What’s most important when designing a manufacturing machine?
Well, that’s not exactly how Scott asked the question recently on LinkedIn but you get the idea. Many group members responded with various considerations, including what the machine is supposed to do – Functionality – and whether it could actual be built – Manufacturability. But I think the main considerations were summarized best by Charles at FACS, Inc. (Custom Automated Machinery.)
“What do you consider to be the key things that will most affect your design direction when you sit down to a blank paper/screen to design a new machine?”
The fuzzy front end. How well was the product defined in a marketing specification? As we sit to design a machine, we only have the specifications given to us before hand; therefore, those specifications need to be as complete as possible. The time and money wasted during undefined changes, and in-process changes, all affect the marketing window. The initial direction is always from the specification.
Functionality. Making the product DO what it is suppose to do is the functionality, and the first priority. Once we decide how to make something to do what it needs to do, we can move on the other areas.
Performance. How well should it do what it is suppose to do. We need to find a way to make the machine repeatable to be sure it always does do what it is suppose to do.
Durability. Now that is does what it is suppose to do, how long can it do it? It needs to perform the function, over and over, for a long time.. but how long?
Manufacturing: OK, we can make it do something well for a long time, now… can we even make the thing?
Service: let’s say it needs maintenance. Is it easy? It needs to be easy to service or it won’t get serviced, then it will break down.
Aesthetics: How does it look? Is it something that looks like it will do what it needs to do for a long time. Does it look like something a customer would be proud to own?
Cost: Now that we have all that figured out, we need to go back and find out how to do it all for less. Because marketing is not at all happy about the cost, even though it was all their idea. They are right, it needs to cost less but hurry, because the window of opportunity gets smaller every day.