Management of a major weapon system from development to production requires the effective administration and coordination of a multitude of activities. Large financial commitments are made during this time, based on detailed planning of these activities. Past efforts at coordinating and integrating these activities, in order to minimize cost and shorten development schedules, have failed to consider critical elements needed to provide a smooth transition from development to production. These past integration efforts have failed to recognize that transition from development to production is not an event with a readily identifiable starting point in the acquisition process. Transition planning must be considered throughout all phases of the acquisition process including design, test, and initial production.
Recognizing that one of the end objectives of all development projects is the efficient and economical rate production of the item under development, planning for this objective must be considered throughout all project phases. A transition plan - which is a comprehensive management plan describing all production-related activities (including management, personnel, and facilities) that must be accomplished during design, test, and low rate initial production - is needed to ensure a smooth transition from development to full rate production.
In order to be effective, a transition plan should be
prepared and in use by the contractor during the early phases of Full-Scale
Development (FSD), since it is during this phase of a project that many
tradeoffs are made which can eventually have a significant impact on
production processes, procedures, and facilities. A transition planning team
should consist of representatives from all involved organizations. A typical
planning team might be organized as follows:
- Manufacturing operations, team leader
- Engineering (design and test)
- Quality assurance
- Finance Fabrication, planning, and tooling
- Human resources
- Configuration management
- Industrial engineering
- Operations control
- Manufacturing engineering
- Manufacturing planning
Although the contractor project office will be responsible for developing
and updating the transition plan, the plan must have corporate level review,
approval, and support, in order to ensure the availability of corporate
resources for implementing the plan. The plan should reflect an integrated
corporate strategy covering such items as collocation of the design and
manufacturing team, make or buy decisions, capital investment considerations,
and personnel recruiting and retention.
As part of the design process, many tradeoffs and design iterations are made which will have an impact on manufacturing. The transition plan should include provisions to ensure that manufacturing personnel will participate in this decision-making process, to properly influence the design, and to ensure that the final design is capable of being economically produced at the desired rates and with adequate quality.
During FSD there are many time-consuming, production-related activities which must be planned and initiated well in advance of production. The need for additional capital equipment or plant facilities, for example, could require significant time and resources to ensure their availability prior to production start. Fabrication of special tooling and test equipment, or the procurement of long lead materials also might require special consideration. These activities often are documented in other planning documents such as manufacturing plans, make or buy plans, personnel plans, facilities plans, etc. The transition plan should be the one overall planning document which integrates and coordinates these separate plans and provides milestones for their implementation.
At the initiation of production, contractors have traditionally planned for a learning curve, or gradual reduction in man-hours required to manufacture the product, by improved worker skills, producibility changes, improved tooling and test equipment, etc. A typical learning curve of 80 percent might be planned, which means that the time required to manufacture the second system is 20 percent less than the first, the time required to manufacture the fourth system is 20 percent less than the second, the eighth system is 20 percent less than the fourth, and so on. If the contractor has a well defined and fully implemented transition plan, the various improvements which cause the learning curve to occur will have been implemented before the initiation of production. This should, in effect, eliminate the learning curve. That is, the man-hours required to manufacture the product should be close to their minimum at the start of production.