One Man’s Lean Journey: Simulation Helps to Fail Fast, Fail Cheap

In a previous post, I talked about learning a software package that allows people to model and simulate a factory before making any physical changes. After the building of the factory that failed to implement pull, my role was to model current production lines when changes were recommended and to model the proposed model lines for new products.

One of the new production lines that I modeled was for a new television technology. The Liquid Crystal on Silicone (LCoS) television sets. This technology was about a year ahead of LCD TVs and was cheaper to produce. It was only 18 inches deep which is laughable now but at the time was about half as deep as typical big scree projection TVs.

The manufacturing engineers came up with a design for the new production line. By all means, it looked like a line that would meet the production needs and on paper the number of stations and equipment needed looked perfect.

The model was built and simulated with actual unit testing data as well as workstation operation times. It was a great thing we did, because we could have had another fiasco if we didn’t.

The simulation showed the back of the line being severely starved and the front of the line being overwhelmed. The line would have produced at only 66% of the rate it needed to run. The animation of the simulation showed how many TV sets were being kicked out into the rework loop and the backup it caused. It was a perfect example of the Markov Chain in real-life.

We were able to redesign the production line to be 33% shorter and have the ability to produce at a rate high enough to meet demand and allow for growth with no investment.

This was a great example of fail fast, fail cheap. It took less than a month to build the simulation, test, analyze, rework and get approved. The company saved thousands of dollars and the product went to market on time.

I know simulation software packages aren’t cheap, but it was cheaper than building the production line seeing the failure in real-life and then scrambling to fix it or build a second line.

How does your company fail fast, fail cheap?

Reflections:

  • The value of prototyping and understanding before going full out is ALWAYS understated
  • Simulating with cardboard boxes to computer software is an important part of making changes, especially big changes.
  • Always better to fail early on with something that doesn’t cost much vs. finding the failure in full production mode. Doesn’t matter if it is a new marketing idea (test in an area) or manufacturing.
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Posted on January 5, 2015, in Learning, One Man's Lean Journey, Problem Solving and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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