The Importance of Ramp-up and Manufacturing Agility in an Era of Mass Customization

Agility in manufacturing can be defined as the ability of a business to respond quickly and effectively to changes in market demand so as to meet diverse customer requirements in terms of price, specifications, quality, quantity, and delivery.

Ramp-up is a key phase in the product lifecycle and plays a major role in reinforcing a company’s agility. However, manufacturing ramp-up comes with a range of complexity related to high uncertainty, lack of process maturity and required skill sets, to name just a few of the issues which must be address to ensure success. An effective ramp-up management process effectively looks beyond the obvious objectives of time, cost, and quality to also consider domain-specific expertise along with the operational and business objectives of the stakeholders.

Ramp-up Challenges

The growing demand for customized products in smaller quantities and shorter product lifecycles have led to more frequent product development and production ramp-up. Manufacturing systems have to be continuously reconfigured to meet new market or demand situations. Furthermore, several goals need to be concurrently met, such as target output volume, quality, speed, and cost-efficiency.

These objectives are challenged by uncertainties related to both external factors (e.g., market volatility, product lifecycles, etc.) and internal factors (e.g., low process maturity, assembly complexity, etc.). Ineffective strategies to address these potential challenges can result in low production yields, equipment breakdowns, slow set-up times, component and sub-assembly quality issues, as well as production delays due to supply chain interruptions.

These challenges are further heightened when ramp-up operations are not staffed with the right skills and experience. The intrinsic uncertainties associated with ramp-up situations, specifically those with low production quantities and short product lifecycles, require a degree of domain-specific expertise to minimize risk and more realistically estimate cost, time and resource requirements. Therefore, aggressively identifying and addressing ramp-up challenges as early in the process as possible is more important than ever in this era of rapid product innovation and mass customization.

Agility Solutions

At Suntek Global, we know that time, cost and quality are the main concerns for most decision-makers during the product ramp-up phase. However, ramp-up in the context of low-volume production settings (e.g., high levels of product variety and customization), involves additional inherent complexities which we have learned, through experience, how to successfully address to meet our customer requirements. These potential ramp-up complexities include volume uncertainties, lack of device-specific process maturity, and required skillsets. We take a three phase approach to effectively addressing these concerns.

Organizational Agility

Suntek Global has invested in resources which support both scalability and convertibility required for production ramp-up in an HMLV manufacturing environment. Our assembly line flexibility, via the reconfigurability of our production automation equipment, puts a priority on productivity and quality to maximize throughput during ramp-up.

In addition to this flexibility, our supply chain relationships are a critical factor for meeting our ramp-up objectives and reducing time-to-market. We have fostered strong, collaborative relations and actively involve our suppliers in early ramp-up planning to ensure cost and delivery requirements can either be met or workarounds identified in advance.

Risk & Resource Assessment

Early in the product development process, our project and production management teams proactively commence ramp-up planning in collaboration with our clients. Our experience has shown that plan reliability increases and process “unknowns” are fewer and less costly when planning is commence at the inception of the project.  Many of our clients are in environments where ramp-up is recurrent and products often reconfigured to meet new market requirements. Therefore, clearly identifying and addressing ramp-up challenges early is now more important than ever.

Tribal Knowledge

Ramp-up is a key phase in a product’s lifecycle and the ability to successfully manage this phase plays a major role in a company’s overall competitiveness. Due to the intrinsic lack of process maturity for new product ramp-ups, experience and skills transfers are essential for success. This process becomes even more complex with the increasing demand for customized products.

At Suntek Global, our 20+ years of accumulated ramp-up “Tribal Knowledge” (i.e., internal knowledge which is iteratively improved and applied to subsequent projects/processes) has made us highly effective at handling diverse product ramp-ups efficiently and seamlessly.


Contact us to learn more about how our agile ramp-up management can help your firm, in a more effective and structured manner, deal with product ramp-up in this era of mass customization and shorter product lifecycles.

Suntek Global