Taking the Next Step: Release-to-Manufacturing Requirements

Huge thank you to John Erickson of Product Resources for authoring this article on product development and release for manufacturing! Read on to learn more and find out how to engage.

While developing a product, a company will usually go through multiple iterations of prototypes while refining the design.  Building prototypes allows engineers to validate the design by testing a limited set of design requirements and doing it quickly.

The process used to build a prototype is characterized by the speed of the development and the design risks that need mitigation.  Typically, the engineers involved in the design perform the construction of the prototype; they deal with the suppliers, inspect the incoming material, make modifications as required, and test the prototype to verify that the risks have been properly addressed.  

Contrast the prototyping process with a manufacturing process.  Where the prototyping process typically focuses on a subset of the product requirements, the manufacturing process must yield a properly assembled, programmed, tested, calibrated, and packaged product.  Consistency is key; you should not be able to distinguish S/N 0008 from S/N 0954 without looking at the label.  The design engineers should not be involved in the day-to-day manufacturing.

It is up to the manufacturer to deliver a quality product that meets the manufacturing requirements. Notice it does not say “product” requirements.  Meeting the product requirements is the job of the engineers designing the product; their design output defines the manufacturing requirements.  Even in companies that intend on personally manufacturing the products they design and market, it is important that the manufacturing requirements (the engineering design output) be fully defined for a successful product launch and continued reliable and controlled manufacturing.

The base document that defines a product is the Bill of Materials.  This document contains information about the material and documentation necessary for the build.  Material in the product can be split into two categories, Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) parts or Custom parts.  All these parts may be purchased from suppliers and the difference between them is who has control over the part.  A COTS part is under the control of its manufacturer and you are buying it to their specifications.  A Custom part may be bought from any suitable supplier but is made to your company’s specifications.

One documentation issue we see often is using a STEP file for the definition of a custom fabricated part.  We prefer to see a drawing along with a STEP file so that the critical dimensions can be identified and inspected when received.  Without a drawing, tolerances are not defined, and fabricators are not notified when nominal tolerances (however defined by the fabricator) are not sufficient.

Please refer to Product Resources’ Release to Manufacturing Requirements for a list of the typical documentation that we need to define the product. The RTM Checklist is designed to identify the general information that a manufacturer requires to fully define the product to be built.  There may be other documents that are required based on the unique requirements of your product and Product Resources’ engineers would be happy to discuss the process with you.  If you would like additional information, please contact John Erickson or Mike Dragonas or visit Product Resources’ website.

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