There are many aspects of an effective manufacturing operation. The products that will be manufactured must be defined. In many cases some components will be manufactured internally, while other components in the bill of materials will be outsourced. Outsource partners must be selected and qualified. The manufacturing process must be designed for internally manufactured components and the integration of all product components.
The process flow must be laid out so that unit operations can be visualized and optimized. Understanding the impact of each process step is critical to accurately define the unit cost. It is not always obvious where the true cost of manufacturing is generated from. The process-flow analysis helps identify the cost drivers. As an example, in the manufacture of optical fiber, increasing the drawing speed by a factor of 3 only decreased the manufacturing cost by 3% since the drawing operation accounted for 7% of the manufacturing cost, while the primary contributions to cost are associated with preforms and testing.
Capacity for current and scale-up needs is clearly tied to the sales forecast. To achieve the forecast, equipment needs based on capacity requirements must include the time to acquire the equipment as well as to set it up and debug it. It is not uncommon for specialized equipment to have lead times for delivery in excess of six months. Manpower needs can have similar time-delay issues associated with hiring and training skilled staff. As capacity requirements increase, equipment and manpower can be better used in expanded shifts. The shift can take many forms, such as the manufacturing shift extending from 8 hours to 12 hours, two complete 8-hour shifts, three 8-hour shifts, or rotating shifts that enable full coverage of the 168-hour week.
Manufacturing engineering has several functions. First, it provides the bridge between product development and product suitability for manufacturing. Second, it provides the necessary engineering to go from prototype to full product and subsequent scale-ups. Third, it impacts product and process variability to improve yield. Last, manufacturing engineering has a strong focus on cost reduction.
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