In this series of articles, we have been pressing the importance of documentation control. We have covered mechanical and electronic component documentation. This post ends our series by discussing manufacturing and assembly documentation.
Production Process Flow Charts:
The production flowchart shows how you intend to manufacture your product as stages, the equipment, and tools you have planned to use and quality control checks. The quality control checks should show clearly that you intend to check the product for quality at specific stages of manufacture.
Test Procedures and Fixtures:
If the manufacturer developed the testing protocols, make sure that you have copies of the documentation. In addition, you should try to get engineering drawings of test fixtures. If this is not possible, you should at least have photographs of the fixtures. Certainly, if you have paid for test fixtures, you are entitled to some form of documentation.
Assembly Instructions and Fixtures:
You should have information about any assembly fixtures that are used in the manufacturing process. As with test fixtures, if you have paid for assembly fixtures you should get some documentation about their construction.
Even if you get all of these items, it can be for naught if you do not keep up with changes. It is critically important that whenever a tool is modified, or a component substitution made that the relevant documentation is updated. We have been involved in many projects where subtle changes in a design were made after production had started but were not reflected in the documentation. Only after tooling and costly product failures were these changes discovered.
Maintaining all of this information about your product will enable you to have peace of mind knowing that you can quickly and effectively change suppliers if there are pricing or quality issues. A quality design firm, consultant, or manufacturing partner will have no problem turning any of this information over to you at the conclusion of development or at production start-up, but it should be discussed as part of the negotiations and included in a final contract. A complete documentation package helps ensure your intellectual assets will be protected. If a programmer refuses to supply source code, or a design firm refuses to give the native CAD data, it should set off some alarms.