Manufacturing Process Planning

What is manufacturing process planning?

Manufacturing process planning is an aspect of product lifecycle management (PLM) that helps engineers to author, simulate, and manage manufacturing information while collaborating to align manufacturing plans with product design. Manufacturing process planning includes operation sequencing, machining process planning, assembly process planning, and assembly line planning, as well as the communication of plans throughout the organization and extended enterprise.

Many manufacturing companies today face the competitive challenge of getting more customized, high-quality products to market faster than ever before. This high-mix, low-volume environment makes the task of manufacturing planning and collaboration highly complex – and even more so for companies that address the challenge by distributing production across multiple plants and suppliers, often in multiple geographic locations.

While many companies still attempt to resolve the needs of manufacturing planning process within their enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems or with a spreadsheet or CAD-based process plans, these solutions fail to offer the scalability and extensibility needed to address today’s manufacturing demands. Manufacturing process planning software, on the other hand, gives manufacturers the ability to align assembly plans quickly and intelligently in support of frequently changing product configurations.

Manufacturing process planning software helps design and manufacturing engineers to concurrently develop product and manufacturing process definitions. This ensures that manufacturing constraints are reconciled during product design and vice versa. Importantly, this PLM software tool connects all members of the design/build process – from design, engineering, and manufacturing to plants and suppliers – into one virtual enterprise.

Two manufacturing engineers happily working together on a large part and supported by manufacturing process planning.

Manufacturing engineers and shop floor personnel can leverage manufacturing process planning.

Manufacturing process planning functions

Providing close collaboration between engineering, manufacturing, and execution, manufacturing process planning software uses PLM workflow, change management, and configuration capabilities to create and manage the manufacturing bill of materials (MBOM) and the bill of process (BOP) for each product. The software also helps manufacturers to standardize and reuse assembly planning across multiple plants and production lines.

To put it succinctly, the software enables manufacturers to generate and communicate the information needed to know what to make and how to make it. Functions include:

MBOM and EBOM reconciliation – Because manufacturing process planning is integrated with product development on a PLM platform, BOM accountability check tools in the software ensure that engineering and manufacturing BOMs are up to date with the latest product design or process changes.

BOP creation and maintenance – Manufacturing process planning software provides the means to create processes and operations within the BOP and assign relevant parts and assemblies from the MBOM, as well as tools and resources from the bill of equipment (BOE), to specific operations. The software also helps keep engineering and manufacturing in sync by communicating changes from product engineering to be reflected in the BOP.

Line balancing – Manufacturing process planning software provides time management and balancing tools, including display of rolled-up times for operations, stations, and operators, as well as cycle time and wait time in the plan. It supports lean initiatives through visibility of value-added and nonvalue-added activities.

Creation of shop floor work instructions – Engineers can author electronic work instructions for operations under the BOP. The manufacturing process planning software links textual instructions to reference parts, resources, and visual aids, including 3D graphical representations, to provide shop floor personnel with accurate, and clear guidance.

Benefits of manufacturing and assembly process planning

Manufacturing process planning helps manufacturers to evaluate alternative manufacturing scenarios, maximize resource utilization, and optimize throughput from the very beginning of the product lifecycle. This process results in the implementation of the best production strategies.

Additional benefits:

  • Flexibility to quickly shift production

  • Greater production efficiencies

  • Consistent quality across multiple production lines or plants

  • Reduced time to market