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Technology - Formulaic Manufacturing

Formulaic Manufacturing (FM) is built on the idea that the traditional design of manufacturing software is ill suited for dimensionally variable products. We've released two implementations of Formulaic manufacturing, one in our product Fenestratio, written in Java with JSP, and one for a medium-sized lighted sign manufacturer written in C# with ASPX.

Challenges For Manufacturers

Consider this example of a traditional Bill of Materials (BOM):

The nature of the typical BOM is that the component quantity is fixed per unit of the parent item. Consider, instead of a chair, a lighted sign.

Using traditional manufacturing software, dimensional variations of products would be handled by creating a new bill of material, and if the product has conditional or optional components, each unique combination of dimensions and options would require a unique BOM.

While some installations attempt to convey the selections specific for a given BOM in a "smart" product ID, the item master codes almost always ends up becoming unwieldy, inconsistent and ultimately confusing.

One should be able to imagine that in an organization with dimensionally variable products featuring a wide variety of options, maintaining BOMs for each unique combination could become burdensome and error-prone, or else a process is introduced to create a temporary, shop-order BOM to use in filling the order.

Extra Challenges For Small to Medium Manufacturers

The challenges of maintaining traditional BOMs at smaller manufacturers are exacerbated by other staffing-related factors.

It is not always practical for a true product expert to be involved in the preparation of all quotes, so products are often quoted using basic formulae with additions and reductions for certain options. When a quote is accepted, the creation of the BOM for the product should be a cooperative process involving sales, purchasing, and manufacturing staff, but too often the cooperative process takes longer than optimal, so it falls to sales staff to create the BOMs to get their orders into the production process.

When sales agents create BOMs, too often the quoted price proves to have insufficient profit in it, and the accuracy of the BOM proves to be low, which may make inventory inaccurate to the point of untrustworthiness.

Last, many small companies innovate to compete. The combination of innovation in offerings of dimensionally variable products rich with options, relatively small staff to execute operational processes, and short time frames to learn new products, brings challenges in quoting, costing, and inventory tracking that can be prohibitively expensive to overcome.


Imagine your manufacturing system represents bills of material as a shared spreadsheet with a well-documented expression language and highly performant calculation engine, the conceptual BOM for a dimensionally variable product might be:
Awning WindowFrame Material2 * (@ParentWidth + @VinylWeldingWaste) + 2 * (@ParentHeight + @VinylWeldingWaste)mm
Awning WindowGlass(@ParentWidth - 135) * (@ParentHeight - 135)mm2
Awning WindowSash Material2 * (@ParentWidth + @VinylWeldingWaste) + 2 * (@ParentHeight + @VinylWeldingWaste)mm

..thus, a system which allowed a product designer to enter a formula in the quantity required value for a component could save entry of a new BOM for each size of product. One of the key innovations in FM is the substitution variables in the formulae. The variables allowed in formulae are provided by a configurable part of FM, so the list can be tailored to fit your products.

Variable and Conditional Components

Since most components whose quantity required varies with the product size also have their dimensions vary, it follows that the traditional BOM structure could be enhanced to include dimensional formulae and even conditional inclusion, resulting in a structure like that below:
Awning WindowFrame Material2 * (@ParentWidth + @VinylWeldingWaste) + 2 * (@ParentHeight + @VinylWeldingWaste)@ParentWidth + @VinylWeldingWaste@ParentHeight + @VinylWeldingWastetrue
Awning WindowGlass(@ParentWidth - 135) * (@ParentHeight - 135)@ParentWidth - 135@ParentHeight - 135true
Awning WindowSash2 * (@ParentWidth + @VinylWeldingWaste) + 2 * (@ParentHeight + @VinylWeldingWaste)@ParentWidth + @VinylWeldingWaste@ParentHeight + @VinylWeldingWastetrue
Awning WindowSteel Insert-W2@ParentWidth - 80mm @ParentWidth > 800mm

Features and Options

Features and Options is a common extension to manufacturing systems that boils down to defining a set of questions regarding a product, a set of possible answers for each question, and rules governing which answers are allowed in what circumstances. Formulaic Manufacturing is currently in use in two companies which uses features and options - the two capabilities are extremely powerful together. In these installations sales representatives in a quoting scenario have an input page which tells them what questions to ask, allows them to record the answers, and immediately calculates an accurate cost, price, and bill of materials for the product quoted.

For more information on Formulaic Manfucturing, contact our sales team.