Original Date: 02/09/1998
Revision Date: 04/22/2003
Best Practice : Design Control
Prior to 1992, the engineering design operations at United Electric (UE) Controls were typical of many U.S. manufacturers quick responsiveness to special customer requests and non-standard products drove the business. Many projects submitted to Design Engineering called for products with unique specifications and extremely tight schedules. Designs were hurried, and sometimes project priorities; team participation; design optimization and producibility; cost analysis; and documentation could be compromised. Accountability was often difficult to pinpoint. Through all this, UE was completing and shipping products to its customers. However, it soon became apparent that the business could not grow or continue to compete using this methodology. A new look at UE’s processes and products was needed.
In mid-1992, UE began working toward ISO 9001 certification along with an assessment of its product line. First, the company eliminated unprofitable products from its sales and concentrated on the more profitable ones. Second, UE used ISO procedures to gain control of its processes throughout all its operations. ISO certification worked as a driving force that enabled UE to make effective use of its resources, improve its products, increase sales, and ultimately gain a larger profit margin. While other groups within UE dealt with their aspect of ISO requirements, Design Engineering addressed its role with remarkable results. As a result, Design Engineering developed and implemented a well-defined, ISO certified, design control process. This process flowcharts the necessary steps to control the engineering design process, which includes directives to sub-tier Flow Charts (FCs) and design engineering procedures. Key elements include:
Standard Design and Development Methods Provide well-defined processes and procedures through the use of FCs and Design Engineering Procedures (DEPs). FCs show the general steps necessary to control the Design Engineering process (Figure 2-1) including directives to sub-tier FCs. DEPs document the entire step-by-step process and assure standardization in its execution. A Service Request system is in place which clearly identifies assignments, dispositioning, logging, and tracking. Multi-functional teams work together on all new product designs. Design reviews and checklists have also been added to the process.
Multi-Functional Teams Provide representation by key departments during new product designs, product redesigns, design reviews, and checklists. Teams can involve design, production, test, and procurement personnel as well as suppliers.
Design Reviews Incorporate all aspects of the manufacturing cycle from demonstrating the initial model to fielding the product. By conducting reviews early in the cycle, the product is designed correctly the first time. A checklist ensures coverage of key issues. During the design reviews, the teams assign responsibilities and time commitments, and document all issues, decisions, action items, and assignments.
Design for Manufacturability Incorporates Manufacturing Engineering requirements into the product design to optimize the production phase. Early in the product design process, a trade-off analysis of requirements is performed. This analysis assures production readiness, process verification, and that an optimal parts flow occurs through the production cell.
Controlled Product Release Provides a systematic release of new products to the market through a series of in-process design reviews; a final design review; a pre-production run and evaluation; and a final product release approval.
With these controls in place, Design Engineering completely transformed the design engineering operations at UE. Today, UE reaps the benefits associated with a controlled design process such as improved product design, quality, and production release; increased interdepartmental participation; prevention of problems before release; faster time to market; reduced post-release maintenance; and improved traceability and documentation. Most importantly, UE’s customer base expanded because of its ISO 9001 certification.
Figure 2-1. Design Engineering Control Process
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