4. Early Product Management

4.1 The objective of an Early Product Management system

The ultimate aim of an Early Product Management system is to ensure that all problems are detected and dealt with early in the product development process, totally eliminating the need for changes from the prototyping stage onwards. To this end, it is essential to clarify the technical resources required, the principal focuses of the activities, and the parameters to be evaluated (see Figure 7.10).

4.2 Basic approach

At each stage in the Early Product Management system, a thorough technical investigation and design review should be carried out, with the aim of nipping problems in the bud.

Figure 7.10 Example Showing Company A’s Basic Approach to Producing the World’s No.1 Products, including Product Evaluation and Cost Assessment

4.3 A typical implementation

(1)  Figure 7.11 is a flow diagram of an actual Early Product Management system.

(2)  It is important to carry out thorough investigations at each stage using FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) or other techniques, and use these as a basis for identifying problems by means of design reviews with input from all concerned. Figure 7.12 shows typical benefits gained by doing this.

Figure 7.11 A Typical Early Product Management System

Figure 7.12 Typical Benefits of Using an Early Product Management System

Examples of some of the forms used in this particular system will now be given – Development Selection Sheet (Table 7.3), Conformity Review Sheet (Figure 7.13), Concept Proposal Evaluation System (Table 7.4), Assembly FMEA (Figure 7.14) and Component FMEA (Figure 7.15)

Figure 7.13 A Typical Conformity Review Sheet

Table 7.3 A Typical Development Selection Sheet

Table 7.4 Typical Use of a Concept Proposal Evaluation System

(3) Product development should start with a process of defining the quality characteristics you want your product to have, in anticipation of what your users need and what new technology trends are likely to emerge. Examine your own company’s view of the characteristics of the product you are developing (i.e. the technology that needs to be developed), and take a good look at the characteristics of competitors’ products. This will help you work out the exact nature of the product you want to develop, and the technological hurdles you need to clear. Table 7.5 shows a typical product development characteristic table that has proved effective for doing this.

Table 7.5 A Typical Characteristic Table for Products under Development

4.4 Designing-in factory-friendliness at the product development stage

Before going on to describe how equipment design should influence product design and development, this section briefly explains the concept of factory-friendly product design, the principal function of TPM in this field. Although equipment design should influence product design and development, the product design and development department must be fully receptive to this idea, or it will not happen. To illustrate the kind of thing that the department must be prevailed upon to do, the following explanation is interspersed with real-life examples.

(1) What is a ‘factory-friendly product’?

A ‘factory-friendly product’ is one whose means of production are inexpensive and readily available and that can be produced safely using simple procedures and equipment. In the case of a product or component produced mainly by machining, for example, the requirements for factory-friendliness would probably include some or all of the following:

  • Easy to create a reference surface on
  • Easy to clamp
  • Easy to position in the holder
  • Resistant to going out of centre
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Burr-resistant
  • Easily machined
  • Easily screened for defectives
  • Easily measured
  • Resistant to ingress of cutting debris
  • Easy to remove cutting debris from
  • Easily assembled
  • Easily automated

(2) Five Strategies to Achieve Factory-Friendliness

To design and develop a product that is factory-friendly in the ways listed above, the five strategies described below need to be employed:

Before starting to design the product, identify any specific issues concerning the factory-friendliness of current products, and build the solutions to these issues into the design of the new product. To this end, you will need to employ the first two strategies:

1) Collect and utilise information about the current product;
2) Identify the requirements for factory-friendliness, and work out how to satisfy those requirements, by carrying out a process analysis on current products.

Next, work out in advance what the problems will be. This is done by carrying out a design review at each stage, from conceptual product planning and design through prototyping and testing. Once you know the problems, you can start designing the solutions into the product. Here you will need to employ the next three strategies:

3)  Carry out a process analysis on the new product, to find out what would make it factory-friendly, and how that could be done;

4)  Carry out a design review on the new product, to analyse its potential for generating defectives. Work out what would help prevent defectives being generated, and how that could be done;

5)  Identify potential volume-production problems at the prototyping, testing and evaluation stages, to find out what would make the product factory friendly, and how that could be done.

When doing this, you will need to

  • Factor in volume-production conditions;
  • Identify potential problems by developing evaluation methods;
  • Carry out design reviews using checklists and other standardised documents;
  • Proceed systematically, using highly-skilled, knowledgeable staff effectively.

To implement the five strategies, you will need to draw up checklists. This task will be made easier by making good use of MP information on existing products, and organising this information well (see Figure 7.16)

4.5 Building in quality through control of first-of-run products

When moving to commissioning or volume production, rigorous control of first-of- run products (the first new products to come off the line) is vitally important. The production department must control first-of-run-products in such a way that defectives are neither produced nor shipped.

Figure 7.17 shows a typical first-of-run-product control system, in which the QA department initiates first-of-run-product control when the volume-production drawings are issued. The system ensures that quality is built into the product by making it impossible for any product to be shipped until the production department has carried out a process FMEA, implemented and checked countermeasures, and locked them down.

Figure 7.17 A Typical First-of-Run Product Control System

4.6 Making use of information on problems arising during Early Product Management

Despite all efforts made to build in quality and factory-friendliness at the design stage, problems may well arise, inside or outside the company, from any point from prototyping through volume production. When this happens, it is important to establish the facts, investigate the causes, send prompt feedback to the preceding stage, work out how to stop the same thing happening again, and take corrective action. Figure 7.18 shows a typical troubleshooting (TS) system that makes use of information about problems arising during the Early Product Management process.

Figure 7.18 A Typical Troubleshooting System

5. Early Equipment Management

‘Equipment management’ encompasses all of the activities undertaken to ensure that equipment is used as efficiently as possible in accordance with the business plan, in order to raise the company’s productivity and improve its profitability. More specifically, these activities consist of the following two things:

1. Attaining business objectives by using equipment efficiently
2. Shortening production lead times (the time spent getting ready for production)

Looking at these activities in terms of the service life of the equipment, we can divide them into two stages: one covering the period up to the ‘birth’ of the equipment, and a second covering the period after the equipment is born. The stage up until the birth of the equipment is called the construction process, while the stage from the birth of the equipment onwards is called the maintenance process. In its broad sense, ‘equipment management’ covers both stages, while in its narrow sense, it is taken to refer to the maintenance process only. The technical side of equipment management in the broad sense is called ‘plant engineering’, while the construction process is known as ‘project engineering’, or in other words, Early Equipment Management.

5.1 Attaining business objectives by using equipment efficiently

‘Using equipment efficiently’ means

(1) Clarifying the core functions the equipment is supposed to fulfil throughout its life cycle in order to attain the company’s business objectives, and building these functions into the design;

(2) Ensuring that the core functions are sustained throughout the life of the equipment.

We shall call (1) the ‘core functions of the equipment’, and (2) its ‘MP (maintenance prevention) functions’. Table 7.6 shows how these factors relate to one another, while Table 7.7 shows how various design concepts fit in.

Table 7.6 Business Objectives and Equipment Functions Conducive to Attaining Them

Table 7.7 Outline of Core Functions in Relation to Design Concepts

(1) Assuring target quality

Target quality is assured by QA-by-equipment in concert with equipment QA. Designing-in ‘QA-by-equipment’ means designing the equipment to have a high process capability, while designing-in ‘equipment QA’ means designing the equipment in such a way that its core functions, and consequently its high process capability, are easy to sustain.

The function that makes the equipment’s core functions easy to sustain is called the ‘MP function’. The performance of any kind of equipment inevitably tends to deteriorate over time, and this deterioration needs to be predicted and periodically reversed by the equipment’s operators. The burden of maintenance can be lightened, but it can never be entirely eliminated, no matter how highly-automated and sophisticated the equipment, because the amount of investment required to automate the maintenance task itself would make it prohibitively expensive. The equipment designer’s mission is to find out what can be done to make this maintenance task easier, and design the equipment accordingly.

To achieve high levels of reliability, autonomous-maintenance-friendliness, operability, safety and so on, it is essential for the equipment designer to think about what the operator needs to do with the equipment, and design the equipment to make this as easy as possible. To this end, it is important to strike the right balance between designing-in QA-by-equipment and designing-in equipment QA. The design philosophy aimed at doing just this is called QM (quality maintainable) design (see Figure 7.19). Table 7.8 shows the five conditions for achieving QA-friendliness.

Figure 7.19 QM (Quality Maintainable) Design

Table 7.8 The Five Conditions for QA-Friendliness

(3) Meeting production targets and delivery schedules on budget

The core functions required for meeting production targets and delivery schedules are the three elements of low-cost automation, i.e. simplification, standardisation and specialisation.

(4) LCC (life-cycle-cost) design

This is design aimed at minimising the total cost of the equipment (see Figure 7.20). The total cost of the equipment (TC) is the sum of the initial cost (IC) and the running cost (RC). There is often a trade-off between IC and RC.

When the IC is at a maximum, the RC is at a minimum; When the IC is at a minimum, the RC is at a maximum.

This relationship can be used to run a cost simulation aimed at finding the optimal total cost.

(5) LCP (life-cycle profit) design

Fluctuations can occur in production volume, number of product types handled, quality level, product specifications and so on. At the design stage, production volume is strictly hypothetical. In real life, fluctuations in production volume can reduce profits: if the equipment is over-specified, for example, a cut in production can raise the unit cost of the product, while if it is under-specified, an increase in production can lead to lost opportunities. The design philosophy that aims to create equipment able to accommodate fluctuations in indeterminate factors like production volume, is called LCP design. LCP design and LCC design are closely interrelated.

Figure 7.20 Relationship Between Total Equipment Cost and Number of Units Produced

• Point E is the crossover point between system A and system Z

• Point N is the number of units planned to be produced

• θA and θZ represent the RC per unit of product

Figure 7.21 shows the basic cost items used in LCC and LCP analysis and strategies for reducing them.

This idea, whereby the equipment’s cost structure can be switched according to production requirements, offers the best of both worlds. However, if this approach is to be used, it is vital that the switch can be made stage by stage, and that the equipment is rapidly adaptable to a wide range of purposes. The ability to respond nimbly to fluctuations in production requirements – in other words, high flexibility – is the key to maximising LCP.

Chapter 7. Early Equipment Management. Part 3

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