Prepare for Manufacturing with a Manufacturing Readiness Review
More often than you might expect, companies struggle to translate their product needs to their contract manufacturer. Even those with a deep understanding of their product may overlook the importance of developing robust, internal documentation.
Without clear, precise instructions, however, manufacturers assume enormous risks. Gaps in documentation inevitably lead to quality concerns, cost increases, and scaling challenges. These problems balloon as unidentified errors that often end up being replicated in mass-produced assemblies.
The High Cost of Incomplete Instructions
One company learned their lesson the hard way.
When outsourcing the manufacturing of a shaft for the center of a compressor’s rotating assembly, the company underspecified their material requirements, neglecting to define the required yield strength. The manufacturer made an on-the-spot judgment call, choosing to anneal the replacement shaft.
Unfortunately, the annealed metal proved too soft, and within six weeks of installing the new shaft, the compressor failed. What was the cost of repairing the severely damaged machine? A wallet-busting $250,000—an avoidable expense had the manufacturer prioritized thorough documentation, strong communication, and a Manufacturing Readiness Review.
Understanding Manufacturing Readiness
Inadequate documentation is typically a sign that the customer lacks manufacturing insight, much like a restaurateur who isn’t a chef or a pilot who isn’t an airplane mechanic.
So the manufacturer must become their customer’s guide.
Adopting a process used by contract manufacturing services providers worldwide, Alchemy Industrial’s guidance takes shape during a customer’s Manufacturing Readiness Review.
The Manufacturing Readiness Review determines whether a product’s documentation, manufacturing processes, testing requirements, factory acceptance parameters, tooling, and materials are appropriately specified and suited to the customer’s desired result.
Once we’ve established our customer’s readiness baseline, we can recommend product design revisions and efficiency improvements.
Minding the gaps
A Manufacturing Readiness Review quickly reveals gaps in a customer’s documentation. What a customer believes to be detailed instructions may actually be partial information, as you’ll see in these real-world examples:
“Make this part with stainless steel.”
What hardness? What yield strength? Does the part require 304 or 316 stainless steel?
“Use standard tolerancing.”
There is no universal standard for tolerances!
What appearance, hardness, and abrasion resistance are you seeking?
As you’ve probably surmised, these customers are not inept. They simply lack manufacturing experience.
Asked for vs. actually wanted
At Alchemy Industrial, we measure the quality of a part or product by how well it conforms to the customer’s requirements. However, if a customer misstates or underspecifies those requirements, even the highest-quality results will fail to meet expectations.
With a pre-production Manufacturing Readiness Review, we can identify any contradictions between what the customer has asked for and what they actually want.
Getting Customers to Manufacturing Readiness
Just as a personal trainer helps you get your body in shape, the Manufacturing Readiness Review helps you get your part or product “in shape.” And like any intense workout, it is invariably accompanied by pain points.
But as “guides” or “trainers,” our team at Alchemy Industrial skillfully helps our customers fine-tune their design for manufacturing and assembly by evaluating these factors:
1. Technical Requirements
For customers with an idea but no completed design, we help interpret that idea into precise technical requirements. Our recommendations span the entire production process, from design to implementation to delivery.
Expert oversight of a product’s technical requirements ensures the engineering file’s accuracy.
When we have not helped form a product’s technical requirements, we begin by reviewing any existing CAD models, 2D drawings, work instructions, record templates, and other existing documentation.
Commonly, we discover that the manufacturing file lacks critical information such as complete title blocks, part descriptions, tolerances, thread fits, and more.
Often, we can round out a product’s documentation by tapping into the customer’s “tribal knowledge”—information held by a company’s experts who simply neglected to put their product knowledge on paper.
3. Design for Manufacturing and Assembly
Before we source materials or tooling, it’s essential to get everyone on the same page about the part or product’s end use. We ask clarifying questions like:
- What does your product do?
- In what environment will your product be used?
- What’s most important to your product’s end user?
With a comprehensive understanding of our customer’s goals and their customers’ needs, we can help optimize designs to ensure seamless manufacturing and assembly processes.
Design for assembly
For assemblies, the Manufacturing Readiness Review encompasses the entire project. Along with deficiencies in the client’s manufacturing instructions, we frequently uncover inadequacies in the documented assembly procedures.
To bridge those gaps, we seek answers to questions such as:
- Have you outlined an assembly procedure?
- Do your instructions identify the parts by part number, not merely their descriptions?
- Are specific tools required to facilitate assembly?
- Do factory or user acceptance criteria exist so we can perform post-assembly testing?
- Do you need data recording or record creation?
- How should we share records with you?
- Should we simply keep any records on file, or do you first want to validate them and sign off?
4. Fixturing needs
Even simple parts and assemblies may require custom fixturing, which we always plan for in advance. We never want to delay a project’s completion because we weren’t prepared with the necessary fixtures.
Custom fixturing can be a costly and unpleasant “surprise” addition to a customer’s final invoice. End-of-job cost increases detract from a frictionless customer experience [Link to How Manufacturers Can Increase Value by Decreasing Friction], so it’s best to maintain cost transparency from the start.
5. Factory acceptance
When manufacturing complete assemblies, manufacturers must take special care to understand the product’s purpose and make a plan to validate its functionality. A well-made product that doesn’t solve the targeted problem is a failed product.
From Readiness to Results
With the Manufacturing Readiness Review complete, it’s time to build the final file and begin production. We apply an abundance of caution even at this stage, performing a first article inspection (FAI) before launching the full production cycle.
This run-through is a critical validation step. Once validated by the customer, the finalized instructions become the single source of truth for the frontline teams manufacturing the product at the highest level of quality.
World-Class Products, from Start to Finish
The Alchemy Industrial team is committed to building world-class products—and it all starts with a Manufacturing Readiness Review.
Because we refuse to sacrifice quality for convenience, we’ve helped countless customers bypass years of experimentation and save millions of production dollars.
Our careful attention to detail allows us to build beyond what our customers ask for, exceed their expectations, and deliver what they actually wanted all along.
We’d love to manufacture your world-class product.
Request a quote and get manufacturing-ready with Alchemy Industrial.