When a manufacturing company begins production of new material, it has a choice as to the manufacturing process it uses. The type of process depends on the facility, the staff, and the information systems available. Each process has its advantages, and some are best at certain tasks, for example, large batches of finished goods, or small numbers of custom items. When the decision is being considered about which manufacturing process to use, there are a number of questions that should be asked; what are the volumes to be produced, what are the requirements to make the product, and does the company manufacture a similar product?
There are a number of basic manufacturing processes that they can select from; production line, continuous flow, custom manufacturing, and fixed position manufacturing.
Process manufacturing is a production method that creates goods by combining supplies, ingredients or raw materials using a formula or recipe. It is frequently used in industries that produce bulk quantities of goods, such as food, beverages, refined oil, gasoline, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and plastics.
The production process often requires a thermal or chemical conversion, such as with heat, time or pressure. As a result, a product created through process manufacturing cannot be disassembled into its constituent parts. For example, once it is produced, a soft drink cannot be broken down into its separate ingredients.
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Manufacturing Process Engineering
Manufacturing process engineering came from the technological development and profound change of the steel industry. Ferrous metallurgy is a process of iron-coal chemical engineering at high temperature. The manufacturing process consists of many procedures and consumes plenty of resources and energy. In some countries with high steel capacities, the energy consumption of the steel industry usually occupies 10% of total consumption or even more. The supply and prices of the resources and energy, therefore, have a significant influence on the steel industry. Due to the oil crisis in the 1970s, the technology of continuous casting (CC), instead of ingot teeming, in steelmaking workshops was developed. The connection of blast furnace ironmaking to the continuous rolling process of steel via 100% CC process created the precondition for the quasicontinuous/continuous running of the manufacturing process of steel plants. The technology of near-net-shape casting further improved the establishment of continuous operating lines in steel plants. Since the 1990s, there had been six important key/common technologies widely applied in the Chinese steel industry: CC technology; blast furnace pulverized coal injection technology; blast furnace campaign elongating technology; the long-product continuous rolling technology; comprehensive energy conservation technology by means of process structure optimization; and the basic oxygen furnace (BOF) slag splashing technology. The successful application of these key/common technologies provided the physical foundations for the formation of metallurgical process engineering. For example, the quasicontinuous/continuous operation flow for a steelmaking workshop can be realized by coordination of the continuous solidification processing with the high-frequency high-speed periodically batch type converting. However, as the refractory lining life of BOF is short, the slag splashing protection technology has been applied to coordinate the maintenance cycle of BOF with caster, by which the dynamic-orderly operation flow of sequence CC for long time periods becomes realizable.
In the manufacturing process of ferrous metallurgy, the efficient operating technical conditions for various procedures are quite different. Seemingly, there are few internal coupling factors or linkage parameters among procedures/devices. To make a series of procedures/devices into a unified and harmonious movement of the entire manufacturing process, it is necessary to learn from Prigogine’s theory of self-organization in dissipative structures. With the combination of the technology of the continuous/quasicontinuous operation of the entire manufacturing process with the theory of nonequilibrium thermodynamics, the discipline of Metallurgical Process Engineering appeared.
A production line is a traditional method which people associate with manufacturing. The production line is arranged so that the product is moved sequentially along the line and stops at work centres along the line where an operation is performed. The item may move along some kind of conveyor, or be moved manually by staff or forklift. For example, operations along the production line could include assembly, painting, drying, testing, and packaging. If needed, some parts can be removed from the production line and stored as semi-finished goods.
The production line manufacturing process is very suited to high volume manufacturing of a single product or product group. For example, a production line may be used to manufacture a range of vacuum cleaners, where the only difference between the models is the colour of the plastic assembly and the attachments that are included in the final product.
There are disadvantages to using the production line manufacturing process. The fact that the production line manufactures a single product or similar products limits its ability to manufacture anything else. For example, if the company manufacturing vacuums wanted to make kitchen mops, it would not be able to use the same production line. The second issue with production lines is that there is a high cost involved in the initial setup of the production line, and it requires a large volume of goods to be produced to justify the capital investment.
The continuous flow manufacturing process is similar to the production line. Still, the products that are manufactured cannot be removed from the production line and stored, but require to have been through each process. For example, materials that are suited to continuous flow include chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and plastics. The continuous flow process is more inflexible than a production line as it does not allow for other materials to be produced on the line without significant changes and the cost involved.
If a company manufactures a wide range of products that can be modified based on the customers’ requirements, then a custom manufacturing process is a good fit. The custom manufacturing facility has a number of skilled employees and a range of equipment that can be used to manufacture and modify a wide range of items. The facility should be set up with a number of dedicated areas such as a welding area, lathe shop, paint spray area, and packaging area. The custom manufacturing facility is not designed for high volume products but is ideal for customized products.
Fixed Position Manufacturing
Fixed position manufacturing is different from other manufacturing processes as it involves the finished product not moving from its fixed position from the beginning to the end of the process. This is the method used in large-scale manufacturing such as the manufacture of an aircraft or ship but is also used for products that are being constructed in place for the customer, such as a conveyor system.
Process manufacturing relies on the flow of sequential steps, with the completion of one step leading to the start of the next step. Process manufacturers often rely on tracing and scheduling tools and software to maintain peak operational efficiency.
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Process manufacturing vs. discrete manufacturing
Process manufacturing is the exact opposite of discrete manufacturing. Whereas process manufacturing follows recipes or formulas and creates products that cannot be broken down at the end of the production cycle, discrete manufacturing uses a bill of materials (BOM). It follows instructions to create finished, assembled goods. At the end of the discrete manufacturing process, the final product can be broken down into its distinct parts, which can sometimes be recycled. Goods produced through discrete manufacturing include automobiles, computers and some toys.
Discrete manufacturing can be associated with:
- assembly lines
- standard parts and components
- bill of materials
- identification of parts by numbers
- measured by each part or piece
While process manufacturing can be associated with:
- recipes and formulas
- mixes and blends
- variable ingredients
- identification of parts by attributes
- measurements of weight or volume
Process manufacturing can be considered more complex than discrete manufacturing since it involves transforming individual raw materials and process inputs into a final product. However, it is also less defect-oriented and experiences fewer interruptions and improved quality control (QC) throughout the production process.
Types of manufacturing processes
Within the manufacturing industry, various processes are used — in addition to process and discrete manufacturing — to determine how a company will produce its products. The three other common manufacturing processes include:
- repetitive manufacturing (REM)
- job shop manufacturing
- 3-D printing
Repetitive manufacturing is used for repeated production that is committed to a specific production rate. The process is made up of dedicated production lines that continuously create the same product, or collection of products, year-round. Setup requirements are minimal, and there is a little changeover, so operation speeds can be adjusted to meet customer demands and requirements.
Job shop manufacturing uses production areas instead of assembly or production lines. It focuses on producing smaller amounts of custom products, including made-to-order (MTO) and make-to-stock (MTS) goods. If customer demand increases, then the operation adapts and becomes a discrete process with selected manual operations being replaced by automated equipment.
3D printing — also known as additive manufacturing — is the newest manufacturing process. Although it was first conceived in the 1980s, it has only recently been introduced into production cycles. The 3D printing process produces goods from various composites and materials, building layers to create a three-dimensional solid object from a digital model.
Process manufacturing can also be split into two different production methods: continuous process manufacturing and batch process manufacturing.
Continuous process manufacturing is similar to repetitive manufacturing in the sense that it never ends — it produces the same product or collection of products year-round. On the other hand, batch process manufacturing depends on customer demand. One batch — or a specific quantity of goods produced during a time frame — may be enough to satisfy the demand. When a batch is completed, the equipment is cleaned and prepared to produce the next batch when necessary.
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Process manufacturing software
Because it’s a complex and often highly specialized activity, most manufacturers use enterprise resource planning (ERP) software systems that have specific functions for process manufacturing.
Various enterprise software vendors produce these systems, including:
- Plex Systems
Each vendor may sell a variety of systems that are targeted toward enterprises of various sizes, from small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to large enterprises.
Originally, most ERP systems for process manufacturing ran on-premises. Recently, the switch has been made to deploying most software in the cloud or hybrid implementations.
Examples of process manufacturing
Some of the top process manufacturing markets include:
- food and beverage
- oil and gas
- personal care and cosmetics
Beer brewing is one example of process manufacturing in the food and beverage industry. Key ingredients in beer making include grains, malt, hops, yeast and sugar; various recipes are available to guide the process. The basic steps include, first, steeping the grains in boiling water, then the adding malt along with specific quantities of hops — depending on the type of beer being brewed — and sugar. This mixture creates the wort or the liquid that contains the sugars that will be fermented by the yeast to produce alcohol. Once the wort has been created, it is added to water with yeast and left to ferment for an extended period. Once the fermentation is complete, the beer can be bottled; this end product cannot be broken down into its constituent parts.
Composite materials manufacturing
The manufacturing process is very important with regard to the final properties of a composite material. The manufacturing processes employed to realize brake friction materials or thermoset matrix composites have a crucial impact on their future properties. This is especially related to the level and stability of friction and wear during braking in the case of brake friction materials. The development of composite material is strongly affected by its formulation and its manufacturing conditions. Owing to the complex and interrelated influences of the formulation and the manufacturing conditions, it is difficult to find the best set of process parameters for a specific material formulation. Accordingly, the selection, mixing and preparation of raw materials, as well as the choice of moulding pressure, moulding time, moulding temperature, heat treatment time and/or heat treatment temperature, can be done over a wide range. In this chapter, the basic characteristics of the manufacturing processes for brake friction materials and thermoset matrix composites are elaborated on.
Key Sub-Processes Within Manufacturing Industries
Manufacturing processes may vary across manufacturing industries. For example, food processing and manufacturing will require different activities from automobile or heavy equipment manufacturing. However, most manufacturing industries follow the same manufacturing processes outlined below:
Works closely with procurement and material management functions to ensure raw materials and other prerequisites are prepared for production runs. Flow charts should be utilized to dictate efficient communication protocols among functional teams.
This phase consists of designing the systems and processes required to complete high-quality production runs. Flow charts and workflows are necessary to aid in the design of assembly processes.
Manufacturing & Assembly
The manufacturing & assembly stage includes setting up the facility for production runs and putting the materials through to completion. Creating flow charts of the production run allows you to measure KPIs (e.g., Defects Before Assembly, Product Mixing Time, etc.) for specific yet critical steps in the assembly process.
The quality assurance function is responsible for inspecting finished goods after going through the manufacturing process. Checklists and flow charts need to be created to standardize finished goods inspection and ensure any defect can be detected and mitigated in the future.
Maintaining the equipment, safety, and overall environment of the manufacturing facilities requires specific protocols for PM, temperature, space usage, etc. Flow charts ensure consistency among facility management tasks and promote transparency as employees need to know facility maintenance schedules and processes.
Use Manufacturing Process Flow Charts to Improve Manufacturing Speed & Quality
Manufacturing processes typically follow a strict set of rules or guidelines to turn raw materials into a quality finished product. Any deviation from standard manufacturing processes can lead to machine malfunction, elongated lead times or excessive scrap rates. In-depth and detailed analysis of manufacturing processes can be reinforced through the use of flow charts – a few examples:
Standardize Production Run Setup Activities
Inefficient manufacturing setup procedures can be very costly (financial and otherwise) to an organization. A well-documented and detailed flow chart describing the exact steps required to prepare a new production run is pivotal for reducing lead times and increasing machine utilization.
Create Flow Charts for Preventative Maintenance Procedures and Notification
Develop standard preventative maintenance (PM) processes for each machine in the manufacturing process. Following these processes and developing protocols for notifying machine operators of PM schedules will allow employees to plan and do other work while machines are being inspected.
Identify Root Causes of Defects Using Flow Charts
Flow charts can enable manufacturers to analyze their manufacturing process step-by-step in detail, which can help in diagnosing which activities are leading to higher defect and scrap rates.
Flow charts as part of the Standard Operating Procedure.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) define how a process or activity is to be implemented. Many SOP’s can be quite detailed and extensive. While such detail may be necessary in order to describe the tasks to be performed fully, the effect can be daunting for the reviewer. In many manufacturing companies, a policy is taken to add a process flowchart into the appendix of SOP’s so that the reviewer can obtain a visual interpretation of the process which helps in developing an understanding of how the process operates, plus can also act as a quick reference guide.
Manufacturing process workflows, or flow charts, detail the granular activity-level steps that must be completed to create finished goods from the time raw materials are received at the manufacturing facility until those materials are turned into finished goods. Companies in all manufacturing industries are constantly looking for ways to achieve continuous process improvement (e.g., Lean Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, Just-in-Time Production, etc.), and flow charts are one of many tools that can help organizations optimize their manufacturing processes.