Depending on the complexity of the product, we prefer to begin to work closely with our clients and the design team when the project is on the “fifty yard line”. At this point, the fundamental engineering is complete, we’ve moved past pencil sketches and a basic BOM has been defined.
After reviewing the emerging design package, we can influence or change some of the design features and recommend small “tweaks” to improve “manufacturability”. This process involves:
- • Developing an understanding of the product’s design/technology, estimated annual usage (EAU) and target price.
- • Pinning down any regulatory, international standard or compliance requirements. This can include UL certification, FDA approval, CSA testing or CPSIA examination.
- • Understanding the timing of the project (when the finished goods must land on the dock) and crafting a feasible time line with achievable milestones and build in some schedule slippage.
- • Defining the components, materials, sub-assemblies, packaging, etc. and qualifying suppliers.
- • Pinning down the specifications for critical elements in the BOM, including colors, surface finishes, mechanical tolerances, electrical performance, testing requirements, etc.
- • Craft a budget for molds, jigs and fixtures and a schedule to build and validate the tooling including first article inspection (FAI).
- • Pre-qualify candidate vendors and put the project out to bid. Review the bids, explore and qualify requested technical exceptions and finalize the vendor.
All of this information is collected in a PMF – our Project Management File. Our collective thoughts, changes to design, component and material selection, tooling changes, process definitions, test results and stakeholder feedback is recorded in one document that can be passed amongst all of the players to keep everyone on target.
And where’s the eighth step? It’s a might big one and it involves building models, carrying out preproduction engineering runs, running limited or “shakedown” production and then guiding the transition into full on production… Number 8 deserves its own list. More next month.