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   Issue 010
Welcome to The Munro Report. The Munro Report is an electronic periodical designed to
distribute worthwhile and interesting information to help industry generate more profit.
Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) Written By: Joe Feord

For the past several years, a dedicated group of manufacturing experts from the DOD, various Defense Agencies and Industry representatives have been creating a standardized measurement system to bring manufacturing capability on par with product design technology. They have created a robust set of metrics, criteria and threads that provide rigor and direction to consider manufacturing and production issues early and often through a development cycle.

No longer will technology alone drive development. After reviewing several major weapon systems programs, the DOD is setting precedent via the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act (WSARA) and the DODI 5000.02 that more information and evidence for producibility will be demonstrated earlier in a program.

No longer will major funding be released for engineering development until the program team can show evidence that the product can be produced at the costs and timeframe quoted and promised. MRLs were devised to provide a standardized mechanism that will enable program teams to comply.

In a recent workshop of government and industry representatives in late October, 2009, years of hard work was reviewed and it appears as though the MRL procedures are closing in on official release. While some companies and some DOD Agency departments have already adopted the MRL methods, we are still awaiting official word and adoption policy from our senior DOD leaders.

On April 22, 2010, the GAO published its report titled "BEST PRACTICES: DOD Can Achieve Better Outcomes by Standardizing the Way Manufacturing Risks Are Managed" wherein they supported the adoption and application of MRLs. In the report it was stated:

  • "To ensure that DOD is taking steps to strengthen and improve the producibility and manufacturing readiness of technologies, weapon systems, subsystems, or manufacturing processes, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense do the following:

  • Require the assessment of manufacturing readiness across DOD programs using consistent MRL criteria as basis for measuring, assessing, reporting, and communicating manufacturing readiness and risk on science and technology transition projects and acquisition programs.

  • Direct the Office of the Director, Defense Research and Engineering to examine strengthening the MRL criteria related to the process capability and control of critical components and/or interfaces prior to milestone C, or equivalent, for low-rate initial production decision.

  • Direct the Office of the Director, Defense Research and Engineering to assess the need for analytical models and tools to support MRL assessments.

  • Assess the adequacy of the manufacturing workforce knowledge and skills base across the military services and defense agencies and develop a plan to address current and future workforce gaps."

While MRL's were created for defense programs, they warrant a look from commercial manufacturers as well. The MRL system employs a comprehensive matrix of threads and sub-threads that encompass what is required to have achieved a specific level of manufacturing readiness. The objective is to minimize risk while bringing forth transparent knowledge.

For the full article, please click here.


10 Best Practices for Design From the Design Profit Silver Book

Each issue of The Munro Report will feature one of Munro's Design Principles. Implementation of these principles will help maximize the profitability of your product through its design.


Lean Design Principles - 10

Eliminate Movements, Adjustments, Ergonomic Problems, and Reorienations.

Adjustments, reorientations, and movements in a design are failures waiting to happen. Remember that the more moving parts in a system, the more failure is built in. With that in mind, if the engineer has created a design that has to be overly fiddled with, he is basically giving the operator, carte blanche to potentially assemble the product wrong. After observing many designs on the shop floor that had these kinds of built in complications, we found that time and time again variations in assembly were observed – especially with new trainees. All of the time and effort involved in training an operator to assemble a piece correctly could easily be avoided by spending a relatively small amount of thought on the part of the engineer to not design this manufacturing pitfall in the first place. When an engineer designs adjustments and re-orientations into the design, they are essentially abdicating their responsibility to the operator. "But my design is functional, what more do you want? Assembly is the workers job, not mine." It's these types of attitudes that are too often found in the design room.

Along the same lines of, "its manufactuirng's job to figure out how to manufacture it", all ergonomic issues are built into the design. Many people do not even understand the true cost of having ergo dangers in their design/manufacturing process. Did you know that the single largest avoidable cost to companies is the money paid out to employees who are injured on the job? In fact, the average automobile carries as much cost for worker's compensation as it does for RAW STEEL! Although, ergonomics is a much more complicated and involved topic than we have room to talk about in this article, some basic rules are to avoid designs which involve the operator bending or twisting 90 degrees, or assembling overhead. Did you know that simply by having to work overhead a worker has to exert an extra 42 lbs. of force? Although you can add tools on the manufacturing floor to help with ergo issues such as cranes, bins or rails etc, why bother creating the problem in the first place? Remember, ergo tools cost money – but most of all, workers compensation potentially costs forever. Don't sentence your workers to a life sentence in your design.

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