Manufacturing Readiness Levels

MRLs - Manufacturing Readiness Levels

"The basic goal of all acquisition programs is to put required capability in the field in a timely manner with acceptable affordability and supportability.  To be successful, the two key risk areas of immature product technologies and immature manufacturing capability must be managed effectively.  Manufacturing readiness metrics in combination with technology readiness metrics can help acquisition program managers deal with these risks.  Similarly, these metrics are important to technology development managers because, they can be used to achieve and convincingly demonstrate a level of readiness for technology transition that acquisition program managers will find credible.  Understanding and mitigating these risks will greatly increase the probability of technology insertion for the technology development community and ultimately aid in improvements in cost, schedule, and performance for programs of record...MRLs and [Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs)] measure these risks."  

- U.S. Department of Defense MRL Deskbook, p. 9

MRL Definition Description
1 Basic Manufacturing Implications Identified This is the lowest level of manufacturing readiness.  The focus is to address manufacturing shortfalls and opportunities needed to achieve program objectives. Basic research (i.e., funded by budget activity) begins in the form of studies.
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. Typically this level of readiness includes identification, paper studies, and analysis of material and process approaches. An understanding of manufacturing feasibility and risk is emerging.
3 Manufacturing Proof of Concept Developed This level begins the validation of the manufacturing concepts through analytical or laboratory experiments. This level of readiness is typical of technologies in Applied Research and Advanced Development. Materials and/or processes have been characterized for manufacturability and availability but further evaluation and demonstration is required. 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 Materiel Solution Analysis (MSA) Phase approaching a Milestone A decision. Technologies should have matured to at least [Technology Readiness Level] 4. This level indicates that the technologies are ready for the Technology Maturation Risk Reduction Phase of acquisition. At this point, required investments, such as manufacturing technology development, have been identified. Processes to ensure manufacturability, producibility, and quality are in place and are sufficient to produce technology demonstrators. Manufacturing risks have been identified for building prototypes and mitigation plans are in place. Manufacturing, material, and special requirement cost drivers have been identified, and cost driver uncertainty has been quantified. Producibility assessments of design concepts have been completed. Key performance parameters have been identified as well as any special tooling, special handling, manufacturing skill sets, and workforce requirements and availability of facilities.
5 Capability to produce prototype components in a production relevant environment This level of maturity is typical of the mid-point in the Technology Maturation Risk Reduction Phase of acquisition, or in the case of key technologies, near the mid-point of an Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) project. Technologies should have matured to a minimum [Technology Readiness Level] 5. The industrial base assessment should have been initiated to identify potential manufacturing sources. The manufacturing strategy developed for the Milestone A Acquisition strategy has been refined with the technology maturation contractor and integrated into the risk management plan. Identification of enabling/critical technologies and components is complete. With release of product data required for prototype component manufacturing, evaluation of the design to determine Key Characteristics has been initiated. Prototype materials have been demonstrated on components in a production relevant environment, but many manufacturing processes and procedures are still in development. Manufacturing technology development efforts, as well as producibility assessments of key technologies and components have been initiated.
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 Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) Phase of acquisition. Technologies should have matured to at least [Technology Readiness Level] 6. It is normally seen as the level of manufacturing readiness that denotes acceptance of a preliminary system design. An initial manufacturing approach has been developed. The majority of manufacturing processes have been defined and characterized, but there are still significant engineering and/or design changes in the system itself. However, preliminary design has been completed and producibility assessments and trade studies of key technologies and components are complete. Manufacturing processes and manufacturing technology solutions, materials, tooling and test equipment, as well as personnel skills have been demonstrated on components, subsystems, and/or systems in a production relevant environment. Cost, yield, and rate analyses have been performed to assess how prototype data compare to target objectives, and the program has developed appropriate risk reduction strategies to achieve cost requirements. Producibility trade studies and producibility considerations have shaped system development plans. Industrial capabilities assessment for Milestone B has been completed. Long-lead and key supply chain elements have been identified.
7 Capability to produce systems, subsystems, or components in a production representative environment This level of manufacturing readiness is typical for the mid-point of the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) Phase leading to the CDR. Technologies should be assessed at a minimum of [Technology Readiness Level] 7. 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. The cost model has been updated with detailed designs produced in a production relevant environment, rolled up to system level, and tracked against allocated targets. Unit cost reduction efforts have been prioritized and are underway. Yield and rate analyses have been updated with production representative data. The supply chain and supplier quality assurance have been assessed and long-lead procurement plans are in place. Manufacturing plans and quality targets have been developed. Production tooling and test equipment design and development efforts are initiated and validation plans for Special Test Equipment/ Special Inspection Equipment (STE/SIE) are complete.
8 Pilot line capability demonstrated; ready to begin Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) This level is associated with readiness for a Milestone C decision, and entry into LRIP or initial production. Technologies should have matured to at least [Technology Readiness Levels] 7 or 8. Detailed system design is complete and sufficiently stable to enter low rate production. All materials, manpower, tooling, test equipment, and facilities are proven on the pilot line and are available to meet the planned low rate production schedule. STE/SIE has been validated as part of pilot line validation in accordance with validation plans. Manufacturing and quality processes and procedures have been proven on a pilot line and are under control and ready for low rate production. Known producibility risks and issues pose no significant challenges for low rate production. Cost model and yield and rate analyses have been updated with pilot line results. Supplier qualification testing and first article inspections have been completed. The industrial base has been assessed for Milestone C and shows industrial capability is established to support LRIP.
9 Low rate production demonstrated; Capability in place to begin Full Rate Production (FRP) At this level, the system, component, or item is in production, or has successfully achieved low rate initial production. Technologies should have matured to [Technology Readiness Levels] 8 or 9. This level of readiness is normally associated with readiness for entry into FRP (rate production). 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 operational test and evaluation. Materials, parts, manpower, tooling, test equipment, and facilities are available to meet planned rate production schedules. STE/SIE validation maintained and revalidated as necessary. Manufacturing process capability in a low rate production environment is at an appropriate quality level to meet KC tolerances. Risks and issues managed with monitoring ongoing. LRIP cost targets have been met, and learning curves have been analyzed with actual data. The cost model has been updated for FRP and reflects the impact of continuous improvement.
10 Full Rate Production demonstrated and lean production practices in place This is the highest level of manufacturing readiness. Technologies should have matured to [Technology Readiness Level] 9. This level of manufacturing is normally associated with the Production Deployment or Operations & Sustainment phases of the acquisition life cycle. Engineering/design changes are few and generally limited to continuous improvement changes or obsolescence issues. System, components, and items are in full rate production and meet all engineering, performance, quality, and reliability requirements. Manufacturing process capability is at the appropriate quality level. All materials, tooling, inspection and test equipment, facilities and manpower are in place and have met full rate production requirements. STE/SIE validation maintained and revalidated as necessary. Rate production unit costs meet goals, and funding is sufficient for production at required rates.  Continuous process improvements are ongoing.