Manufacturing Fundamentals

“Manufacturing” is a term that is thrown around quite often. It is a word that can be applied to a wide range of processes or techniques. But what is manufacturing exactly? Manufacturing applies physical and chemical processes with the help of machines, tools, power, and labor to change the shape, appearance or other properties of an initial material to make parts of products. Astonishingly, manufacturing contributes between 20-40% of the nation’s GDP. Manufacturing can be broken into these basic elements - industries, products, design, materials, processes, and technologies. I will be doing a short overview of the primary manufacturing fundamentals so continue reading to learn more!


One of the most important factors for manufacturing is the physical facility. A facility must be efficient and well thought out in order to maximize outputs. When selecting a facility location is it very important to scout a region’s weather patterns, government regulations, business climate, cultural factors, and technological factors. The right facility locations will offer consistent friendly weather patterns, reasonable regulations on tariffs/copyrights/patents, a strong acceptance for manufacturing in the area, and the ability to support the technological needs for the manufacturing processes. Once a location is chosen, the next step is to achieve the most efficient plant layout. A plant layout uses the most optimal combination of machines, equipment, storage areas, and other assets to effectively and efficiently make a product. There are process layouts which group equipment/machines of the same type together, product layouts which arrange equipment and machines according to the flow of your routing (ex: assembly line), Combination layouts which is a mix of a process layout and a product layout, and lean manufacturing layouts which uses a pull system in tandem with a product layout. Choose what layout will best fit your manufacturing style or product!

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Work Environment

The physical work environment is an extremely important factor to take into account. A work environment is made up of the physical building/structure, the climate, noise, lighting, and safety. Buildings must be able to withstand harsh weather conditions and protect the employees inside. The physical building must also support workers while they perform job duties and promote communication. Climate has a large impact on how your facility will perform. Comfort is defined as “a state of mind that is satisfied with the thermal environment”. The “Comfort zone” is 73-75 DEG F, 30%-70% relative humidity, and 5-15 mmHg vapor pressure, 80% of people are comfortable in a zone with these readings. As effective temp rises productivity falls. Natural lighting in the workplace should be used whenever possible. The best indirect natural light with the least glare comes from northern exposure. Windows and natural light are a great way to boost the mood of employees. Lastly, make sure any harmful contaminants are handled and stored correctly. Eliminate the source of any fumes, dusts, gases, liquids, and solids that are harmful to employees whenever possible. High employee performance requires suitable working conditions.


Product Development

The most important aspect of any manufacturing process is the product! Will the customer want this? Will this product sell? What parts of the product does the customer want improved? Product development must address management practices to consider customer needs, designing those requirements into the product, and then ensuring that manufacturing and suppliers can effectively make products. The voice of the customer (VOC) describes customer needs, wants, and priorities that you must meet to stay in business. Every voice is different. A good process for product design is to identify the customer bases, capture the VOC, collect and organize the customer data, analyze the customer data, formulate conclusions from the customer data, then act on conclusions. Once a product has gone through this process and has been made, it is time to test its quality! It’s time to implement failure mode and effect analysis (FEMA). This includes a structure, process, and report. It improves customer satisfaction and increases profitability. FMEA helps you focus and design quality into your product early on. It identifies risk and quantifies it by assigning a rating for severity, probability of occurrence, and your ability to detect problems.


Materials and Properties

Manufacturing processes use every type of material ranging from metals to plastics, composites, polymers, and much more. Metal materials offer high stiffness, strength, toughness, and electrical/thermal conductivity. There are ferrous and nonferrous metals. Ferrous metals are iron based, ferrous metals make up ¾ of all metal tonnage. Nonferrous metals do not contain iron and are not magnetic. Ceramics, also used in manufacturing, are inorganic compounds that consist of a metal and one or more nonmetals. Include clay products, glass, cement, and concrete. Polymer is the most abundant manufacturing material. Polymers have low density, low strength and stiffness, low electrical and thermal conductivity, good resistance to chemicals, low useful temp range, and moderate dimension stability. Composites are a combination of two or more distinct and insoluble substances. These have a more complex structure than metals, ceramics, and polymers. An example of a composite would be fiber reinforced polymers used in aircraft.

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Each different material has its own set of different properties. These properties determine how the material is machined, formed, cut, and much more. The main mechanical properties are strain, tension, ductility, compression, torsion, bending, hardness, fatigue, creep, impact, viscosity, viscoelasticity.

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Now keep in mind that this was only a quick overview of some aspects of manufacturing fundamentals. Manufacturing is a huge industry with thousands of different processes, materials, set ups, and properties. The listed fundamentals in this blog were to give to you a slight sense of what manufacturing is all about and the processes that are used to make the best products every day! Subscribe to stay up to date with weekly blog postings.


Hayden Kemme

CAD Designer at Perception Engineering

Hayden Kemme