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A Holistic View of the Manufacturing Process

What does the manufacturing process actually look like? Here's a deep dive.

The manufacturing process is bigger than what happens in a production plant. It includes product design, testing and the launch of the product. This guide will walk you through the nine steps of a complete production process and share types of manufacturing techniques that are suited to different products.

What is a Manufacturing Process?

A manufacturing process is the complete timeline of creating a product from initial concept to finished result. The process spans everything from product design to sourcing and preparation of raw materials to assembly and testing. There are several production setups suited to different products and industries that are most efficient for their starting materials and end results.

The 9 Steps of a Manufacturing Process

1. Product concept: The product concept is the formulation of a basic idea for a new product. A solid product concept identifies what needs the product fulfills, who has that need and what competitors exist for the product.

2. Research: During the research step, the initial product concept will be refined by specifically identifying the needs it will meet. Additionally, a competitive analysis should be conducted by examining similar products offered by competitors. With this information, specify what your product will improve upon. Now is also a good time for the marketing team to begin researching and strategizing to ensure an efficient launch.

3. Design: During the design step, the product's functionality will begin to take shape. Consider factors like what the product will do, how long it will be used, what materials it will be composed of and what aesthetic qualities you want it to have. Additionally, begin pricing the materials and processes it will take to make the product. Begin tackling package design as well so that any branding or style decisions remain consistent throughout the production process.

It's imperative to take the user into account as much as possible during this step since, ultimately, this product is going to be in their hands.

4. Development of the final design

In this step, the dimensions and materials of the product will be decided on. 3D modeling software and CAD (computer aided design) will give a digital preview of the finished product. If possible, use a software capable of performing a demo to depict the product in action.

At this point, begin prioritizing the most important features of your product because there is a chance that not all of them will be able to be present in the final iteration of the product.

5. Prototyping, testing and feedback

Now that the dimensions and materials have been selected and the final design has been visualized, it's time to create a small run of prototypes and begin testing the product. If possible, get the prototypes into the hands of your ideal customers so that you can get their feedback on the design and functionality. Be extra critical—it's easier to go back a couple steps at this stage than it will be when you're preparing to launch the product.

6. Production and assembly

With the feedback from Step 5 in mind, make the final decisions about your product's design. Now it's time to move it into production. Decide which materials and manufacturing plants will be used, then set it into motion. Take careful measurements of costs and manufacturing times so that you can set customer expectations and strategize for maximum profit.

7. Quality control and feedback

With the first runs of your new product, perform regular quality checks to make sure the production process is working smoothly. Get your product into the hands of its first customers with focus groups or test markets. Encourage honesty from the testers and, if possible, observe people who are using the product so you can note any differences with expectations and modify designs accordingly.

8. Final adjustments

With the feedback from Step 7, make any last changes to the product's design, materials or functions.

9. Product release

Ideally, your marketing team will be prepared for the product launch when the product is ready to be launched. A good targeted marketing campaign will use a mix of digital and traditional advertising, social media campaigns, email marketing, search engine optimization tactics and more to ensure your target market is aware of the new product.

Additionally, work with retailers to put your product on shelves and make sure you have a good ecommerce site prepared to educate customers and sell your new product. If applicable, consider a launch at a trade show suited to your target audience.

6 Types of Manufacturing Processes

What goes on in a manufacturing plant differs from product to product and industry to industry. Generally, the operations of a plant can be categorized into a combination of these six types of manufacturing processes.

Repetitive manufacturing

A repetitive manufacturing setup uses a large-scale assembly or production line to create items that are the same or very similar at a constant rate. This highly automated setup can be run 24 hours, seven days a week if necessary. Because there is little need for changeovers, repetitive manufacturing has the potential for fast production speeds and high volumes, but can be changed easily to meet customer demands.

Discrete manufacturing

Like repetitive manufacturing, discrete manufacturing setups use an assembly or production line and also make use of automation to achieve high production volumes. However, discrete manufacturing processes are prepared to create a wider variety of products and thus can take more time because of changeovers from product to product.

Job Shop Manufacturing

Unlike discrete and repetitive manufacturing setups, the job shop manufacturing technique uses production areas instead of assembly lines. This leads to smaller batches of products that are made to order (MTO) or made to stock (MTS) and lower overall volumes. Typically, job shop setups are not automated, but some can be converted to a discrete production line with some levels of automation in order to raise production volume and meet higher demand.

Continuous process manufacturing

Continuous process manufacturing is a highly automated setup that is used to process raw materials that are less solid than other raw materials like gases, liquids, powders or slurries. The final products of this type of processing are sometimes used in further manufacturing processes as a secondary material. Examples of products that use continuous process manufacturing are paper, oil refining and some food and beverages.

Batch process manufacturing

Batch processes are similar to job shop manufacturing setups in that they make small batches of products, sometimes with a production line. In between batches, the stations in batch processing are cleaned to ensure the next batch is not contaminated with any undesired substances. Soaps, clothing, baked goods and paper products like newspapers are all examples of products that use the batch process manufacturing method.

3D printing, AKA additive manufacturing

A fairly new option in manufacturing process options is 3D printing, otherwise known as additive manufacturing. 3D printers come in a variety of sizes and can use materials ranging from metals to polymers and even food items. They can easily switch from product to product. Additionally, printers are automated, compact and portable making supply chains more versatile and adaptable. Additive manufacturing is often used to make parts for finished products like toys and tech gadgets.

How Propel Enables the Manufacturing Process

With cloud-based solutions that will accelerate time to market and increase customer satisfaction while remaining flexible enough for any and all of your chosen manufacturing techniques, Propel is prepared to help your business enhance its manufacturing processes through a single-platform PLM, QMS, and PIM solution. To learn more about how Propel enables the manufacturing process, schedule a demo today.

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Post by
Anna Troiano
Editor in Chief, Converged

Anna has spent her content marketing career honing in on the critical keys for successful consumer & industry-driven marketing. Before joining Propel, she developed and executed content strategy for TodayTix, Stella & Dot, Atlantic Theater Company, and Theatre Communications Group.

Fun Fact: Anna's birthday is Valentine's Day.

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Anna Troiano