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Product and Process Design
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Lean Manufacturing, Basics, Principles, Techniques

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The effect and the efficiency of operations management, Just-in-Time manufacturing, and total quality management depend upon product de­sign and process planning. The product design determines the processes available to make them. The product design and the process determine the quality of the product and the cost. Quality and cost determine the profitability of the company. This paper looks at the basic factors in product design and the relationship between product design and pro­cess design and the costs associated with different types of processes. The product development cycle starts with the marketplace (cus­tomer) and includes market research, product design, process design, and operations. Figure 1 shows this relationship.


A few organizations supply a single product, but most supply a range of similar or related products. Banks, for instance, supply a range of financial services. Some restaurants may specialize in chicken or ham­burgers, others may offer a general list of food. Some retail stores sell only shoes while others offer a range of clothing and general wares.

Sales organizations are responsible for increasing sales and rev­enue. They want to offer consumers a variety of products, but many of these will sell in small volumes. Operations would like to produce as few products as possible and to make them in long runs, thus reducing the number of setups (and cost) and probably lower run costs by using special machinery. They would fulfill their mandate to produce at the lowest cost.

Somehow there has to be a balance between the needs of sales and the economics of production. Usually this balance can be ob­tained with good programs of product simplification, standardiza­tion, and specialization.


Simplification is the process of making something easier to do or make. It seeks to cut out waste by getting rid of needless product varieties, sizes, and types. The emphasis is not in cutting out products simply to reduce the variety offered, but to remove the unnecessary products and variations.

As well as reducing the variety of parts, the design of products may be simplified to reduce operations and material costs. For example, the use of a snap-on plastic cap instead of a screw cap reduces both the cost of materials and the cost of labor.


In product design, a standard is a carefully established specification covering the product's material, configuration, measurements, and so on. This means that all products made to a given specification will be alike and interchangeable. Light bulbs are a good example of stan­dardization. The sockets and wattage are standardized and the light bulbs are interchangeable.

A range of standard specifications can be established so it covers most uses for the item. Men's shirts are made in a range of standard collar sizes and sleeve lengths so nearly everyone can be fitted. Also the same standard is used by most shirt manufacturers so the consumer can get the same size shirt from any manufacturer and expect it to fit.

Because product standardization allows parts to be interchangeable, as long as the range of standard specifications has been well picked, there will be a smaller variety of components needed. Using the example of light bulbs again, the wattages are standardized at 40, 60, and 100 watts. This range allows users to pick the wattage that will satisfy their needs and reduce the number of different bulbs, thus reducing inventory. If the designs of assemblies are standardized so various models or prod­ucts are assembled in the same way, then mass production is possible. The automotive industry designs automobiles so many different cars can be assembled on the same line.

Modularization—Standardization does not necessarily reduce the range of choice for the customer. By standardizing component parts, a manufacturer can make a variety of finished goods, one of which will probably satisfy the customer. Automobile manufacturing is a prime ex­ample. Cars are usually made from a few standard components and a series of standard options so the consumer has a selection from which to choose. Chrysler uses one basic frame for all models of its minivans.

To Be Continued


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