.
  • Manufacturing specifications
  • Final CAD models
Much of the documentation process can be done in parallel with the long lead manufacturing items like mold making, dies or pattern making.  AND  more or less detail may be needed depending on the product, the manufacturing facilities, company records requirements, etc..

 
Production:

The final production process usually includes the following steps.  Detail for these steps will differ with each product and schedule.

  1. Final production quotes.
  2. Vendor selection and kick-off.
  3. Design of special tools and/or fixtures (where needed).
  4. Inclusion of final design input from manufacturers.
  5. First article component verification and sign-off.
  6. First assembly validation and sign-off.
  7. Launch of production.
  8. Sell, distribution, (??) of Products
The production processes and costs will differ widely for each product, for each manufacturing process and for each location.  Some items (like plastic injection molds or casting patterns or dies) can take months to make and be very expensive.  Some items require special tooling or fixtures that must be designed and validated along the way.  In any case, the production process is always involved and is usually time consuming.  It can also be quite costly.

Choosing the right production process for the specific needs and quantities of each product is key to success.  Truly there is far more involved than can be covered in this article, and perhaps more importantly, the specifics change with every different application.  For more generalized information, see the Process Notes.

The Cost/Volume Continuum:

There is a continuum, like a graph, of Cost and Quantity.  Typically, the more pieces you make the cheaper they are, but more NRE is involved - though it differs by process.  See the discussion in our Notes Section.

It is not our purpose here to discuss all the variations of manufacturing processes.  Suffice it to say that there are many ways to make a part -- some adapted better for low volume and some for higher volume.  Some processes can adapt to best use in cooperation with other processes.  For example, for low quantity a machined part can be cost effective.  For higher quantity, forging or casting the net shape, then machining the details can be faster and cheaper.  For even higher production, automated machines with dedicated heads and such can have very high through put.

In summary, evaluate available processes as they pertain to your product, then be willing to think outside the box to get the desired result.

 
Along with defining the processes, comes choosing the vendors to do the manufacturing.  Choosing vendors can be tricky and time consuming all by itself.  There are so many companies in almost every country that are willing to make "stuff" for you.  Some have more expertise, some offer a lower price.  Your choices here will have an enormous effect on the headaches you have to deal with later.
 

A Note About Off-Shore Manufacturing:
The term "Off Shore" really has nothing to do with oceans as it implies, it really has more to do with the country of origin being different than the country where the manufacturing is done.

There has been a trend in recent years (especially in the USA) to do a lot of manufacturing in other countries where regulations are relaxed or where labor is cheap.  There are dozens of arguments about whether this is good or not, but in the end it is a decision that must be made.

From our experience we've seen success and we've seen disasters.  Here are some things to consider in making that decision:

  • First, it is never as easy to go off-shore as they say.
  • There are always more costs than anticipated -- shipping, tariffs, import fees, export fees, government extras, etc...
  • There is always more to it than anticipated -- finding a reliable shipper, unraveling government regulations, timing, delays, etc...
  • How well do you speak the language?  How well do you know the customs?  Who do you know that can bridge these gaps?
  • What resources do you have to assure quality? -- (What happens when you get a truck load of widgets that are not right?)
  • How much control do you wish to have over the final product?
And on the moral side:
  • Do you have moral values that are compromised by the way a potential vendor manufacturers?  Pollution?  Child labor?  Working conditions?  (Not all of these apply, but you need to think about what does.)
  • Would you run your factory the same way in your city?  If not, can you negotiate ways to change that?
  • Do you claim a strong allegiance to your country and decry others that take jobs off shore?

From our experience, if you have high enough quantities, along with time and resources to deal with all the little things that come up, off-shore manufacturing can be a real boon.  If not, it can be a big headache.  Learn before you buy.

As a second note, in more recent times, some of the companies that were first to push their manufacturing off shore are now re-thinking and bringing some back.  Labor rates overseas have risen, and quality concerns (in some cases) have caused some companies to think again about what goes out, and what stays home.  Might be a good exercise to learn WHY as it pertains to your new product.
 

 
Concluding Thoughts ...

The production phase is fraught with numerous variables, and it will take some time to sort through all the possibilities.  Starting this research early, and getting input from potential vendors is a great way to make the transition to production easier.  Of course, this is a very general statement because the particulars of any given product will certainly drive the path to production in its own unique way.

Be cautious, but optimistic as you progress.  Ask lots of questions and find experts that can help guide the process, because it is very satisfying to see your widget in production.

 
ContinueContinue to Process Notes - Time, Cost, and other Considerations.

 

 
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