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

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Specialization is the concentration of effort in a particular area or oc­cupation. Electricians, doctors, and lawyers specialize in their chosen fields. In product specialization a firm may produce and market only one or a limited range of similar products. This leads to process and labor specialization, which increases productivity and decreases costs. With a limited range of products, productivity can be increased and costs reduced by

      allowing the development of machinery and equipment specially
designed to make the limited range of products quickly and cheaply

      reducing the number of setups because of fewer task changes

      allowing labor to develop speed and dexterity because of fewer task

      allowing the firm to pay only for the skill levels required and using
expensive, highly skilled labor only on high-skill jobs.
Specialization is sometimes called "focus" and can be based on

product and market, or on process.

Product and market focus can be based on characteristics such as customer grouping (serving similar customers), demand characteris­tics (volume), or degree of customization. For example one company may specialize in a limited range of high-volume products while an­other may specialize in providing a wider range of low-volume prod­ucts with a high level of customization.

Process focus is based on the similarity of process. For example, the automobile manufacturers specialize in assembling cars. Other factories and companies supply the assemblers with components, and the assembler specializes in assembly operations.

Focused factory. Currently there is a trend in manufacturing where a factory specializes in a narrow product mix for a niche market. Gen­erally such a focused factory will do a better job because the repetition and concentration in one area allow its work force and managers to become effective and experienced in the tasks required for success. The focused factory is manageable and controllable. Its problems are demanding, but limited in scope.

Specialization has the disadvantage of inflexibility. Often it is diffi­cult to use highly specialized labor and equipment for tasks other than those they were trained or built for.

A program of product simplification, standardization, and special­ization allows a firm to concentrate on the things it can do best, pro­vides the customers with what they want, and allows operations to do so with a high level of productivity. Reducing part variety will create savings in raw material, work-in-process, and finished goods inven­tory. It will also allow longer production runs, improve quality be­cause there are fewer parts, and improve opportunities for automation and mechanization. Such a program provides is a principal way of re­ducing cost.


Product design provides a set of specifications that production can use to make the product. Products must be designed to be functional, have the required appearance values, and be capable of low-cost processing.

Functional means that the product will be designed to perform as specified in the marketplace. The market feasibility studies will produce a market specification laying down the expected performance, sales vol­ume, and the selling price of the product. Product design engineers will design the product to meet the market specifications. They will establish the dimensions, configurations, and specifications so the item, if prop­erly manufactured, will perform as expected in the marketplace.

Appearance value. Market specification will include any appear­ance values needed to enhance sale of the product. The product engi­neers must also design the item to have these attributes.

Low-cost processing. The product must be designed so it can be made at least cost. The product designer specifies materials, tolerances, basic shapes, methods of joining parts, and so on, and through these specifications sets the minimum product cost. Usually there are many different designs that will satisfy functional and appearance specifica­tions. The job then is to pick the design that will minimize the cost of manufacture.

Output from Product Design

The output from product design is a set of specifications for making the product. In manufacturing these will be a set of working drawings, bills of material, and any specifications needed. It is now the job of manufacturing engineers to design the processes to make the product to specification (quality level) and in the quantities and at lowest cost.

Simultaneous Engineering

Designing products for low-cost manufacture requires close coordina­tion between product design and process design. This relationship can spell the success or failure of a product. If a product cannot be produced at a cost that allows a profit to be made, then it is a failure for the firm. The traditional approach to product and process design has been similar to a relay race. When product design finished, they would pass their work to process design and let them figure out how to make it. This system has proved time-consuming and expensive. Today many organizations concurrently develop the design for the product and the process. Often a team is made up of people from product design, pro­cess design, quality assurance, production planning and inventory con­trol, purchasing, marketing, field service, and others who contribute to, or are affected by, the delivery of the product to the customer. Thisgroup works together to develop the design of the product so that it meets the needs of the customer and can be made and delivered to the customer at low cost.


There are several advantages to this approach including reduced time to market, reduced product cost, and better quality.

To Be Continued


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