Once the design is approved by the customer, all components of the production line have to be made available.

There are two approaches for this: in house production or supplied by 3rd party. Usually it is a mix of both. Standard components like robots or welding guns will be supplied, individual components like a fixture or stacker might be done in house. Both come with different workflows: externally supplied components follow a standard ordering process. In-house components step through materials ordering and delivery, mechanical, electrical and pneumatic construction, commissioning and quality control until they are ready for delivery. Tracking is done by tracking lists (Excel, SAP etc.) tracing each step for each sub component.
Main challenges are design delays, late ordering, availability of sub components plus management of schedule and resources. From project management perspective monitoring should concentrate on alarm boundaries for each step and potential escalations. Going too much into details requires a lot of management resources, spreads mistrust, provokes lies and is suitable for escalating situations only.
Questions to be asked:
  • When is the right time to order (long lead vs. short notice) ?
  • Is pre allocation (of components or manufacturing resources) required ?
  • Best and worst case schedules ?
  • How is the approaching path ? What are indicators of critical situations ?
  • Which measures can be taken in case of delays ?
Schedules might differ across sub parts and sections of the future production line. So there might be several sets of schedules. Dependencies are, among others, upcoming product design changes, construction site readiness and prototype parts availability.
For non off the shelf standard components quality audits and buy offs might apply. These have to be organized early to create a mutual understanding of requirements, procedures and acceptable tolerance. It’s important to focus on documentation as well. 
Due to delays becoming visible, projects at this stage tend to get hectic. Delaying documentation even further appears to be a feasible shortcut but often information gets lost and can’t be recreated, so this should be avoided. Contractual strategies like prohibiting bill payments without prior documentation delivery should be in place.
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