If you are launching a new product, there are a number of steps that you can take to ensure production starts up as smoothly as possible. The sayings “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and “the devil is in the detail” are particularly applicable here. However, you look at it, you must have a plan in place for your production start-up.
1. Inspection checklist
A sample is not sufficient to establish a standard. You need to write down what will constitute a product “conform to expectations”.
2. Quality control plan
An inspection checklist is useful for you to check the finished products. But a quality control plan will guide the manufacturer in what to control during production.
A control plan includes dimensional variations, measurement methods, machines or equipment to be used for a specific task, control methods and corrective plans, and more if necessary.
3. Sample approval
Before production starts, there has to be an approval process where samples are signed off. It allows you, the buyer, to systematically cross-check the criteria in your inspection checklist.
A sample approval process can be used regardless of what industry you are in; the primary objective is to provide the manufacturer with a clear and understandable set of requirements. It helps to ensure the processes used to manufacture your products are consistent and repeatable between production runs.
4. Drawings / technical specifications
Every industry, from apparel to consumer electronics, requires products to be made to a specific standard or specification. It is paramount that the technical data file is complete and finalized prior to production start.
5. Change control process
Once the technical data file has been released for production, ideally any changes required must be managed through a change control process.
This way, any change implementation can be managed and scheduled. It also produces a revision history to be monitored so that the wrong parts are not produced due to the previous specification being used.
6. Machining work instructions
Machine settings need to be written clearly with a full understanding of each step. During the production trial run, each of these processes would be monitored, measured, and adjusted for optimum output from a quality point of view.
7. Maintenance plan
Having a maintenance plan in place helps repair machines that breakdown… But having a preventive maintenance plan in place is even better. It allows the manufacturer to have scheduled maintenance carried out on machines that will help to improve a machine’s life and will help avoid those unplanned maintenance activities that generally prevent production from continuing.
8. Production pilot run
The pilot run should be carried out with production machines, with all the relevant equipment that will be used in mass production, and ideally with the same components as mass production.
The output from the pilot run will allow you to analyze data such as machine settings and process capability studies, to review the process instructions, and to get products for testing and validation.
There can be a number of pilot runs where there have been changes to improve the output results. These pilot runs can have small incremental step improvements, but at some stage production has to start and this is triggered by signing off the final pilot run.
In order to achieve a smooth production start-up, you should have a solid plan in place beforehand. What needs to be done, when it needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and what to do when things go wrong, should all be very clear.