Production, Quality & Manufacturing

Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL)

Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRLs) are used with assessments and are designed to assess the maturity of a given technology, system, subsystem, or component from a manufacturing perspective. MRLs provide decision-makers (at all levels) with a common understanding of the relative maturity (and attendant risks) associated with manufacturing technologies, products, and processes being considered to meet DoD requirements. [1]

Definition: Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRLs) are a set of criteria used to assess the readiness of a product or system for full-scale production. MRLs are often employed in the context of technology development, product development, and acquisition programs to determine the maturity of a manufacturing process and its associated risks.

Goal of Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRL)

The overall goal of utilizing MRLs is to address manufacturing & quality risks & issues throughout the development process to provide products that consistently meet customer requirements.

The Manufacturing Readiness Scale

MRL is based on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most mature manufacturing process. Decision authorities will consider the recommended MRLs when assessing program risk. [1,2]

Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRL) Defined

Level Definition DoD MRL Description
1 Basic Manufacturing Implications Identified  Basic research expands scientific principles that may have manufacturing implications. The focus is on a high-level assessment of manufacturing opportunities. The research is unfettered.
2 Manufacturing Concepts Identified This level is characterized by describing the application of new manufacturing concepts. Applied research translates basic research into solutions for broadly defined military needs.
3 Manufacturing Proof of Concept Developed This level begins the validation of the manufacturing concepts through analytical or laboratory experiments.  Experimental hardware models have been developed in a laboratory environment that may possess limited functionality.
4 Capability to produce the technology in a laboratory environment This level of readiness acts as an exit criterion for the MSA Phase approaching a Milestone A decision. Technologies should have matured to at least TRL 4. This level indicates that the technologies are ready for the Technology Development Phase of acquisition. Producibility assessments of design concepts have been completed. Key design performance parameters have been identified as well as any special tooling, facilities, material handling and skills required.
5 Capability to produce prototype components in a production
relevant environment
Mfg. strategy refined and integrated with Risk Management Plan. Identification of enabling/critical technologies and components is complete. Prototype materials, tooling, and test equipment, as well as personnel skills, have been demonstrated on components in a production-relevant environment, but many manufacturing processes and procedures are still in development.
6 Capability to produce a prototype system or subsystem in a
production relevant environment
This MRL is associated with readiness for a Milestone B decision to initiate an acquisition program by entering into the EMD Phase of acquisition. Technologies should have matured to at least TRL 6. The majority of manufacturing processes have been defined and characterized, but there are still significant engineering and/or design changes in the system itself.
7 Capability to produce systems, subsystems, or components in a
production representative environment
System detailed design activity is nearing completion. Material specifications have been approved and materials are available to meet the planned pilot line build schedule. Manufacturing processes and procedures have been demonstrated in a production representative environment. Detailed producibility trade studies are completed and producibility enhancements and risk assessments are underway. Technologies should be on a path to achieving TRL 7.
8 Pilot line capability demonstrated; Ready to begin Low Rate Initial
The system, component, or item has been previously produced, is in production, or has successfully achieved low-rate initial production. Technologies should have matured to TRL 9. This level of readiness is normally associated with readiness for entry into Full Rate Production (FRP). All systems engineering/design requirements should have been met such that there are minimal system changes. Major system design features are stable and have been proven in test and evaluation.
9 Low rate production demonstrated; Capability in place to begin
Full Rate Production
The system, component, or item has been previously produced, is in production, or has successfully achieved low-rate initial production (LRIP). Technologies should have matured to TRL 9. This level of readiness is normally associated with readiness for entry into Full-Rate Production (FRP). All systems engineering/design requirements should have been met such that there are minimal system changes.
10 Full Rate Production demonstrated and lean production practices
in place
Technologies should have matured to TRL 9. This level of manufacturing is normally associated with the Production or Sustainment phases of the acquisition life cycle. Engineering/design changes are few and generally limited to quality and cost improvements. A system, components, or items are in full-rate production and meet all engineering, performance, quality, and reliability requirements. The manufacturing process capability is at the appropriate quality level.

Manufacturing Readiness Levels MRL Reference

Guide: DoD Manufacturing Readiness Level Deskbook – Aug 2015

Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRLs) & Technology Readiness Levels (TRL)

Manufacturing readiness and technology readiness go hand-in-hand. In conjunction with Technology Readiness Levels (TRL), MRLs Technology Readiness Levels (TRL), are key measures that define risk when technology or process is matured and transitioned to a system. It is quite common for manufacturing readiness to be paced by technology readiness or design stability. Manufacturing processes will not be able to mature until the product technology and product design are stable. [2]

Difference Between Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL)

The difference between Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRL) is:

  • Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRL): are used to assess the maturity of a given technology, system, subsystem, or component from a manufacturing perspective.
  • Technology Readiness Level (TRL): are used to assess the maturity of individual technology.

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Benefits for Using Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRL)

  • Makes sure that the design of the product can be made and produced early on in the development process.
  • Gives programs a well-documented process or road map to reach manufacturing maturity.
  • Helps early on to understand manufacturing risk and maturity
  • Manages the manufacturing maturity throughout the supply chain and customer base of the program.
  • Finds manufacturing problems that affect multiple programs, contractors, and the industrial base as a whole

Top Lessons Learned in Assessing Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRL)

Engineers and program managers should remember key lessons when evaluating Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRLs). Understanding these lessons can greatly increase the success and efficiency of the manufacturing process. MRLs are essential to moving a product from development to full-scale production. These are some essential lessons:

  1. Understand the MRL Scale: The MRL scale typically has ten levels, with levels 1 through 10 denoting various stages of manufacturing readiness. Learn the unique standards and requirements for each stage as it will help you appraise the situation and make decisions.
  2. Early Engagement is Key: From the beginning, manufacturing issues should be incorporated into the product development process. To foresee potential production issues and create products that are simpler to make, engineers and program managers should work closely with manufacturing specialists.
  3. Risk Assessment and Mitigation: As part of MRL assessments, hazards related to the manufacturing process are identified and addressed. Engineers and program managers should collaborate to identify high-risk regions and create mitigation solutions to achieve a more seamless transition to production.
  4. Prototyping and Testing: Validating the manufacturing processes involves developing prototypes and testing at various development phases. Early prototypes can be used to find design defects that may later lead to production problems.
  5. Supplier Readiness: Evaluate the capacity and readiness of important suppliers. A solid supplier base is essential to industrial success. Establish early engagement with suppliers and transparent avenues of communication.
  6. Cost Estimation and Budget Planning: Successful production depends on accurate cost estimation. In order to produce precise cost forecasts and distribute money correctly, engineers and program managers must work together.
  7. Understand Design for Manufacturability (DFM) concepts: Production difficulties can be greatly reduced by designs that take into account ease of manufacturing, the use of standard components, and simplification of assembly procedures.
  8. Documentation and Knowledge Transmission: Documenting processes and transmitting knowledge thoroughly is crucial. Ensure all pertinent team members have access to vital knowledge regarding manufacturing processes that is well-documented.
  9. Continuous Improvement: Getting ready for manufacturing is a continuous process. Review and reevaluate MRLs frequently to monitor progress and spot areas that want improvement.
  10. Effective communication and collaboration:  essential for success between the engineering, program management, and production teams. Encourage open communication and teamwork to solve problems and make sure everyone is on the same page with the manufacturing objectives.
  11. Regulatory Compliance: Ensure that the production procedures for items subject to regulatory requirements are in line with the necessary standards and compliance criteria.
  12. Sustainability and Environmental Impact: Consider how the production process affects the environment and look into opportunities for sustainable practices and resources.

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Updated: 7/22/2023

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