“Manufacturing is more than just putting parts together. It’s coming up with ideas, testing principles and perfecting the engineering, as well as final assembly” James Dyson
Manufacturing Capability (MC) refers to the technical and physical limitations of a manufacturing firm and each of its plants. Three categories of capability include:
- technological processing capability
- production capacity
- physical size and weight
We help organizations to assess their current capability and to identify the best strategy for improvement, which means:
- improve the existing capability: if your technology is mature enough according to design and process requirements, this is the best solution to adopt;
- develop a new capability: if you are developing innovative products or you want to introduce a step change in your current process, you probably need to develop a new capability.
“I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself” E. Musk
How can we help you?
Manufacturing Capability Assessment
The first step is to assess your current capability, whether it’s process capability or capacity. The goal is to find out the best approach for the customer: to improve the existing capability or to develop a new one?
This implies the following activities:
To assess your current status, it is fundamental to collect proper data. This is not a trivial operation, as the sample must be representative of the process. Moreover, it is necessary to identify the proper metric to be used. For example, if we are assessing a process capability, the metrics to use are Cp and Cpk values; if we are assessing the cycle time or lead time, the time itself is the proper metric, while if we are assessing capacity, then parts/h or similar metrics are probably right.
Once the metric has been defined and data hes been collected, Data Analysis is used to identify the actual capability. This may implies the use of statistical tools (Cp, Cpk) or other tools like Yamazumi Chart to assess workloads and capacity.
Capability Acquisition implies the use of a structured and meticulous approach. However, following the MRL framework involves a big effort for resources, especially in term of time and cost. Therefore, before to start a MRL project, it is convenient to assess if it is really worth it.
Manufacturing Capability Improvement
If the answer is to improve existing capabilities, then you probably don’t need to invest in new plants or machines, but you should find out smart solution to optimize your system.
This mostly implies the use of Lean Six Sigma tools to identify the root cause of your problems.
Therefore, the following steps will be:
We have a toolkit properly designed to identify the root cause(s) of our problem.
This is probably the most creative step of the process. We have identified the problem and now we must find one or more potential solutions. The best way to approach it is throughout a well-defined and structured approach.
At this point, potential solutions must be carefully evaluated by the improvement team to select the most approriate according to, for example, effectiveness, ease of implementation and costs.
We identifed potentially more the one solution and we identified the most promising one. Now it’s time to implement it and see how it affects our process.
Once the solution has been implemented, now it’s time to collect new data and assess the new capability. Did the solution improved the capability as much as required? Or do we need to introduce another improvement? Or maybe it’s better to proceed with a step change?
Manufacturing Capability Development
If the result of the preliminary assessment is to develop a new capability, or if this decision came out after multiple attempts to improve the existine one, then the approach will be to follow the Manufacturing Readiness Level framework (MRL).
The MRL framework is a Stage-Gate approach developed by the United States Department of Defense (DOD) to assess the maturity of manufacturing readiness. Nowadays MRLs are widely used in industry to mitigate risks associated to the implementation of manufacturing capabilities.
Therefore, next steps will be as follows:
If the answer is “yes”, the first step is to provide people involved in MCA projects an overview of MCA methodology.
When a MRL project starts, it is convenient to perform a preliminary financial analysis to identify cost benefits and potential gaps.
Stakeholders analysis is another important step to focus on. Indeed, it is fundamental to identify who are our stakeholders and how to behave with them in order to mitigate future risks.
What are your customer expectations? How to fulfill their requirements? To answer these questions, it is necessary to identify their needs. Most of the time, this phase is underestimated, but it happens quite often that customers don’t know what they want.
MRL are innovative projects, and by definition, innovative projects are associated with risks. Moreover, in case of manufacturing capabilities, we are often talking of big investments, therefore high risks. For these reasons, it is fundamental to prevent and mitigate risks properly.
In the project planning phase, the time schedule is defined, as well the budget and human resources.
The Project Charter can be defined as the heart of any organized effort to acquire new capabilities. It contains the reasons the project has been started, the goals, objectives, guidelines, and boundaries of the project. It is the “who, what, where, when and why” of the product development project. The Launch Pack consists basically in the collection of all the documentation generated in the previous points.
The last step is a kick off meeting, where the project, in the form of the Project Charter, is finally discussed with the Management and eventually bought-off.