The manufacturing readiness level (MRL)

The Manufacturing Readiness Levels

The manufacturing readiness level (MRL) is a measure developed by the United States Department of Defense (DOD) to assess the maturity of manufacturing readiness, similar to how technology readiness levels (TRL) are used for technology readiness.


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 TRLs when assessing program risk. 

They can be used in general industry assessments, or for more specific applications in assessing the capabilities of possible suppliers. The Government Accountability Office has described it as best practice for improving acquisition outcomes. The United States Department of Defense adopted the usage of MRLs in 2005, but the GAO continued to note inconsistent application across DOD components. In 2011, consideration of manufacturing readiness and related processes of potential contractors and subcontractors was made mandatory as part of the source selection process in major acquisition programs.

MRLs are quantitative measures used to assess the maturity of a given technology, component, or system from a manufacturing perspective. They are used to 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. Manufacturing risk identification and management must begin at the earliest stages of technology development and continue vigorously throughout each stage of a program’s life cycle.

Manufacturing readiness level definitions were developed by a joint DOD/industry working group under the sponsorship of the Joint Defense Manufacturing Technology Panel (JDMTP). The intent was to create a measurement scale that would serve the same purpose for manufacturing readiness as Technology Readiness Levels serve for technology readiness – to provide a common metric and vocabulary for assessing and discussing manufacturing maturity, risk, and readiness. MRLs were designed with a numbering system to be roughly congruent with comparable levels of TRLs for synergy and ease of understanding and use.


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 Levels (TRL): are used to assess the maturity of individual technology.


The following has been adopted by the DOD as appropriate in assessing manufacturing readiness levels:


Manufacturing Readiness Levels (TRL) Defined


Phase (as specified by DoDI 5000.02)

Leading to




Material solutions analysis

Material development decision review


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.


Manufacturing concepts identified

Invention begins. Manufacturing science and/or concept described in the application context. Identification of the material and process approaches is limited to paper studies and analysis. Initial manufacturing feasibility and issues are emerging.


Manufacturing proof of concept developed

Conduct analytical or laboratory experiments to validate paper studies. Experimental hardware or processes have been created, but are not yet integrated or representative. Materials and/or processes have been characterized for manufacturability and availability but further evaluation and demonstration are required.

Milestone A decision


Capability to produce the technology in a laboratory environment.

Required investments, such as manufacturing technology development identified. Processes to ensure manufacturability, producibility, and quality are in place and are sufficient to produce technology demonstrators. Manufacturing risks identified for prototype build. Manufacturing cost drivers identified. Producibility assessments of design concepts have been completed. Key design performance parameters identified. Special needs identified for tooling, facilities, material handling and skills.

Technology maturation and risk reduction (formerly "technology development")

Milestone B decision


Capability to produce prototype components in a production-relevant environment.

Manufacturing 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. Manufacturing technology development efforts initiated or ongoing. Producibility assessments of key technologies and components are ongoing. Cost model based upon detailed end-to-end value stream map.


Capability to produce a prototype system or subsystem in a production-relevant environment.

Initial manufacturing approach developed. The majority of manufacturing processes have been defined and characterized, but there are still significant engineering/design changes. Preliminary design of critical components completed. Producibility assessments of key technologies complete. Prototype materials, tooling, and test equipment, as well as personnel skills, have been demonstrated on subsystems/ systems in a production-relevant environment. Detailed cost analysis includes design trades. Cost targets allocated. Producibility considerations shape system development plans. Long lead and key supply chain elements identified. Industrial Capabilities Assessment for Milestone B completed.

Engineering and manufacturing development

post-CDR (Critical design review) Assessment


Capability to produce systems, subsystems, or components in a production representative environment.

Detailed design is underway. Material specifications are approved. Materials are available to meet the planned pilot line build schedule. Manufacturing processes and procedures demonstrated in a production representative environment. Detailed producibility trade studies and risk assessments are underway. Cost models updated with detailed designs rolled up to system-level and tracked against targets. Unit cost reduction efforts are underway. Supply chain and supplier Quality Assurance assessed. Long lead procurement plans in place. Production tooling and test equipment design and development initiated.

Milestone C decision


Pilot line capability demonstrated. Ready to begin low-rate production.

Detailed system design is essentially complete and sufficiently stable to enter low rate production. All materials are available to meet the planned low-rate production schedule. Manufacturing and quality processes and procedures proved in a pilot line environment, under control and ready for low rate production. Known producibility risks pose no significant risk for low rate production. The engineering cost model is driven by detailed design and validated. The supply chain is established and stable. Industrial Capabilities Assessment for Milestone C completed.

Production and Deployment

The full rate production decision


Low rate production demonstrated. Capability in place to begin Full-Rate Production.

Major system design features are stable and proven in test and evaluation. Materials are available to meet planned rate production schedules. Manufacturing processes and procedures are established and controlled to three-sigma or some other appropriate quality level to meet design key characteristic tolerances in a low rate production environment. Production risk monitoring is ongoing. LRIP cost goals met, learning curve validated. Actual cost model developed for Full-Rate Production environment, with the impact of Continuous improvement.

Operations and Support




Full rate production demonstrated and lean production practices in place.

This is the highest level of production readiness. Engineering/design changes are few and generally limited to quality and cost improvements. The system, components, or items are in rate production and meet all engineering, performance, quality, and reliability requirements. All materials, manufacturing processes and procedures, inspection and test equipment are in production and controlled to six-sigma or some other appropriate quality level. Full rate production unit cost meets the goal, and funding is sufficient for production at required rates. Lean practices are well established and continuous process improvements are ongoing.


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