11.5 The Technology of Goods Production

Learning Objective

  1. Explain how manufacturing companies use technology to produce and deliver goods in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

PowerSki founder and CEO Bob Montgomery spent sixteen years designing the Jetboard and bringing it to production. At one point, in his efforts to get the design just right, he’d constructed thirty different prototypes. Needless to say, this process took a very long time, but even so, Montgomery thought that he could handle the designing of the engine without the aid of a computer. Before long, however, he realized that it was impossible to keep track of all the changes.

Computer-Aided Design

That’s when Montgomery turned to computer technology for help and began using a computer-aided design (CAD) software package to design not only the engine but also the board itself and many of its components. The CAD program enabled Montgomery and his team of engineers to test the product digitally and work out design problems before moving to the prototype stage.

The sophisticated CAD software allowed Montgomery and his team to put their design paper in a drawer and to start building both the board and the engine on a computer screen. By rotating the image on the screen, they could even view the design from every angle. Having used their CAD program to make more than four hundred design changes, they were ready to test the Jetboard in the water. During the tests, onboard sensors transmitted data to portable computers, allowing the team to make adjustments from the shore while the prototype was still in the water. Nowadays, PowerSki uses collaboration software to transmit design changes to the suppliers of the 340 components that make up the Jetboard.

Computer-Aided Manufacturing

For many companies, the next step is to link CAD to the manufacturing process. A computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software system determines the steps needed to produce the component and instructs the machines that do the work. Because CAD and CAM programs can “talk” with each other, companies can build components that satisfy exactly the requirements set by the computer-generated model. CAD/CAM systems permit companies to design and manufacture goods faster, more efficiently, and at a lower cost, and they’re also effective in helping firms monitor and improve quality. CAD/CAM technology is used in many industries, including the auto industry, electronics, and clothing.

Computer-Integrated Manufacturing

By automating and integrating all aspects of a company’s operations, computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) systems have taken the integration of computer-aided design and manufacturing to a higher level—and are in fact revolutionizing the production process. CIM systems expand the capabilities of CAD/CAM. In addition to design and production applications, they handle such functions as order entry, inventory control, warehousing, and shipping. In the manufacturing plant, the CIM system controls the functions of industrial robots—computer-controlled machines used to perform repetitive tasks that are also hard or dangerous for human workers to perform.

Flexible Manufacturing Systems

Finally, a CIM system is a common element in flexible manufacturing systems (FMS), in which computer-controlled equipment can easily be adapted to produce a variety of goods. An FMS has immense advantages over traditional production lines in which machines are set up to produce only one type of good. When the firm needs to switch a production line to manufacture a new product, substantial time and money are often spent in modifying equipment. An FMS makes it possible to change equipment setups merely by reprogramming computer-controlled machines. Such flexibility is particularly valuable to companies that produce customized products.

Key Takeaways

  • In addition to creating high-quality products, companies must produce and deliver goods and services in an efficient, cost-effective manner.
  • Sophisticated software systems, including computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), and flexible manufacturing systems (FMS), are becoming increasingly important in this area.
  • Computer-aided design software (CAD) is used to create models representing the design of a product.
  • Many companies link CAD systems to the manufacturing process through computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) systems that not only determine the steps needed to produce components but also instruct machines to do the necessary work.
  • A CAD/CAM system can be expanded by means of computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), which integrates various operations (from design through production) with functional activities ranging from order taking to shipping.
  • A CIM system is a common element in a flexible manufacturing system (FMS), in which computer-controlled equipment can easily be adapted to produce a variety of goods.


(AACSB) Analysis

The design and production of both goods and services can be facilitated by various high-tech tools, including CAD, CAM, CIM, and FMS. What does CAD software do, and how does it improve a design process? What is CAM, and why is it beneficial to integrate CAD and CAM programs? How do CIM systems expand the capabilities of CAD/CAM? What is an FMS, and what are its advantages over traditional manufacturing systems?


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