The Complexity Of Production Facilities

The Complexity Of Production Facilities
A production facility can be as simple as a blacksmith shop with one person doing the work. Though this was a common example of a production shop prior to the industrial revolution, modern production facilities are complex systems. In fact, manufacturing facilities require “extensive facilities, equipment, and technical personnel.” [1] The factories are complex systems that require planning, design, implementation, and operation. Consider the factory shown in Figure 1. The image is of the factory that produced the Moto X mobile phone. The development of a factory is a task of similar complexity (or even greater) than producing the system itself.


Figure 1. Factory that produced the Moto X mobile phone [2].

The Systems Engineer Must Contribut To The Production Facility
Developing a complex production facility requires a team, and the systems engineer normally monitors it, but is not a member. The systems engineer must contribute to the review and specifications of the factory. This is important since the systems engineering has “broad knowledge of the system requirements, architecture, risk elements, interfaces, and other key features.” [3] The systems engineer must be informed and a contributor to the development of the production facility.

Existing production facilities are often used to produce the subsystems, components, and often the integration of the system. In these instances, the systems engineering will need to contribute to the production plan developed by the supplier with the production facility. Significant effort will be required to plan the production, tailor existing processes, develop new processes, and often implement test plans. This is because production facilities normally include, as a minimum, acceptance testing. This may require the systems engineer to spend significant time understanding the production facilities and capabilities of the supplier. When existing production facilities are required, significant effort is still required and the systems engineer must be involved and contribute.

Six Production Architecting Activities
Developing a complex production facility requires architecting the production facility. This requires certain activities such as [4]:
1. Advanced Technologies: Some production processes utilize automation and computer control. In fact, very advanced vision recognition technologies are often used in factories such as microelectronic assembly. In these cases, the systems engineer must be prepared to understand and validate that the production facility will have the advanced technologies required for the production of the system.
2. Requirements Development: The systems engineer must work with the production facility to be sure that the right processes and workforce are available. This will require the systems engineer to develop or review the production requirements.
3. Communication Between Distributed Production Facilities: In some cases, the system will be produced in multiple facilities that may be separated by hundreds or thousands of miles. Often the production facilities are separate companies and the systems engineer must work to ensure proper communication between them.
4. Factory Acceptance Testing: The factory and/or the processes used must be accepted by the prime contractor. This will require the involvement and leading of the systems engineering.
5. Manufacturing Information Management: The test data, process documentation, calibration, in processes monitoring, and other data must be planned. For instance, the magnitude of the data generated must be anticipated and planned for.
6. Production Change Management: Changes will occur in the production. This is especially true for production that occurs over several years. Equipment can wear out and new equipment will be needed. Personnel may change. The systems engineer must understand how the production facility will manage these and other changes.

These are a few examples how the development of a production facility can be as complex a task as developing the system itself. The systems engineer must understand this and be a contributor to the production plan development and oversight.

[1] Kossiakoff, et. al., Systems Engineering: Principles and Practice , (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2011): 493.
[2] Image for Figure 1 from:
[3] A. Kossiakoff, et. al., Systems Engineering, p.494.
[4] A. Kossiakoff, et. al., Systems Engineering, p.495-495.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *