Once a new product goes into production it is common for New Product Introduction (NPI) program managers to hand over the product to Sustaining Engineering teams (as shown below). Depending upon the type of product and company, Sustaining Engineering period can range from non-existent (apparel), 6-12 months (consumer electronics) to 40+ years (aerospace).
Facets of Sustaining Engineering
The picture below shows the different facets and processes that drive Sustaining Engineering Excellence. Smooth and fast coordination of Sustaining Engineering processes can make the overall continuous improvement loop faster and lead to better quality and higher customer satisfaction.
The 3 major facets of Sustaining Engineering are
- Continuous Improvement
- Component Manufacturer/Supplier Driven Changes
- Failure Analysis and Corrective Actions
Many companies have continuous improvement goals once the new product goes into production. The improvement goals can be aligned along the following.
It is not uncommon to have cost reduction goals throughout the product lifecycle. These cost reductions can be gained from multiple sources, including from reduction in component/raw material purchasing costs and lower manufacturing/logistics process costs.
Quality improvement over a period of time is another significant aspect of Sustaining Engineering excellence. Product and service key performance indicators can vary between products/services and organizations. Some of the more common include yield, non-conformances, returns, things-gone-wrong, customer complaints, etc.
Component/Manufacturer/Supplier Driven Changes
For many companies purchased components/services are a major part of product and service content. Suppliers and Manufacturers invariably change products as part of their own lifecycles and these changes can have a significant impact and drive many changes as part of the Sustaining phase.
Failure Analysis and Corrective Actions
Sustaining engineering is also the phase during which product and service teams have the opportunity/responsibility to address various types of minor and major failures that happen internally and in the field with customers. Many of corrective actions deal with design and manufacturing process changes.