Tag: manufacturing

Five S Implementation

The 5S initiative is one of the most difficult to accomplish in your lean journey. The efforts to sort, simplify, sweep, standardize and sustain are the backbone of lean. Many companies roll safety as the 6th S, but in reality that is a mistake. 5S is about the lean manufacturing of business. For businesses to treat the safety of employees on the same plane as lean is a critical mistake. In the hierarchy of business and employee needs, employee safety is the most critical and far more important than efficiency and is the baseline of the hierarchy. The emphasis on the 5S is overlooked and considered by many to have aspects that are optional and not necessary for productivity improvements. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Sorting is necessary for several reasons. First a sorted facility reduces inventory waste, eliminate the use of un-standardized tools or parts, and eliminates confusion to employees who are at different training levels. It also increases usable space by the elimination of storage for unnecessary items, obsolete tooling, and duplicate materials. Having the correct tools visually noticeable in each workplace allows both the operators and supervisors to realize any shortages that may exist. If you look at effective assembly operations, tools are placed in the proper places before, after, and during production. Have you ever had the home project and did not return the hammer to the proper place at the end of a project? Then in a couple of months when the next project is started you floundered to find where you left that hammer. The same is said for the wrench on an assembly line. After the daily production is complete, if an operator leaves the wrench in an undesignated location, they will have trouble starting the next day’s production on time. Therefore, efficiencies are dwindled from their optimum. Communication between shifts and workers becomes more effective in a well sorted environment and much of the extraneous discussions and frustrations disappear as everything is where it should be located. Finally, a poorly sorted operation effects the quality of product. Tool substitutions are minimized as all the proper tools are always available to everyone. The application of any incorrect parts or subassemblies are eliminated.

Simplifying the operations are key to the lean process. This effort also reduces inventory as designers attempt to use common hardware that is readily on hand. This prevents special orders for unnecessary products. This also eliminates waste due to difficulty in using unique items and improves quality as options for misapplication become more limited. But the simplification goes further than design. It includes the arrangement of the workspace and encompasses shadow boxing tools and standardizing the best tools for the job. The development of simple jigs and fixtures improves the quality of product as a standard method of locating features is in place. Jigs can be designed with the same basics and mere detail changeovers accommodate mixed model production. As a manager, we should also drive the organization to the simplest functionality by reviewing each step of the operations with engineering, operations and quality concurrently. Do not merely accept the design from research and development as seldom is efficiency and productivity taken into account.

Sweep or shine is essential for several reasons. First and foremast is ensures a safer workplace. The cluttered workplace is one that is doomed for trips and falls. Clean and bright workplaces have a psychological effect on workers that is positive and is one where we are proud to employ ourselves. The lack of lighting can lead to poor morale and inefficient work. Shine can also assure that tools are in the proper condition for usage at all times. The lack of lighting also allows undetected visual defects and therefore the bright and shiny workplace is less apt to produce and ship nonconforming hardware. I painted all my machines white in a company. Initially, the thought of white machines that remove metal was frowned upon because it was not sustainable. As each machine showed a leak, the leak was fixed to prevent the need to repaint. That triggered an improved TPM program which reduced downtime by 21%.

The most difficult is the standardization of work. This effort integrates the sort, weep and shine and simplifying efforts. It ensures conditions do not deteriorate to the former state and facilitates the implementation of the aforementioned. The standardization of work ensures that work is performed the same way time after time and integrates an improved quality and predicable delivery plan. It is difficult to create the standardization of work and it is very time consuming. You must segment your workplace into sub-sections so that smaller successes can be declared and celebrated. It is essential that the format for the standardization is easy to implement and that any software you use is ready to use for its purpose. Do not use ad hoc programs as the documentation and implementation is difficult and strangling the organization with complicated programs will exhaust personnel. Eventually, your standard work will allow you to predict how many people are needed to attain takt time for work cells and will assist in allocation of resources necessary to attain customer commitments.

Making a habit of properly maintaining correct procedures and installing the discipline to regress requires that all personnel including management pay attention to detail. The consequences of not allowing employees to correct standard work when needed, to clean, sort, straighten the workplace, and allowing an environment of sustainment will deter any advancement of the lean systems your put in place. It will evolve a culture where employees will consider your journey as another program that went to the wayside and will make any revitalization of the effort more difficult.

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.

Getting Your Business Visual

One of the most difficult phases of improving business efficiency is implementing a visual workplace. We have all seen the isolated examples that consultants and academia recite but getting the correct systems in place for your business environment is essential. Do not adapt huge expense in getting the methods in places in their infancy of the conversion, but place simple methods that may require more administrative effort during development. Visual systems tend to evolve as the workforce becomes familiar with them and offer suggestions.
The most important visual systems are ones that show what is expected for outputs. You may want to simply invoke a white board that is updated daily with an indication of what is expected daily. As your system develops, you will include meaningful metrics of performance. This can be, but not limited to, a weekly output, monthly output, year to date outputs, efficiencies, productivity etc. The workforce will tell you what is meaningful to them and that which allows them to know how they are performing. Most industries show do not go beyond monthly information at this stage and save the year to date performance for all-hands meetings. If is essential that the posted information is meaningful. The system should evolve to a visual display of takt time versus performance. There are several digital displays that allow people to hit a toggle a button or switch every time a deliver is made. Either the lead or supervisor in the area can administrate the takt time. This allows a real time display of performance that is accurate to the minute.

Another vital part of the visual system is an Andon light. This is an indicator of two elements. The first is the performance obstacles in the cell. A red, yellow, green light display is easy to understand. A green light may indicate the work cell is on target and all assets are running correctly. A yellow light indicates that takt time cannot be met but all assets are running correctly. A red light that indicates there is an asset problem or material shortage that is slowing of shutting the cell down. The yellow light indicates that manufacturing or industrial engineering needs to speak with the cell for changes and/or resolution. The red should require that management, your maintenance group, or engineering needs to expedite resolution. It is essential that we react to those lights expeditiously because the lack of response will evolve a culture suggesting that the light is not valuable and executing the visual signal is therefore useless. The second type of Andon light is usually used in an assembly environment. This light would be a digital readout of any parts holding up the production of a cell creating delays and wait time. This light requires that communications be made to the cell and timelines associated with resolution be developed. None of these lights should get turned off or returned to green unless the issue is totally resolved or parts are now on hand. These lights should be periodically reviewed by dedicated personnel and certainly reviewed during a daily Gemba walks.

The next part of a visual workplace is a visual workflow. A hospital may put different stripes on the floor so that everyone understands where to go. It also can be signage that shows the steps or stations in a process. This allows everyone to identify workflow and observe any bottlenecks. This is easy to accomplish in a standardized high volume tasking but can be more contrived in a mixed model or tasking flow. However, they are all attainable and easy to implement.

Finally, we need to create Kanbans, Heijunka box or wheels, or other visual signals to accommodate lean pull and overproduction elimination. As we progress through lean, we will continue to reduce inventory and waste through more efficient methods of lean tool usage. There are many other tools and methodologies that can be implemented. Educate your workforce and empower them to implement what is the most effective communication methods for good productive flow and waste elimination. They know the processes and know what will indicate to them their performance. Enjoy the process and admire your workforce’s knowledge of lean implementation. They will make your system successful if you engage and empower them.

As productivity rankings are released, the United State’s manufacturing sector appears to be gaining momentum

Globally, the U.S. continues to gain ground in the manufacturing sector. With the renewed capitalization of the industry, the renewed government interest in growing the sector, and the knowledge of lean manufacturing, the U.S. will continue to grow in this sector. The sector was once battered with old technology and excessive inventories that drove cost numbers to be uncompetitive with competing nations. There is a new generation of manufacturing that emphasizes standard work, quality, increased throughput, and lost cost that will capture the market. It is through the balance of low cost labor and the aforementioned with implementation of automation where is intelligent to automate that will make the U.S. a premier supplier of high technological production.

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.