Category Archives: Manufacturing

Guest Post: Lean Material Handling: Making Production More Efficient and Profitable

Danielle M.Today’s guest post comes from Danielle M.  She has been a dedicated student of Lean Manufacturing methodologies since 2006. It was love at first sight when she read the motto, “Everything has a place; everything in its place” in her first copy of The Toyota Way.

Lean manufacturing seeks out and eliminates waste wherever it can be found. One process that can be overlooked in a manufacturing business is the very end, where products are stacked on pallets, wrapped and shipped out. What follows are a number of ways you can reduce wasted time, effort and money by finding efficiencies in your pallet packing processes.

Material handling and lean manufacturing go hand-in-hand. Without efficient material handling processes, factories and warehouses can’t fully integrate lean manufacturing into their operations.

If you want to increase production time and reduce waste in your manufacturing business, take lean material handling practices seriously. These suggestions should inspire you to make changes in your warehouse operations.

Reduce mistakes, eliminate waste

The most basic principle of lean manufacturing is eliminating waste — wasted time, inventory, movements or processes. Your production systems should be so efficient that employees know exactly what to do with each part, how to do it and when to do it.

It’s important to remember that working faster doesn’t always mean working more efficiently. Take the time to figure out the simplest method of doing something and make that the standard of operation. Ensure that all processes are scheduled to eliminate lag time between work stations; workers shouldn’t have to wait on needed parts, and materials should be worked on immediately.

Improve efficiency with standardized routes

Material handling routes can either make or break a production line. Standardized material handling routes ensure that the appropriate parts reach their destinations on time, that there are no waiting times and that production runs smoothly. Employ standardized schedules in these areas for an efficient material handling route:

  • Deliver all components on time. This is achieved by setting up kanbans (signposts or billboards) at predetermined locations so that material handlers know exactly which components to deliver to specific work areas. Each component retrieval cycle should take the same amount of time.
  • Use the right equipment to transport components. The weight and amount of components being transported should determine the kind of equipment needed to safely and quickly move them to the designated area.
  • Set up even pulls. The amount of finished goods pulled throughout the day should be enough for each employee to manage throughout the duration of his shift, without lag time or being overwhelmed.

Invest in necessary equipment

Using the right material handling equipment to transport and store inventory increases available space and improves production time. For instance, using forklifts to carry multiple heavy items — instead of using dollies to carry a few items at a time — is safer for employees and moves inventory from point A to point B quickly.

Automated storage systems aren’t exactly necessary, but they do accurately track inventory and allow employees to quickly find necessary parts. With these systems, employees input the materials they need into the storage system, and it automatically retrieves the item, without wasted time searching each shelf.

Accurately track material handling costs

Most — if not all — pricing methods in manufacturing are estimated based on actual production time and overhead. In order to get an accurate amount of time spent on an area of production, estimators must frequently communicate with employees and managers to find out where inefficiencies exist and figure out how to eliminate them.

Systems like cost-estimating software track the efficiency and processes using existing manufacturing standards and data. This makes it possible for estimators and accountants to change their company’s processes by adding and modifying the software’s data to accommodate specific needs. Doing so provides accurate information regarding production schedules and pricing, so your company can provide clients with more accurate quotes.

Material handling processes have come a long way from the inefficient systems of decades past, but there’s always room for improvement in the production industry. Constantly examining and identifying flaws in the system is key to making your business a lean, mean manufacturing machine.

Buying New Equipment? Use What You Got.

During some recent blog reading, I was spurred to think about a past situation when a company I worked for was buying new equipment and how WRONG this decision was.

I had been with the company for about four weeks when I heard about a capital expenditure my director had just approved to buy nine more of a patented machine.  My company owned the patent.  That would give us a total of 99 of these machines.

First question I asked, “Why are we buying more of these machines?”

The response was a typical one, “We they need more capacity because we are meeting the demand.”

I didn’t ask anymore questions at that point.  I decided to go and see for myself.  This was easy because the corporate offices we were in was part of the main manufacturing building.  I had to walk about 100 yards.

During my observations I found two things:

  1. The overall OEE of the 90 machines was around 35-40% when it was running.
  2. At anytime I never saw more than 50 of the 90 machines running.  This was because we never had enough people to run all the machines.

SAY WHAT?!?!!

After a few hours of direct observation, it was clear there was no understanding of what was really going on.

First, attack changeovers and downtime to get the OEE of the machine up to the 75% range.

Second, why buy more machines if we can’t staff them?!

By my calculations, if the OEE was raised to the 75% range, not only would we not have to buy more machines we could get ride of about 20-25 machines we already had.  That would mean our current staffing would be pretty close to what we needed.

I presented this to my new boss and the director, but by this time it was too late.  The money had been cut and were pretty much crated and on the road to our facility.

This is why companies should question any new capital expenditures.  Companies should be maintaining and using what they have first.  The OEE should be at least 70% if not higher before considering adding more capacity through spending.

Do not make any decisions about capital expenditures until the current state is thoroughly understood.  The best way to do that is to go and see for yourself.

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2013 – 5 Thru 1

2014 is now in full swing.  Before 2013 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2013.

New followers of the blog can use this as an opportunity to read posts they might have not seen in the past.  While, long time followers can use this as an opportunity to re-read some of the top viewed posts.

This post will count down the 10th thru 6th most viewed posts of 2013.  Enjoy!

5.   Making Leader Standard Work Visual (June 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #9 – An example of a visual board from a group I worked with.  The board makes the tasks and if they were completed by the managers visual.

4.  Don’t Over Complicate the Formula (October 2011) – Talks about simplifying formulas to get you directionally correct especially with calculating kanbans.

3.  Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL (February 2012) – Previous Year Ranked #4 – Inspiration of a Navy SEAL got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to create change.

2.  Keys to Sustaining 5S (September 2011) – Tips to help sustain (the 5th ‘S’) the gains made from implementing 5S.

AND……

1.  5S in the Office (September 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #3 - Most viewed post for two straight years now.  A look at using 5S in the office.  What is going too far and how to use 5S in the office properly.

I hope 2014 is a great year!

Top 6 – 10 of 2013

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2013 – 10 Thru 6

2014 is now in full swing.  Before 2013 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2013.

New followers of the blog can use this as an opportunity to read posts they might have not seen in the past.  While, long time followers can use this as an opportunity to re-read some of the top viewed posts.

This post will count down the 10th thru 6th most viewed posts of 2013.  Enjoy!

10.  Comparing Lean Principles to the 14 Toyota Principles (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #6 – The first part of a three part series where I compared the lean principles I learned from the Lean Learning Center to the Toyota Principles.  This post covers the first five Toyota Principles.

9.  True Mentoring (May 2012) – Previous Year Ranked #7 – This is my take on true mentoring versus fake mentoring that goes on in business today.

8. Strategy A3 Downloadable Template (April 2012) – A quick description of a strategy A3 with a link to a template that can be downloaded.

7. Guest Post: Selling Lean to People That Don’t Want It (July 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #10 – This is a post from Joe Wilson before he became a full-time author at Beyond Lean.  Joe talks about ways to sell lean to people who are not bought into the benefits of lean.

6.  Why Are Lean People Seen As Lean People? (February 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #1 – Exploring the question as to why lean people are not seen as more than just lean experts.  Looking at a process from end-to-end seems like a good business practice no matter what the role.

My next post will count down the Top 5 viewed posts of 2013.

Lean In Project Management

Like so many that started learning and implementing lean in the late 1990s/early 2000s, I started applying lean principles and concepts in manufacturing.  I spent nearly 15 years applying lean thinking in a manufacturing environment.  I absolutely loved seeing the immediate change in material flow or the feedback from operators that someone listened to them and they were able to make things better.

It is no secret.  A manufacturing environment is a tangible environment to see the improvements and get quicker feedback back on how you are applying lean thinking because of the immediate visual results.

A couple of years ago, I moved from the manufacturing environment to the office/project management environment.  This was quite a change and one I looked at as a new challenge.  I took it on.  I have worked with product development and retail management teams.  Not even thinking twice as to what I was doing…until recently.

This summer I took on the role of project manager.  I am managing the deployment of technology to our retail environments.  The changes are not as immediate and not as visual as a manufacturing environment.  After a while, I questioned whether I was still applying lean principles to my work.  Finally, I took a step back to have a serious reflection and what I discovered is my previous 15+ years have engrained the thinking and principles without realizing it.

I have been directly observing the work as activities, connections and flows by sitting with the teams developing and testing the technology.  I see how the work and how the product works.  I have gone to a few retail stores to see the technology being used so I can bring those observations back to the team.  I also went to other retail stores using similar technology and talked with the store managers about what is working and what isn’t working for them.

The principle of systematic problem solving comes to light with using visual boards to status the project and highlight the problems that need to be worked on in the next 24-48 hrs.  We are trying to surface the problems quickly, so they can be resolved.  We have broken the issues down into categories to know which are the highest priority.

Systematic waste elimination comes from defining new processes that will continue once the project is launched.  We are working to improve and make them as efficient as we know how today.

Each day at standup, we are establishing high agreement on what we are going to be working on and how we will go about working on it.  This establishes clear ownership of the work and an expected due date.

Finally, we are learning about the product, the technology and our processes with every iteration.  Getting feedback incorporated into the product as quickly as possible.

The reflection helped me understand how I am using the lean principles everyday even if it is not in a tangible manufacturing environment.

How about you?  In what type of environment are you using the lean principles?

Bill Waddell Highlights the Importance of Quick Changeovers

Recently, Bill Waddell published a great blog post highlighting the benefits of reducing changeover time.  The post was about reducing the manufacturing cycle which is the time it takes to produce every product.  Bill used an actual story from a client of his.

To be sure there were other inputs to the improvement – a simple demand pull method and more statistically valid methods of determining the inventory needed to cover the cycle, but set-up reduction was at the heart of it, and the improvements there translated into significantly less inventory, better on time delivery and lower costs.

Hearing stories like the one Bill wrote about just reaffirms the importance of reducing changeover time.  It is something that companies take for granted.  Most companies don’t see it as critical to achieving the business needs and goals.

Bill gives two great examples of where changeovers have been deemed to critical or their business would die.

I recently saw a cruise ship go through the change-over process and it is really quite similar.  Dock and disembark some 3,000 passengers and their luggage and take on 3,000 new ones, restock tons of food and supplies, perform necessary maintenance to the ship, then sail again all in the course of a few hours.  They have all sorts of specially designed devices and a very well trained crew of folks to do it … but they have to.  That turnaround is the key to their success.  In that regard they are a lot like the NASCAR or Indy cars – change-over fast or die.

Manufacturing companies don’t take this view.  My question is “Why not?”

If results like the company Bill talks about receives such incredible benefit that help them stay viable and profitable, why aren’t more companies doing it?  What other evidence is needed?

Does your company consider quick changeover critical to it’s success?

JIT…A Failure Story

During the past weekend, I end up reflecting on how I have spent some summers of the past.  I don’t know why.  I just did for some reason.  There was one summer 17 years ago that ended sticking in my mind that I thought I would share.

I was working for a consumer electronics company that had manufacturing in the U.S. and in Mexico.  One fall, I was asked to help design a new manufacturing facility to be built in Mexico and they wanted it to be a Just-In-Time facility.  This was my first time hearing about JIT, so I read up on the concept.  Of course, 17 years ago almost all the material was about what it was and not how it worked.

The goal was to only have 2 hours of production materials at the production lines.  I made a super fancy spreadsheet that showed how much square footage was needed in each area based on line speed, shelving, component size, packaging, etc…

In July, I was approached again and asked if I would spend the month in Mexico straightening out what was going on.  The JIT system wasn’t working.  There wasn’t enough room for everything.

My boss and I went over the spreadsheet three times before we went on our visit and verified all the calculations and formulas.  It was all fine.

When we arrived the first day, we toured the plant.  We where horrified.  Televisions that were designed to stack 3 high were stacked 6 or 7 high.  Boxes were being crushed and leaning.  They looked like they could fall at any minute.  Areas that were not designed for storage were stuffed and there were approximately 100 trailers in the parking lot with materials in them.

This was a brand new facility.  It had only been open about 1 or 2 months.  It was a disaster.

The first thing I learned was there was no ramp up period.  On a Friday, one facility was closed.  The following Monday this facility was opened and expected to run at full capacity.  I had never seen any company do that before or since.  There is always a ramp up period.

The second thing we learned and more importantly was there had been no training on JIT, what it was or how it worked.  The facility was operating under old batch-n-queue mentality causing space to quickly fill up.

My manager and I were able to get the inventory under control through some strict inventory management processes and even get a more consistent delivery of materials to the assembly lines.

In the end, the company was not ready to run any differently.  It was a shame.  They ended up expanding the building and continued to run in a batch-n-queue manner.  I believe the facility has been closed in the last 3 or 4 years.

It was my first exposure to JIT and all that it takes to run a JIT system successfully.  I call it a system because it isn’t just about space and delivering parts.  It is the management mentality to reduce changeovers, run in much smaller batches and solve problems.  It really showed me how everything must work together.

Does anyone else have any horror stories from trying to implement a just-in-time system?

Book Review: The Lean Turnaround

Art Byrne is an execute that has been implementing lean in several companies around the world.  He started our with GE and gained experience with Danaher Corp before becoming the CEO of Wiremold where their lean turnaround is featured in the book “Better Thinking, Better Results“.  Since leaving Wiremold Art has used lean to turnaround companies as a partner with J.W. Childs Associates.  Art brings his vast experience to the readers.

Lean_Turnaround_CoverName of the Book:  The Lean Turnaround: How Business Leaders Use Lean Principles to Create Value and Transform Their Company

Author: Art Byrne

Publication Date:  2012

Book description: what’s the key message?

Art really drives home the message about a company can only be truly lean if the leaders are setting an example and leading the way.  A lean executive does not dictate what others need to go do.  A lean executive does it himself.

Also, the executives have to transform the people.  Get everyone to buy-in from the shop floor to the executive suite.  There is no room for people that won’t buy-in.  In order to do this, as the leader you need to engage in the change and lead it.  Not support it.

Art lays out his principles to follow to becoming lean:

  • Work to Takt Time
  • Create one piece flow
  • Utilized Standard Work
  • Connect Customers to Work by Using a Pull System

What are the highlights? What works?

Art does a fantastic job of giving multiple examples of how he engaged employees and led the change even as a CEO.  This brings to life how it can be done and the thought isn’t some dream a consultant made up.

I really like how Art lays out obstacles to achieving his lean principles.  Accounting and standard costing is the biggest obstacle because it can show a negative result or cause bad decisions when doing things that are helping.  He then explains the changes that are needed and gives examples of the changes and how the finances would look different.

There are more examples of other metrics that Art recommends for a lean company.

Another powerful section of the book is how he used lean to grow businesses and profits even during tough economic times. Art even lays out a strategy for looking at companies when thinking about acquisitions.

The real life examples as a CEO and board member of companies really drives how a lean turnaround can be achieved.  A CEO must do a 180 from the traditional methods to do it and a leap of faith will be needed, but the reward is very high.

What are the weaknesses?  What’s missing?

This is a really good book, but I do see one thing missing.  Art speaks from a CEO or executive viewpoint, which is great, but what if you aren’t an executive?

One question I would like to see answered is how do lower level employees help executives want to do a lean turnaround?  Sure, one answer could be give them the book, but that probably won’t change everyone’s mind with just a single read.  How do you help an executive that seems to want to do it, do it?  Give them that final push and really start to see the benefits?

The book can also give the feeling that if you don’t have an executive leading and doing everything in the book then you might as well not go through with lean because you won’t be successful.  Art does not say that explicitly.  The book just gives that feeling.

How should I read this to get the most out of it?

I recommend this book for anyone but especially high level level executive or CEO.  Art lays out a great game plan and a compelling case for the executives to transform their work and create a lean turnaround.  Read the book straight through and then re-read it as you develop a plan to change your company.

I would also recommend it for more Wallstreet and finance people.  It would enlighten them on how to look at companies that deliver long term value to their customers.  Not just short term gains.

H&H Color Lab – American Company Growing Through Lean

HHLogoH&H Color Lab began in the basement of Wayne and Shirley Haub’s residence in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, in 1970. Wayne and his brother, Ted Haub, owned a portrait studio that had just landed its first high school senior contract. With a background in and love for color printing, Wayne chose to install his own color processing equipment in the basement of his home.

Business increased, and so did the need for additional space and employees. What began with Wayne doing everything from his basement has grown to 165 people and 55,000 square feet of space over 40 years later.

H&H customers are primarily school/portrait/wedding photographers.  The offer a wide range of products from photo prints to books to Leather bound albums and digital products.

In 1999, H&H Color Lab started is Lean journey led by Lee Gabbert.  Lee had been with the company for 5 years at the time and was chosen to learn more about lean and teach others at H&H.  They started by reading “Lean Thinking” by James Womack and Daniel Jones.  H&H also decided to get a sensei to help them learn as they traveled the bumpy road down the lean path.

H&H Color Lab started by setting up work cells, going away from a department mentality. H&H moved to smaller batches, moving cells closer to the monuments (that they couldn’t move), standard work, and lots and lots of 5S.

Muda (waste), lead times, late work and quality all had improved. In fact, the gains from lean had now freed up space that was once occupied by manufacturing departments.  It allowed H&H to take the space and use it as a training facility to help customers from all over the United States. Thus, H&H University was born. Roughly 3,000 square feet of space was now designed and transformed into a learning center, working photographic studio with equipment, mock up photography sales room, photography studio work area, kitchen to host all day training, library sitting room with sample products that H&H produce on the book shelves and restrooms. By providing training for customers (mostly free of charge), you truly can engage in a partnership that can grow.

All of this work allowed H&H Color Lab to make a success transition from the “Age of Film” to the “Digital Age”.  Understanding their customers and providing training and education others companies do not, shows how the most important part of lean, focusing on the customer, helps you innovate, grow and thrive.

Here are results that H&H Color Lab have seen from their lean implementation.

 

1999

2012

% Change

Late Orders

3,076

25

99% reduction

WIP

10,421

1731

83% reduction

Redo

5.3%

1.3%

75% reduction

% Shipped Late

49.3%

5.8%

88% reduction

Time in Plant

7 days

1.1 days

84% reduction

Sales

22% increase

 

Doing Laundry Teaches Us About Flow

Flow is a concept that lean teaches about how a product/service moves from beginning to end.  When the product/service stops there is a disruption in the flow.  This is when inventory starts to build between two steps in the process.

With the functional mentality, people only worry about optimizing each machine, without regard to the flow.  The thought is, “I have to run this machine as fast as I can and get as much product out as possible.”

The hard part for people with this mentality to understand is the product/service will only move as fast as the slowest operation.  No exceptions.  Period.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Take a simple process like doing laundry at home.  My dryer is always slower than my washer, so when I have multiple loads of laundry to do nothing moves faster than the time it takes to complete a dryer cycle.

I move a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer and start the dryer.  Then I add another load to the washer and start the washer.  The washer always finishes at least 15 minutes before the dryer.  Instead of taking the laundry out of the washer and piling the wet clothes in a laundry basket, I let them sit in the washer.  Knowing the dryer is the slow part of the process, it would do me know good to start another load of laundry in the washer because it still won’t end before all the other loads have finished in the dryer.

This is how we should look at the flow of our processes at work.  It does no good to buy equipment or change the process to speed up a part of the process that is not the slowest step.  In the end, the product/service is still being completed at the same rate.

What is the dryer in your process?

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