Product Development – The Best Tips For Manufacturing Product Overseas
If you have ever been involved with the design or manufacturing of a product, you were most likely part of a global product development team. Even if the engineering and manufacturing were performed locally, there is no doubt that some of the engineering or part of the supply chain originated from another country. Involvement in product development and manufacturing requires knowledge of the international and global aspects. In particular, if you are currently in production overseas or are thinking of manufacturing overseas, it is necessary to understand and avoid some of these pitfalls that occur in international and global manufacturing.
An obvious but overlooked issue when manufacturing product overseas is that the product development team consists of people from different cultures. When integrated effectively, this diverse team is more productive, better problem solvers, and more creative. But to garner these advantages from your global team, there are some important aspects of the different cultures that must be understood.
- Learn about their history and the impact it has on their current business and political situation.
- Know which conversation topics that should be avoided such as politics, religious views, or the effectiveness of their management team.
- Learn about their attention to timeliness and know that it will most likely be different than yours. Tardiness to meetings is not necessarily a sign of disrespect.
- Know how business deals are performed. Not all business is done in a meeting room. Understand the importance of eating, drinking, and socializing on business dealings.
- Remember that your sense of humor probably will not translate or could be offensive so don’t make jokes until you know your partner extremely well.
Communication is an activity that is crucial to the success of societies and organizations. Obviously, it is also extremely important to the success of overseas manufacturing endeavors. Language and time zone differences are two of the common communication pitfalls encountered while manufacturing product overseas .
More than likely, there will be language differences when working with an overseas manufacturing partner. Most manufacturers have individuals who speak the common language of commerce, English, but this doesn’t mean that the communication methods will be clear and concise. Be sure to speak with simple, common phrases and avoid all slang terms or phrases. Back up all conversations with emails that document what was discussed and agreed. This allows the partner to review the discussion at their own pace and perform any translations if necessary.
Unfortunately, most people view time zone differences as a disadvantage to productivity. On the contrary, time zone differences can be an advantage to a product development and manufacturing team if used properly. It is best to think of the time zone differences as a team that is working around the clock to make improvements, to manufacture, and to resolve any issues. To make the difference extremely effective, it is best to have a “hand off” phone conference daily to discuss the issues encountered by the group finishing work for the day. This hand off meeting will occur at the end of the day (EOD) in one location and at the beginning of day (BOD) in the other location. These EOD/BOD meetings should allow the team ending their day to hand off all the issues found to the team starting their day. Any work required such as data collection, testing, or design work can be performed and then handed back off as the teams switch their roles. This is an efficient use of the time zone difference which increases productivity.
Design for Manufacturability
Design for Manufacturing (DFM) is a branch of engineering where focus is placed on designing the parts and product so they can be fabricated with a process that is reproducible and repeatable. While there are many commonly accepted DFM rules that are used around the world, many manufacturers have unique rules based on their equipment, tools, operators, and fabrication methods.
When designing and engineering a product, the engineering team should apply commonly accepted DFM rules to the initial designs. Prior to initiating the prototyping and qualification phase of the product, the product development team should identify some of the key manufacturers. These manufacturers should then collaborate with the engineering team and help modify the designs as necessary to incorporate the manufacturer’s custom DFM rules. If the manufacturers are chosen after the prototype and qualification phases, schedule delays and unexpected costs will be the result of the late changes made for design for manufacturability.
When all individuals involved in the product development and manufacturing process speak different languages, it is important to have proper documentation in place that describes the product that is being manufactured. There are three types of documentation that are critical to a successful overseas manufacturing arrangement.
(1) The first is engineering documentation that specifies exactly how the product looks, feels, and operates (form, fit, and function). Form and fit documentation includes 2-dimension prints, 3-dimensation computer aided design (CAD) files, electrical schematics, printed circuit board Gerber files, and bill of materials (BOM). Operational specifications call out the functional aspects of the product such as basic function, acceptable operating conditions, and required maintenance.
(2) The second form of documentation required is the manufacturing process documentation. This includes how the product is fabricated, assembled, and tested. Documents such as manufacturing process documents, assembly instructions, test instructions, and approval vendor lists are absolutely necessary to properly document how to fabricate, assemble, and manufacture your product.
(3) The third type of documentation is a defect/issue and change list. The team must document and resolve all issues found with prototypes and production units. Be clear to communicate the product issues with your supplier and work on a corrective action plan to resolve the problems. The corrective action will normally entail a design or process change, so have a change management process in place to be sure the proper approvals take place.
Here are a few links if you are interested in learning more about global product development:
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