4 Replies Latest reply on Jul 22, 2016 8:01 PM by Babak Shei

    Production Launch - No existing infrastructure

    Mark Pinto

      Hello all,

       

      I am a newly graduated mechanical engineer working for a small solar installation company. Right now we focus mostly on system installation but my boss is interested in expanding to manufacture some of our own products. He has some experience in manufacturing but not in engineering. Thus it will fall to me to develop the science behind our products.

       

      Naturally I've taken some courses which discuss some of the methodology behind this but really there is no substitute for experience (which I lack).

       

      My question to this forum is: How would you get started if you had to build a product from scratch? Where should I be spending my time?

        • Re: Production Launch - No existing infrastructure
          John Pagel

          Hey Mark,

          A few things to consider, some of which may not apply to your situation but since I'm not sure where you're company is starting from I'll try to start from the beginning.  I'm an Mechanical Engineer and this is the way I see it, but hopefully a Process or Manufacturing Engineer can chime in here as this is the kind of stuff that they specialize in.  And if you get advice from one of those, take it to heart because they know what they are talking about.

           

          1. Money (and time)
            • Make sure your boss understands that this will be an investment.  It will take a lot of money to get a product from being on paper to being complete.  This is why finding investors is a huge part of this (unless he already has the cash).  The other huge cost will be for your time.  Make sure he realizes that development time is not only important, but CRITICAL, and that it always takes longer than you think it will.  In fact, even when you think you are figuring for a worst case scenario timeline, you are still underestimating the amount of time required.
          2. Manufacturing capabilities
            • Find out if your boss has the money to invest in machines.  Obviously as a start up manufacturer it will most likely be cheaper to go to a job shop and have parts made for you, and you should not be afraid to use this option.  But the more you keep in house the cheaper your costs will be.  Of course, if you buy a nice machine you also have to buy a quality operator.  This part I cannot stress enough...do not go cheap on salary when trying to find a machinist.  Machinists are SKILLED labor, and a good one will have more knowledge in his pinkie about machining than you have in your entire body.  Of course, this is why having one on hand is an invaluable resource.  He is your machinist and you are his engineer, and it is a relationship that I have come to treasure with all that I have worked with.  I can tell you from experience that the money you save by hiring cheap labor to run a machine will be nothing to what it costs you to remake parts.  Consider it this way, every time you have to remake a part the costs are:
              • Materials
              • Tool Wear
              • Machinists pay
              • Your pay, because now you are standing out there talking with him about how to make it correctly which means your development is now on hold until you are done with him (see, I told you that development would take longer than you thought).
          3. Testing (and more time)
            • Test everything!  And make sure you are afforded the time and resources to do so.
          4. CONSULTATION!!!
            • This one is going to be a little more tricky, but I would encourage your boss to hire another engineer.  It has been a closely held belief of mine that nobody should be engineering on their own.  We are humans and we make mistakes.  In fact, I absolutely promise you that you will make some doozies.  But this is why we engineer in teams.  It will make everything easier as you can now brainstorm, pick each others designs apart, fill in knowledge gaps.  And of course, most importantly, slap each other upside the head before a really stupid decision is made.  Because, like I said, you will make some stupid ones.  We all do, guaranteed!  But that's why engineering teams are so close, because we have to be.

           

          I know there are probably a dozen more things to consider, but hopefully this gets you thinking in the right mind frame.

            • Re: Production Launch - No existing infrastructure
              John Pagel

              Sorry for the second reply Mark, but I thought I would make sure that my first reply was what you were looking for.  The other way to answer your question would be to look at it from a procedural standpoint.  What I mean is how you manage the logistics of managing part files, review processes, part numbering, inventory, etc.  All of these things are easy to leave informal when you are a small company, but there are many reasons to formalize these processes.  I would be more than willing to help you here as I have worked for very small and very large manufacturers.  But that is another really long reply that I'll save on the off chance that is not what you're asking for.  Let me know.

            • Re: Production Launch - No existing infrastructure
              John Stoltzfus

              Welcome to the design world Mark - I am assuming the business side has been taken care of and you're looking for advice on the nuts & bolts part of the design.  Having used SW for many years, there are a lot of good ways and bad ways to approach a design and I always felt that "Design Intent" is the hardest job, how to start, what you need to end up with, finding a process that works well, top down or reverse engineering, are parametric changes required, plus a ton of other things. 

               

              I found that the best and most stable parametric design workflow system is one where you can delete any component or change out any component in the feature tree with only mate errors.  If you can accomplish this you'll do ok.... For me it's not only about the design package you're getting together today, but taking that design and expanding the horizons by being able to open up the design years from now, making the required changes and moving on.

               

              The only other thing I would like to throw in is documentation control, file and folder structure, for interchangeable parts and revisions........

              • Re: Production Launch - No existing infrastructure
                Babak Shei

                Best path to experience= trial & error,  iterations/ revisions, and being a sponge around people with more experience.