Tag: quality

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.

Plan Ahead and Succeed

It is the time to set next year’s goals and expectations. You should not wait until the first of the year arrives and attempt to set the plan and goals for new year. We all have completed our pro forma for next year and estimated our EBITs, but have we created our strategic plans that will yield double digit growth? Estimating the financials for the upcoming year will not suffice and allow success. Below is a short list of initiatives that we should look at for the upcoming year.

1. Set your goals for cost of poor quality. Understand how you are going to measure it. Are you going to include the rework, the loss of productivity due to poor quality, customer returns and investigation costs, and repair costs? Whatever you measure in the upcoming year, assure that you show a reduction and have projects with milestones established to begin in January. Do not set yourself up for the next year by having a bad first quarter and chasing the year’s goals to recover those costs. Make your goal a reflection of projects you will manage and not a wish list. Spell out the plan’s expectations month by month with start dates, cost realization dates, project completion dates, and determine who the leader is for each project. Set your report out dates for the next year and schedule the team’s calendars to assure that teams know when they are going to review projects with the executive team.

2. Create a process improvement team and set expectations. You should know where your efficiency losses are and establish which ones you are going to tackle and the order and timeframe for those projects. Set a reasonable amount of tasks. Many businesses will create a wish list that is too large for the staffing. Scheduling too many tasks for your workforce can only lead to frustration, fractured efforts, and a disengaged workforce. Strategically assign those tasks, determine reasonable expectations, and set a detailed review schedule for the plan’s events on a regular basis. Become involved as a leader because your workforce will prioritize their efforts by the attention and involvement your leadership displays in the upcoming year.

3. Assure that you have an active environmental health and safety plan to improve the safety and ergonomics of your operation. Remember, people want to be treated fairly and they will engage more if you are concerned for their well-being. Strive to improve the ergonomics in the workplace. Recordable and lost time injuries are bad for a business’s reputation and finances, but they also can disengage a workforce quickly. Care about your employees and make it a passion to evolve the workplace to a safer environment. Embrace their concerns as you would your family members. They are your livelihood. If you do not have a methodology to collect the employee’s risks, hold a “stand-down” for four hours to collect ideas from employees. Take those ideas, Pareto them by risk to employees and aggressively burn them down. Assure the plan attacks these on a monthly basis. Form subcommittees to address these ideas. Everyone in the organization can take ownership of a task as safety is everyone’s job.

4. Train your employees early and on a repetitive regular schedule. You should have already met with your employees and determined their training needs. Now you must schedule a plan to deliver on those internal and external needs. Do not leave this as a human resource task. It is a leadership responsibility that our reports are enriching themselves each year. You may want to look at your most unproductive weeks in the previous years and declare them training weeks. This allows you to write off the week from deliveries and profit based on poor historical performance. Typically, the first week of the year, the week of July 4th and Labor Day week are poor performers as the previous quarter has just ended and people include additional vacation days to long weekends. Put training into this week and declare the week as a non-production week. Planning this activity allows customer commits to be maintained by overproduction in prior weeks and planned delivery commits pushed out of these weeks where possible.
5. Create production start plans that are visual and observable to all employees. Plan on Gemba walks daily and review these start plans. These plans are critical to success. If you start on time, you will finish on time. Don’t leave the plan’s execution to the planners and materials department to manage. All directly involved employees must understand the plan, discuss it daily at Gemba walks, and assure that procurement, operations, quality, and the materials department understands when the production starts for every job. This is critical for mixed model production. This plan is should not be in a notebook but must be displayed on some visual system that all employees can monitor. The more visuals you have in your company, the more self-managed it becomes.

Remember that strategic planning will assure 2016 will be better than 2015. Don’t wait until the year begins to invoke the plan as you will have an overly burden the last two quarters of the year. If you have not already shared your vision and plan with the entire organization, do it early in the year