Materials supply systems design during product development projects
This research aims at contributing to the knowledge of how to effectively and efficiently integrate materials supply system (MSS) design at an early stage of product development projects (PDPs) and how to effectively and efficiently design the MSS in parallel with the product and the rest of the production system. The increasing interest in and importance of shortening product development times have underlined the necessity of working with overlapping activities in PDPs, i.e. concurrent engineering. In the literature it has been argued that MSS design should form one dimension of concurrent engineering and be coordinated with product and production systems design, where preliminary and partial information is released and used as it emerges. However, the research on the integration of MSS design into PDPs is fragmented. It is limited to one MSS design area (e.g. packaging), to the discussion of some MSS design areas as parts of the production system without considering these in relation to PDPs, or else focuses on coordinating decisions related to one or a few specific questions at a time (e.g. postponement structure and product architecture) without any reference to PDPs.
The research presented in this thesis is based on literature studies on the subjects of materials supply, production systems design, design and development processes and PDPs as well as on three case studies conducted at two companies within the automotive industry; two studies at an end producer and one study at a first tier supplier.
An MSS design process has been developed in order to achieve systematic MSS design as well as its integration at an early stage of PDPs, thus allowing the MSS to be designed in parallel with the product and the rest of the production system. The design process is structured in accordance with the following phases: Planning, Concept development, System-level design, and Detail design. The MSS is modelled with materials flows as sub systems and six design areas as components. The six design areas are materials feeding, storage, transportation, handling, packaging, and manufacturing planning and control.
In addition, difficulties related to release and use of information for MSS design during PDPs as well as approaches for dealing with them are described and categorised. Attention is drawn to the fact that several of the difficulties experienced by MSS designers are not related to a concurrent engineering context with overlapping activities but to release and use of information between different departments on a more general level. It has also been underlined that responsibility for improving information management rests both with the MSS designers and with those who produce the information required for the MSS design as well as with the company as a whole.
Product development project