Process assessment for the extended enterprise during early product development using novel computational techniques
Manufacturing practices have evolved over the last quarter of a century in the light of changes to manufacturing technology and demand. To sustain this growth companies are increasingly focused on better design and quicker time to market, to stay one step ahead of the competition. Expanding technology capabilities have included microcomputers and telecommunications. In particular the Internet has allowed businesses to trade with an extended customer base, resulting in a greater demand and perpetuating the cycle. To mirror this statement, businesses are looking increasingly far and wide for suitable suppliers. This work identifies a need in the market for an Internet based supplier selection function, during early product development. The development of this work differs significantly from other process selection methods by the use of the Internet to link companies. It has advantages for product development relating to the scope of the opportunities, diversity of possible manufacturing operations and rapid assessment of processes. In particular the system can be broken down into two main functions. Process Selection (PS) and Factory Selection (FS). The PS method presented enables many processes to be modelled, in multiple organisations for a single product. The Internet is used to gain access to supplier facilities by adopting the same principles as on-line banking, or shopping, for data input and access. The results of these assessments are retained by the system for later analysis. The FS method utilises this data to model and compare supplier attributes, allowing the user to manipulate the data to fit their requirements. Testing of the system has proved encouraging for many operations, including Injection Moulding and CNC Machining. It can be concluded that the identification of manufacturing operations outside the remit of companies' normal scope will create further opportunities for supplier integration.