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Process Series Post #14
Production and Service

Q&A with a Manufacturing Services Leader on the Product Development Process

Greg McKenna

Director, Manufacturing Services

Greg McKenna

1. What role does your team play in the product development process?

The Manufacturing Services team covers the last mile in the Product Lifecycle assuring that the finished product design transitions smoothly into full scale production and that a fully realized, quality product is delivered to the customer. We accomplish that by finding best in class suppliers who can provide the required components, including all manner of tooled parts, then shepherding those parts through a pilot build, identifying and documenting all the processes required to successfully manufacture a high quality, high reliability product.

2. In general, what competencies do you and your team bring to most projects and what are your most frequent tasks?

The Manufacturing Services team has experience working in all aspects and operations throughout the Product Lifecycle, from initial production through service until the end of life. We are especially versed in the supply chain, quality assurance, materials and service management disciplines with the vast majority of that experience in the production and servicing of electronic products.

3. What are some of the most unusual or difficult challenges your team has been asked to meet and how did you meet those?

The biggest challenge for Manufacturing Services is constantly having to produce a product in 8-10 weeks when the tooling and/or lead time of critical components alone takes 12-14 weeks. The math never adds up, so that what seemed like a reasonable expectation when the project was kicked off, is close to impossible once we get ready to start the production process.  To mitigate this constant battle against time, we work with the rest of the product design team to develop strategies involving risk buys and builds, and accelerated tool acceptance.  On one of the first projects we worked on, the Compass Smart Sign, these strategies worked to enable us to produce over 1000 signs on the first build and ship to end customers without quality or reliability problems.

The Compass smart sign is a connected ecosystem of devices, with hardware, software and data. A combined effort between IPS and parent company Forward Industries engineered, manufactured and distributed digital signs with wireless connectivity.

4. Which other IPS departments do you work most closely with and what sorts of conflicts may commonly arise that require detailed collaboration and compromise?

We work with all depts in the product lifecycle, but I would say we work most closely with the Mechanical and Electrical Engineers as they are the ones developing the physical hardware designs that we will be producing.  The Embedded SW and Systems Architecture team was critical to the development of the firmware and integration of the many different systems on the Compass Smart Real Estate Sign and set up the subassembly and final assembly test fixtures that were critical to the success of this project. Our work with the Software Engineering team was key to the successful development and deployment of our integrated test and product lifecycle management tools which we now use to support and service our products in the field. This tool integrates results from final assembly test systems with endpoint delivery information so that we can generate RMAs for defective products and track these failures to the environments they failed in, as well as track the units all the way back to the point of manufacture.

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