DoD Directive 5000.34, requires that production engineering and planning be accomplished throughout FSD. However, there is little technical guidance to ensure the maturity of the contractor's manufacturing process. Indeed, any focus on "getting ready" for production involves attention to ensuring that the Technical Data Package (TDP) is clean and conforms to MIL-STD-1000 (Level III) documentation. The actual process for ensuring the manufacturing operation and product documentation is "ready" for production consists of a Production Readiness Review (PRR) per DoD Instruction 5000.38, or similar internal review. Although the PRR is a good comprehensive review, the approach tends to be milestone-driven in the sense that the emphasis is on passing a review that normally occurs after the product baseline is established.
The manufacturing process required to produce an item influences the design approach, the technology used, and the product configuration. Therefore, the manufacturing process must be a qualified in a time frame that allows for design and configuration changes to be introduced in the product baseline before initial production. Normal project pressures caused many acquisition mangers to consider the primary objective of FSD to be the delivery of hardware for test and evaluation. As a result, the processes and procedures needed to fabricate, test, and inspect the product, and the required design documentation, often receive little attention until a production decision has been reached.
The qualification of the manufacturing process must be given the same visibility as design performance qualification. The procedures used in qualifying the manufacturing process must ensure the adequacy of the production planning, tool design, assembly methods, finishing processes, and personnel training before rate production. For example, the manufacturing flow diagram illustrated in the manufacturing plan should be checked for accuracy. Any changes in product configuration or manufacturing processes, planned tooling and equipment, or procedures should be reflected in an updated flow diagram. Any known problem areas should have "strategies" developed in terms of alternative flow plans. Work breakdown structures should be developed and checked for any conflicting approaches or approaches that are not compatible with factory operations. The established drawing release system should ensure that all necessary drawings have been released to manufacturing. All long lead material items should be identified and any critical long lead material should be highlighted. The contractor's purchasing department should provide positive assurance that those materials will be received six weeks prior to the established need date. "Proof of manufacturing" models should be used to establish that processes and procedures are compatible with the design configuration. Essential to qualifying the manufacturing process is the early application of resources so that the product design and manufacturing processes are compatible with each other at the time of government test and evaluation. Therefore, during the fabrication of the development hardware, qualified manufacturing processes and procedures should be used to the maximum degree possible.
In addition, a configuration control mechanism should be established that will ensure that both the production baseline and the production process are controlled and disciplined. A configuration control mechanism that addresses only the production baseline affords little protection from the introduction of new processes and procedures or design changes that degrade product performance. Repeatability of product is one of the toughest areas of manufacturing. Lack of product repeatability often can be directly traced to undisciplined control of the product baseline or manufacturing procedure/ process documentation.
Personnel training is a critical ingredient in ensuring the stability of the manufacturing operation. A "hands on" training program should be in place for factory personnel. This training should be accomplished "off-line" using the same equipment, procedures, and work instructions that will be required on the factory floor. Work force stability should be tracked. Personnel turnover and level, and quantity and level of training of personnel should be readily accessible and tracked. The introduction of new equipment or personnel on the product line without successful completion of "hands on" training should never occur.
The qualification of the manufacturing process at both
prime contractors and all major subcontractors is essential. Properly planned,
staffed, and executed PRRs are valid tools for assessing the depth of
production engineering and planning activities that have been completed. Some
key indicators at these reviews that will ensure that the manufacturing
process is qualified, or at least going in the right direction, include:
a. A low number of waivers and deviations on the parts and materials that are built per process specification. The low number of Engineering Change Proposals (ECPs) ensures a mature design and mature manufacturing processes, such that product integrity is measurable. The maximum control exists when block changes can be introduced and resulting process changes can be requalified and fully evaluated using "proof of manufacturing" models.
b. The existence of a "hands on" personnel training program with a mechanism in place for personnel recertification.
c. Successful functional, physical, and configuration audits. Such audits add confidence and credibility to the maturity of both design and the manufacturing process.
d. Adequate time and dollars to perform production trial runs to verify that skills have been acquired through training, that process instructions are useable and accurate, that capacity predictions are validated, and most important, that the process is in "statistical control" and is stable.
e. The existence of a periodic production test program. This test program will ensure that the production units are being built to the product baseline and inherent performance and quality are being maintained. A sample "off-line" unit subjected to an environmental test sequence, consistent with the product specification, is normally With proper test planning and resources, long-term "life" effects also can be evaluated using this test program.
f. A single shift, eight-hour day, five-day workweek operation is planned for all production schedules, particularly during initial production.
g. For batch manufacturing operations, line capacity
can handle increases in production rate requirements anticipated on other
projects now using the factory. All anticipated production line throughput
problems are identified.