The engineering of manufacturing systems encompasses two main areas of development: the manufacturing process (manufacturing technologies, and flow and handling of materials), and the production management (flow of information - signals). These two areas must be designed to perform according to the expressed needs. This paper shows that the Axiomatic Design (AD) theory can be used to analyse a manufacturing system to find the origin of the lack of productivity, and, subsequently, to redesign a solution avoiding the weakness points. A case study of a tree nursery of a large wood production enterprise was used to show the application of the axiomatic design principles, particularly through analysing the design equation and including new design parameters with the independence in mind. The redesign solution based on the independence of functions promoted the simplification of the information (signals) flow, avoiding the identification of each production element, and avoiding errors, which increases the productivity and the production volume, by elimination of waste of time in production operations. The proposed solution brought results that encourage the application of AD to increment the productivity of manufacturing systems, in alternative to expensive investments. (C) 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.