This article starts with general principles applicable to all industries
and then discusses special considerations for renewable energy, which needs major scalability

SCALABILITY ARTICLE                               

This is one of this site's unique   methodologies necessary to introduce "disruptive" innovations.

     (Figure and Section numbers refer to the author's DFM book)

The featured article in the November 2013 in Mechanical Engineering (the journal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers), titled “Why Manufacturing Matters,” concludes that scalability leads to the fastest market leadership and highest profits:

The companies that scale the latest technologies the fastest
will become the market leaders and reap most of the profit.”

The same article also says that scalability of innovation is the key to market leadership:

“Firms that scale and deploy innovations rapidly
will remain market leaders.”

 The Value of Scalability

Being able to design scalable products and scale up production quickly is the foundation for:

• Rapid ramps to stable production, which most of the articles on this site show how to do.

• Being able to easily deal with increases in product demand, which can be caused by sudden sales surges from good publicity, advertising, or promotions.

• The need to quickly replace problem products because of bad publicity, recalls, sudden appearance of rival products etc.

• Coping with supply chain shortages, which can be avoided by designing for availability (Section 5.19.1) which is helped by standardization and automatic resupply techniques

• Quickly producing emergency replacement demands from natural disasters..

• Rapidly scaling up new products for very large new markets such as widespread solutions to energy and climate challenges

Importance of Designing Products for Manufacturability

On  the opening slide of the author's classes for the last 15 years,  the third definition of DFM in the first paragraph says that good DFM will “ensure that lack of manufacturability doesn't compromise functionality, ., . . . . . and “make it difficult to respond to unexpected surges in product demand or limit growth.” This wisdom has been on the opening slide of the author’s lectures for the last 15 years. The DFM training agenda is posted the seminar page.

Scalability, like manufacturability itself, must be designed into the product or a deficient product will be hard to manufacture and hard to scale rapidly. Therefore, scalability must be a key design goal if companies are going to want the ability to scale up product levels rapidly and grow fast. If very high growth rates are possible, then scalability may need to be a primary design consideration

Any product only designed for functionality will be hard to manufacture and be hard to scale. For any industry that may have the possibility of rapid growth, products must be well design for scalability.

Products not designed for scalability can not be “made scalable” any more then unmanufacturable products can be “cost reduced” as shown in in the article 7 reasons why you can't reduce cost after design.

If any products have promising technology, but was not design for manufacturability, they it be have to be commercialized as shown in Section 3.10. The commercialization approach identifies and preserve the “crown jewels” and then redesigns everything around them for manufacturability and scalability.

Products that start with research will have to practice the principles of manufacturable research.

What Products Not to Try to Scale

Companies should not try to scale up products that have not been well design for scalability, as shown in the following sub-sections

Avoid the “economy of scale” fallacy that once you raise the production volume, the cost automatically goes down.

Unfortunately, industrial legends have mislead small companies in to thinking that this could benefit anyone. However, they need to realize that mass production giants had enormous volumes with no variety, which meant they could invest in massive hard tooling , no setup changes, and specialization of labor.

Today, variety is valuable, volumes are much less and mass production has been replaces by Mass Customization (Section 4.3) and build-to-forecast has been replaced by Build-to-Order (Section 4.2), all of which can be designed to be scalable, which this section shows how to do.

This article  strongly recommends that any products possibly in line for large scale scaling up become ready for either of these scenarios:

1) Existing products must be thoroughly commercialized, which may involve redesign for manufacturability and scalability, as specified in Section 3.10.

2) New products must be designed for widespread scalability by following all the manufacturable research principles presented in Section 3.9 and then designed for manufacturability as presented in the rest of this site while being design for scalability.

Similarly, If a company’s Sales force accepts a tempting large order that is not scalable, the whole operation may struggle with:

• Availability problems like nowhere near enough parts and materials available in time to fulfill the accepted order.

• Inadequate fixtures, tooling, and processing equipment, for the increased demand that should have been concurrently engineered

• Unnecessarily tight tolerances that raise part cost, create too much demand on precision machine tools, or require too much skilled labor.

• Inadequate Vendor/Partners that can not meet the increased demand either.

• Too much firefighting to solve manufacturability, quality, or ramping issues

Unfortunately, all these problems will drain valuable resources away from designing products for manufacturability and scalability.  So until all products are designed well for manufacturability, those that are not should rationalized away.

Key Principles to Design Scalable Products.

Design for manufacturability during manufacturable research (Section 3.9) and the product design itself (covered in most of this site  to ensure that products will be able to be quickly and cost-effectively scaled up. Here are the scalability principles:

Material and Part Availability

ctively select parts and materials for assured availability for the life of the product at the highest possible production volumes. This includes avoiding

:• Potentially scarce parts, including any that may have to compete with other application that may also be scaling up, for instance, for widespread conversion to renewable sources of energy, electric battery production capacity would be best allocated to electric cars and roof top Photo-Voltaic panels, instead of storing energy at wind power and solar PV fields, both of which have better and cheaper alternatives (pumping water up for hydraulic storage for wind and Concentrated Solar Power (with heat storage).

• Rare Earth elements, which, when available, may provide the best efficiencies, function, or compactness, for instance, the lightest and smallest motor magnets.
However, scalable design principles would recommend generating "plan B" contingencies, like providing enough space and weight allocation for their non-rare-Earth-element magnets.

• Risky Parts should ample “plan B” replacement parts available and, if the placement parts are bigger, there must be enough space for the replacements. For instance, lithium-ion batteries are the most space-efficient batteries, but to allow for space efficient replacements, engineers must allow enough space for the large replacements.

• Performance premiums. Avoid excessively expensive components that may cost a high premium for the last few percent of efficiency if this results in a much higher part cost and be harder to find, just to try for a slight increase in sales. Rather. the company can use the principles of this site to substantially reduce the selling price (Chapter 7) by lowering many categories of manufacturing and supply chain costs.

Instead, scale products around standard proven off-the-shelf parts (Section 5.18) and modules that are selected to be readily available throughout the anticipated life-span of the product. Avoid dependence on parts that are hard to get, have long lead-times, incur high inventory carrying costs, or may become unavailable within the life-span of the product.

Scalable Labor Force and Partners

Here are DFM principles that can make labor more scalable:

• Skill demands. These can be greatly minimized in the Research phase as discussed in Section and the section on “Skill& Judgement” in Section 3.3.7.

• Firedrills. Scalable products should be designed for quick and easy manufacture without the need for firedrills, “tribal lore,” scarce resources, and skill and judgement. all of which make production hard to scale up production volumes because of the difficulty finding and training these resources.

• Scalable Vendor/Partners. Scalable products have custom parts built by vendor/partners (Section 4.2) who help the OEM to design their parts for manufacturability, quality, and fast ramps on widely available machine tools from widely available materials on flexible tooling that avoids setup delays.

Equipment Availability and Expandability

• Scalable products should be built on concurrently engineered production equipment and tooling suitable for initial demand and easily scalable to the highest anticipated demand.

• Scarce production equipment. Avoid dependence on scarce product equipment capacity for hard-to-build parts that can not be build on ordinary machine tools, for instance, large weldments that must be machined after welding on scarce mega-machine tools. The scalable alternative would be to replace large weldments with precision parts that can be made on ordinary CNC machine tools and assembled rigidly and precisely using DFM techniques  at the steel/cost reduction workshop.

• Design to maximize existing machine shops. For massive scalability projects utilize general purpose CNC machine tools in the 21,200 machine shops in the United States alone!

• Hard-to-expand production equipment. Be cautious if your supply chain depends on "fabs" that cost billions and take years to build, which may be hard to scale quickly. At the individual part level, do not base designs on parts whose availability is limited by limited capacity production capabilities, like electronic parts. semiconductor devises, and Photo-Voltaic panels.


Utilizing Lean Production to Shift Production Lines

If equipment capacity shortages are confined to a few product line, then Lean Production can provide a solution with production lines that are versatile enough to shift production to more production lines whenever one is overwhelmed by demand. If versatile production are concurrently engineered, as taught in this section, the product line shifting can be done quickly so as not to compromise any of the other products.

This is preferable to a Mass Production changeover which takes a great deal of effort and time to remove the other product’s capacity and replaces them with the product that is having a hard time scaling.

Build-to-Order (Section 4.2) takes this further by concurrently designing versatile product lines that can build any variation in the family without any setup changes or delays.

Platform Synergy for Scalability

Design product in synergistic product families that are versatile enough to quickly adapt to volatile demand variations within the platform family. Even if the foundation aspects of platform are somewhat standard, those aspects will be easier to scale than many mass production products.  If the variations are built to-order, they could be built on-demand without setup of inventory

Scalability Using Mass Customization Postponement

Postponement is a Mass Customization technique in which a versatile flotation part could be built ahead of time with variety built ahead knowing it will be used later one way of another. On to this foundation parts could be bolted many different postponed Varity parts, which be built ahead of time, or, preferable, built to-order on-demand.
Another version of postponement is ordering versatile semi-finished parts in quantity and then doing specific operations on-demand, like hole drilling or machining specific optional features.

Optimizing Production Machinery Capacity

Another form scalability is optimizing the size of a product, the capacity of machinery, or scope of a project.

Often, these are arbitrary choices in the product definition. However, arbitrary decisions should be avoided in product development as recommenced in Section1.8.
The size or capacity of a product should not be based on previous products, competitive offerings, “bigger is better” thinking, or even round numbers.

Rather, ascertain what is your optimal size for the customer, keeping mind that, if your product has a large size or output, it will sell only customers who need a large product On the other hand, a smaller size could expand the market to customers with smaller needs.

An example of a major product size opportunity would be steam turbines, many of which were original designed for large fossil fuel power plants However, that large turbine size forces Concentrated Solar Plants to be larger than necessary. Scalability principles could scale down proven turbine technology to fewer modules in less expensive frames and enclosures for a smaller output to enable smaller solar fields that would be easer to license and could be located closer to customers

Another expanded market opportunity for the same scaled down product would be that smaller turbines could enable small “co-generation” plants that could be two to three times more efficient by utilizing all the ‘waste” heat from electricity generation for space heating or factory heat, if the smaller power plants could be located near enough. There are many “heat plants” at university campuses, industrial parks, and large apartment, stores, and factories. Such scaled down “co-gen” power plants could produce both heat and electricity and near 100% efficiencies, instead of the average of 37% efficiency when power plants product only electricity.

Optimizing Scale Strategies

Companies that can sell more scaled down products for smaller needs can also sell multiple small modules to markets with larger needs if they were designed for versatile “stacking” scenarios.

Further ,for production equipment, Lean Production (Section 4,1) principles encourage smaller batches (down to building on-demand) which would need machines with smaller outputs used in multiple “right sized” lines that satiny customers quickly with much less inventory. This is described in Section 4.11 on Flow Manufacturing.

Scalability Conclusions

Scalable products are designed for manufacturability at the research stage using the easy-to-apply techniques presented in Section 2.9 on Manufacturable Research. If not, then the research will have to be commercialized to preserve the "crown jewels" and essentially redesign everything around them for manufacturability as presented in Section 3.10.

Scaling up Renewable Energy

The most challenging application of scalability will be to scale up renewable energy.

Rising energy demands to deal with a warming planet
coupled with rapid needs to phase out energy sources that exacerbate the problem
means the world must be ready for extremely rapid scaling on a vast scale.

This means that new scalable designs must be ready to go and be:

Fully Commercialized

If not, new designs will not be able to scale up and it will take a lot of calendar time and resources to  try until the design is fully commercialized as specified in in the commercialization article   It can not be as common in this industry, starting with a demonstration of technology and  then further scaling of technology before commercialization rollout can begin.

Unlimited Production Capacity

Limited scalability products could be built in a single factory with dedicated tooling, both of which could be expanded somewhat or duplicated. Similarly, having to depend on two billion dollar “fabs” that take two years to build will greatly limit scalability.

Unlimited scalability
would need to be designed for fabrication on general purpose CNC machine tools in the  21,200 machine shops in the United States alone! These automated parts would then be bolted together on-site.

Minimum Material Consumption

Products should be designed in structural efficient shapes, like trusses assembled from CNC struts, as shown in the generic examples at: 

Readily Available Parts and Materials

See the “Part Availability” section, half way down the page at

Minimize Skill Demands

Designing out skill demands will eliminate those scaling limits and minimize costs, as discussed two points after the above point on Manufacturable Research link.

Problems scaling up current solar energy

1) Some solar solutions, like Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) are inherently too expensive for widespread deployment, as was pointed out in the first section titled “What is keeping concentrated solar cost high now?” at

2) Other renewable energies may not be scalable enough.  Even if the motivation and funds are forthcoming, production of un-scalable designs may bog down right away with bottlenecks in production, years to build more factories, part/material supply chains challenges, skill shortages, and difficult installation.

This article will show how it can be made ready to scale up quickly.

Rapid, widespread deployment of solar power

What is needed is rapid, concerted deployment of a portfolio of emerging and mature energy technologies.  Some of these solutions must be commercialized and designed for scalability.  All new solar products must be  designed for manufacturability  at the research stage in the new article on this site. 

Example: making Concentrated Solar Power scalable

This was selected as a scalability example because

(a) CSP offers the best solution for energy storage to enable solar plants to provide power day and night  by storing heat (with 98% remaining all night) instead of trying to store electricity, which is much more expensive and will have to compete with more important uses of batteries for electric cars and home PV panel storage, which have few other viable alternatives

(b) current CSP have a long way to go become scalable

The conclusion of the opening section of the article on Half Cost Solar. , is that “mature” Concentrated Solar Power is simply not ready to be scaled up.    CSP first must be commercialized to overcome those manufacturability and cost limitations to compete with systems that are designed to be scalable for rapidly large-scale deployed

 Ensuring Research will be Manufacturable

The lesson here for new technology development is to conduct Manufacturable Research and avoid having to “invent under pressure” and then rush prototypes into production, which causes most of the problems cited in the linked low-cost-solar article.

Fortunately, manufacturable research or even commercialization can be done right now within existing budgets and resources and not have to wait for large-scale resources to try to scale up non-scalable designs. The next section shows how to do that.

The conclusion is that commercialization of mature and emerging technologies must be done now so scalable solutions will be ready for wide-spread deployment.

Bottom Line:

Renewable energy technologies must be quickly commercialized and (re)designed for manufacturability, low-cost, and scalability, This preparatory design work could be done now within existing budgets to be ready for widespread implementation whenever greater motivation and funding are forthcoming.

How to Make Solar Power Scalable


First Step: Minimize Cost to ultra-low-cost levels.  Expanding renewable power will require that equipment is  affordable enough for widespread implementation around the world, which may need to be done very quickly if everyone waits too long until demand surges. 

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP, sometimes called "power tower") has not been adequately commercialized, so its equipment design will need total cost reduction before widespread deployment, as is addressed in the companion article on Half Cost CSP Solar at: 

That article opened with the section “What is keeping Concentrated Solar Power cost high now?” and is followed by sections on “General Participles for Designing Low-cost Products” and then a promising example: “Heliostat Mirror Guidance at Half the Cost or Better,” which is one of the biggest. opportunities to reduce half the cost for power generation and eliminate hundreds of thousands of motors, sensors, and controllers currently needed to track the sun, which also comprises the vast majority of the cost for heat production for heat-intensive industrial processes.

The next steps: Follow the remaining steps after cost in the opening section above.

Scaling up production volumes quickly by orders of magnitude

In order to scale up solar power:

  • All the parts and raw materials must be readily available in the quantities needed all over world.  The biggest obstacle to this availability is the very common practice of engineers saying "here is the part I need - go buy it!"  But "it" may not be scalable or not even available now for any significant consumption.  Rather, designers should specify a minimum spec and purchasing agents should be look for the most available selections above that spec.  Ironically, such a search will probably find higher performing parts at lower costs if they are in greater widespread use.
  • Fabrication will have to be designed to be done on widely available machine tools, not specialized machines or large mega-machines, which can be avoided by the techniques presented in the Steel Reduction Workshop.  This workshop also shows how to avoid dependence on skilled labor, for instance, replacing weldments with assemblies of CNC machined parts that are assembled rigidly and precisely by various DFM techniques. 

Conclusion: To scale up renewable energy, the equipment must be  commercialized and designed for manufacturability around widely available parts and materials to be made without depending on skilled labor on widely-available machine tools.  This preparatory design work needs to be started now so that when the need and demand appears, the world is ready to scale up to any volumes. 


Scaling down boilers for concentrated Solar Power

Boilers in the conventional energy business are sized for very large fossil fuel or nuclear power plants

However basing solar CSP power plants on these can result in unnecessarily large solar plants which can lead to unnecessarily:

  • excess amount of money to raise
  • excessively large sites to find, buy, license, and get environmental clearance for, which may be even harder if the environmental strategy is to find large plots of pre-distressed land.
  • excess demands on the grid, possibly having to build or expand transmission lines to large remote sites.

Boiler manufacturers may need to scale down to the boilers themselves by using commercialization  principles to maintain proven turbine blade part design with fewer blade sets supported by scaled down framework structures and plumbing. Thus the fluid dynamics and thermodynamics would remain the same and not have to be re-designed or re-tested.

Scaling down Boilers to Double Fuel Efficiency of Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuel boilers are only 37% efficient in generating electricity!

However, if boilers were scaled down and coupled to small generators, they could be small enough for many “co-generation” (“CCoGen”) facilities that could use all the burner’s 63% heat that is normally wasted.

And half the fuel burned = half the greenhouse gases released.

CoGen facility opportunities for 100% fuel efficiency include:

  •  An apartment or store “boiler rooms” which could now be a “zero-energy” or a “Zero Net Energy” building, with zero net energy consumption from the outside.

  •  A college campus or office park hating plant that could now generate electricity and heat at 100%combined efficiency and immunity from power failures.

  •  Factory electricity and heat generated at 100% combined efficiency

  •  Off-Grid Facilities with shared electricity and/or heat

  •  Mission-critical facilities, like hospitals,. data centers, emergency service control, transportation hubs, and military bases, that would always have electricity and heat available during all forms of power outages.

Avoiding economics-of-scale fallacies

There are many people in this business that firmly believe the Mass Production fallacy   that getting the production volume up automatically gets the cost down!

Therefore, renewable energy planners should not resist all these advantages and keep projects big
just for the illusions of "economies of scale."

However, the proven cost-reduction metrologies of this site and  can lower cost much more than any perceived quantity discounts. And, in fact, if such a large demand that exceeds the capacity of such a small industry,  could actually raise part costs.

Doubling Solar Plant Capacity

The 2015 MIT Future of Solar Energy report says:

“ A supercritical CO2 Brayton cycle is of particular interest because of its higher efficiency (near 60%) and smaller volume relative to current Rankine cycles. This is due to the fact that CO2 at supercritical conditions. . . . . is almost twice as dense as steam, which allows for the use of smaller generators with higher power densities.

Solar furnaces can generate more than this amount of heat, but at the high cost or using two-stage collectors or single heliostat mirrors with articulated facets, both of which are very expensive

So cost-effective generation of high temperatures would need breakthrough concepts like the examples in the article on Manufacturable Research to continuously focus mirror facets onto a single point without needing dozens of facet drivers for every heliostat.

Scalability may require real innovation:


Developing more effective renewable energy that will be commercialized enough to scale it rapidly will require innovation.  But, in the opinion of the author of the leading book and web site on Design for Manufacturability, the vast majority  of companies are  surprising inadequate at innovation,* except for the author's clients, especially his stand-out clients profiled at the Results paae.   ion!  Here is the web article that tells why: Why Companies Can't Innovate, and. and how to unleash innovation. which contains18 common counter-productive practices that prevent companies from innovating, each  with web links to solutions. 

Before any urgent needs require meaningful innovation, everyone doing research needs to apply all the principles of Manufacturable Research which are available now to all research groups  at  who can apply all these principles immediately.

And research should never be thrown over the wall "to industry" who just "launches it" into their factories  without concurrently engineering products and scalable process, as described in the white paper:

                * Fprbes says that "95% of patents are never licensed or commercialized."

                And Silicon Valley venture capitalists  liken commercialization to "crossing the valley of death."

These are the general principles plus an example. Pass around this article or URL to educate and stimulate interest.

In customized seminars and webinars, these principles are presented in the context of your company amongst designers implementers, and managers, who can all discuss feasibility and, at least, explore possible implementation steps

In customized workshops, brainstorming sessions apply these methodologies to your most relevant products, operations, and supply chains.

Call or email about how these principles can apply to your company:

  Dr. David M. Anderson, P.E., CMC 1-805-924-0100; e-mail:


copyright © 2019  by David M. Anderson

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