Tag: cellular manufacturing

Leaning Out a Mix Model Assembly Line

One of the more challenging industries to get lean is the mixed model, made to order, assembly production lines. We all have read the success in high volume production lines with options but what if you are producing several distinctly different products on the same line. It becomes a challenge as each station needs to be level loaded for the processing time so the overall cycle time remains consistent. There are several pieces of ground work that must be accomplished prior to any indoctrination of lean processing. While this may seem like a huge task that will take significant time to complete, the manager must remember the basic elements of success – a vision and a strategic plan that states which product line is approached first. Your vision should state what the perfect production line would resemble and the plan will state the cadence of products and the sub-steps to completion. You must remember that cellular or assembly processing must call for the same processes to be followed each time a product is produced. Repetition makes it easier to control quality and also allows you to track whether improvements have a positive or negative effect.
1. Value stream map each assembly
2. Create sub assembly operations and co-locate them to the line in a balanced process and cycle time
3. Break out and balance the tasks
4. Layout inventory, tools, workbenches so that tasks can be eventually and linearly be produced
5. Create inventory feeder line strategies and kits for common sub-assembly operations
6. Define and set in place Standard WIP
7. Create standard work
8. Determine the proper spacing in the flow. Make every a incorporate a “U” shaped cell (Rabbit Chase)
9. Cross train operators
10. Create standard work for the “load versus operators” necessary to meet Takt time
11. Determine the vortex operations and assure that all operators are trained in these operations
12. Assure that there is contingency planning for excess load and equipment failures

While these are not the only elements that must be addressed they are the basics for your journey’s inception. Do yourself a favor and benchmark other and similar industries. Most manufacturing facilities are eager to share their successes and you will not be re-inventing your entire operation as you can use the “Best in Class” practices. You must remember that this is not easy and you will never be complete in your leaning of the lines. After each iteration, you will discover new avenues for improvement.

The Revitalization of Manufacturing in America

The secret to revitalizing manufacturing in America is not a single approach nor is it simple. Globalization of manufacturing and the politics of the 1990’s convinced America we were going to become a service industry. That is only generating lower technical positions at lower wages. We currently speak of bringing back manufacturing into America but we need to realize the status of manufacturing and how to get it back.

The largest obstacle is recapitalization. When manufacturing went global, American companies sold off their capital. We have empty warehouses where companies were in the 1980’s. First, we need to figure out a way to re-capitalize factories. Equipment is not inexpensive and the only offsets that can encourage American manufacturing is profitability or a cost advantage. While we expect business to have intrinsic values, stockholders expect large returns on investments which limits spending. Any capital that you cannot recover in three to five years will quickly be eliminated

Secondly, our technical schools are staffed with people that manufactured products twenty years ago. In the last decade, technology in manufacturing has changed dramatically and what they are teaching is irrelevant to today’s industries. We need to upgrade technical educators. Our tech schools are behind in technology and our educators are out of touch with the newest industrial engineering designs. Our children are taught the simple theories in manufacturing design and we relish the Toyota Way. But the market is changing from waste elimination to increased optimization. Anyone can teach high volume manufacturing techniques but this has become a made to order, customized product world that we live. We need to upgrade our students in the techniques to create profitable low volume mixed model manufacturing. The 1980’s taught us that automation is not the answer to everything. There is a time an situation for that investment but in reality a skilled workforce is more versatile than robots. We created computer programs that have standard work, but we never want to take the time to standardize manual labor. This takes time and cannot be accomplished at a computer and a desk.

Finally, the millennium generation, if given a choice, want desk jobs. They do not want to work in factories as society had trained them to view these occupations as subservient. We need to change our culture. Many manufacturing positions pay better than a college education. It takes less money to educate a skill or trade and everything people learn is pertinent to their trade. We need to observe what society currently endears and respect the trades as much as we do the over educated. This requires a culture change that can be led by politicians and society. We need to embrace those in the trades and create a work place that is significantly similar to the clean environment of an office.

So how do we accomplish these tasks? Here are a few examples.

Create more tax free manufacturing zones

Create tax credits for capital investment

Remove the taxes on exports

Tax the imports based on what those countries tax the US

Add a tax on the imports from countries that show no civic responsibility for the environment

Add a tax on the imports from countries that violate civil rights

Stop regulating the education market and insisting that people obtain advanced education degrees for the trades. They are not necessary and serve no value

States should insist that investment in trades education is given the same funding as academia

Create industrial centers of excellence schooling that honors a voucher system

Start educating our students in the economic advantages of having a trade

Government should recognize and embrace technical excellence with national awards

Create work environments that are worker friendly factories which are clean and ergonomic

Create a government funded board that assists company startups in manufacturing

Re-educate educators and create a qualification testing that equates to a teacher certificate in the trades

Create a tax break for those entering the manufacturing field

Give unused federal lands to the initiation of industrial facilities.

America can revitalize the manufacturing sector but first we need to understand the deficits and real struggles that are involved in its re-establishment. We can accomplish this task, but first we need to create an environment that makes manufacturing in America a financial advantage. IF we want manufacturing to grow , let’s embrace and respect those that are participating in this field.