The product development process is a series of interdependent and routinely overlapping tasks that convert an idea into a prototype building and on to a marketable product. Companies ensure that processes are smooth and flexible for the consumers. As the original idea advances through the development process, it is refined and routinely evaluated for commercial and technical feasibility. Trade-offs between the various objectives such as price, market availability, cost, market availability, performance, quality, and reliability are made throughout the process. Now, there is great hype about designing for manufacturability. The focus is on the businesses’ internal manufacturing systems. Yet, when those accountable for design ignore the manufacturing process and technological capabilities of outside suppliers and enterprises, problems with control, time-to-market, quality, configuration, and cost are inevitable. If optimal design performance is to be achieved, manufacturers must be active from the start, when they can have a significant impact on cost, time, performance, and quality. Selected suppliers should participate in value engineering, prototype failure, feasibility studies, and stress analysis, among other product development tasks.
Extensive rework, redesign, and retrofit operations are normal when a company is working in the conventional functional model. Ultimately, the absence of teamwork results in processes that are a continuing problem on the firm’s long-term competitiveness. The design and development of new products are one of the manufacturing firm’s most essential tasks as it affects profitability and even survival. The firm’s suppliers and supply management have key contributions to make during this process. A growing number of successful manufacturing firms involve supply management and suppliers upfront because of contributions they can make in the areas of cost, quality, and time to market.
The global competition and global marketplace, combined with modern computers, communication systems, and sophisticated software, have developed an environment where “time to market” and first to market have tremendous competitive advantages. Significantly, the need to decrease development time has forced enterprises to look for new methods to compete. The use of suppliers and supply professionals earlier in the product development cycle is a crucial way to decrease time to market. The benefits of an integrated approach to new product development no longer can be ignored. The lack of effective, cooperative teamwork among the functions just noted routinely has been accompanied by cost overruns, quality problems, major scheduling problems, forgone all-in-cost savings, and new products that are late to enter the marketplace. Also, early recognition of difficulties is impossible or difficult in the absence of cooperative teamwork.
As the machinery and products of the companies, organizations, and people in general ages and becomes less effective with time, the services of the product and machinery become a crucial part of the operations. Routine services not only avoid breakdowns but also enhance the product’s productivity and reliability. Almost all of the successful companies focus on their core competencies to drive profits and hence require regular servicing of their machinery to keep up with the technological advancements. Even a small breakdown in the machinery and products can halt most of the organization’s operations resulting in a significant number of problems. Retrofitting is one of the most important ways that can enhance the performance of aging machines and products.
Retrofit engineering is an incredible way to minimize the risk of machine breakage and unplanned machine shutdowns in an organization. It helps in servicing aging equipment and outmoded machinery. It may involve enhancing the reliability and maintainability of the system and subsystem. It is also useful in redesigning mechanical, electrical, and software systems, subsystems, and various other components. Retrofit engineering is helpful in replacing outdated technology with innovative and modern solutions. It increases the mean time between product failures and helps in the development of in-house diagnostic and maintenance capabilities. Various steps of a typical retrofit engineering project are:
- Analyzing the exiting design and reviewing the documentation
- Creating the new design or re-engineering the existing design
- Simulating to verify functionality
- Assembling prototype to verify design
- Validating through testing and demonstration of the prototype
- Generating complete technical data package to support design
Retrofitting is the process of replacing obsolete operating systems and machine components to extend the working life. It benefits the organizations as retrofitting incurs lower costs as compared to purchasing the new machine. It enhances the precision of the machine and delivers quality output. It is essential for an organization to maintain the machine at an optimum quality hence required to be retrofitted routinely to increase the economic efficiency and productive operation. Most of the developing and underdeveloped countries depend on retrofitting as they have lack of adequate foreign exchange resources for machinery import.
Retrofitting is a smart investment and is essential for competitive businesses. The up- gradation of the machinery as per the latest technological advancement is essential for the efficiency of the organization. The rate of investment in retrofitting is immense as it delivers on performance and keeps the business moving. It can be applied for reducing the machinery setup, minimizing the downtime, increasing processing speeds, minimizing minor stoppages, and enhancing production part yields.
Reducing the machinery setup is an important thing to enhance the productivity and effectiveness of the operations. It typically involves data entry steps, selecting fixtures and materials, loading new tools into the machine, etc. Automating most of the machine setup enhances productivity as compared to traditional methods of involving various steps to external and parallel processing to the machining process. The traditional are prone to risks and errors and exceeds the processing time. Automation allows easier management of multiple machines rather than focusing on multiple setups.
Manufacturers are increasingly utilizing machine tool probes by retrofitting machine tools as they are fast and robust. They are smart and can automatically set tool wear, workpiece offsets, and tool geometry. Though manufacturers are often worried about the machine tool probe cycles. They are faster and more accurate than an operator could be. They are consistent and eliminate operator measurement and data entry time variation. They eliminate errors and can work through lunches and breaks. Retrofitting engineering can also be applied to the machines or their components for reducing the downtime. This can be done through maintenance training, backup and restoring, remote diagnostics, and performing crash protection. Machine crashes due to setup errors enhance the downtime hence it is important to automate and error-proof most of the processes.
Product development through retrofit engineering is diverse and filled with complexity. The management and engineering of retrofit projects should have an experienced team of staff with optimum skills and motivation. Sometimes, the effort required to retrofit an existing product is greater than the development of new products. Also, products developed through retrofitting are also exposed to a diverse set of risks and require active management. The reason for the retrofit products is to manufacture higher-value products and to enhance plant efficiency. This generally leads to infrastructure modernization increases the production capacity beyond present capability.
An engineer should have detailed knowledge of design and operating procedures for an existing product and should select engineering standards and specifications for compatibility with an existing product. The successful management of retrofit engineering requires a clear set of objectives along with a specific implementation strategy. It requires effective planning and progress monitoring.
The initial development for retrofit products requires the identification of necessary objectives. It is followed by feasibility studies and the selection of preferred solutions for retrofitting. Next, it is recommended to refer to the existing data and design of the products as it helps in deciding the measures to be taken while working on the product. It is essential to study the existing drawings and guidelines of the product to ensure compatibility for retrofitting. It is essential to detail the process elements and flow schemes clearly as per the design requirements. Having a retrofit strategy is crucial for the enhancement of the product functions. It is necessary to have a safe approach while handling the product and should handle specific time-sensitive elements.
The most important aspect of the implementation of retrofit engineering in the advancement of existing products is the quality, availability, and motivation of the engineers working on product development. They should possess specific skills and knowledge as it can ensure the project to be completed in a timely manner. The composition of the core team for the retrofitting of the product should be adept with specific know-how of the product. It is important for the individuals at the core team to be available when needed and should possess specialist skills. The project manager should possess essential leadership skills and ensure that the staff is motivated.