My lean journey has taken a very common path. I started out learning the lean tools and concepts. Then I evolved to learning how the tools and concepts fit together to create a system that relied on people behaving differently than I was used to seeing. Finally, I was enlightened and understood the thinking that was behind it all and why it works.
For me, I was fortunate enough that my lean journey started back in college. I wish Purdue had incorporated more lean into their Industrial Engineering program, but it didn’t. My lean experience came from my four year internship with Thomson Consumer Electronics. It was a great experience. I would work full time for the company for a semester and then go back to school for a semester. It was a program Purdue had designed with several companies.
My manger at TCE had read books by Shigeo Shingo, specifically A Revolution in Manufacturing: The SMED System. During my second semester with the company, he required all of his interns read the book. The manufacturing geek in me found it absolutely fascinating. I couldn’t wait to put some of the SMED techniques into practice.
My first opportunity to use SMED was in our injection molding house. I worked with a group of machine technicians to reduce the changeover of molding tools. This was a good first opportunity. Shingo had discussed very similar machinery in his book, so it was easier to translate to this actual application. We were able to reduce the changeover time from three hours to one and a half hours. A 50% reduction. I was excited at the time, but looking back now we were still a long way off.
My second opportunity was more a learning because it was on a manual paint booth in one of TCE’s facilities. I had to translate how it would work based on my own understanding. I decided to use videotaping this time. I video taped the changeover on second shift. I was on the road and it was a last minute project. This didn’t go so well. I was able to make my manager laugh hysterically when we watched the playback of the changeover. At one point it became lunch time for the crew so they dropped everything and left. I kept the tape rolling so I could time the downtime. I didn’t have a tripod and got bored quickly, so there is a period where I am spinning and dancing around the area with nobody around. I was loopy by 1AM. We did get a 30% reduction in changeover time so it wasn’t all bad, but the last minute planning definitely showed. Plus, we didn’t included anyone from the facility in the redesign.
It was years before I reflected on these two SMED events and changed my approach.
* Proper planning in advance is critical to a successful SMED event. If you are videotaping, get a tripod. More importantly, how are you going to document the changeover? What is the current changeover time and push to reduce by 75%
* Always include people who are involved in the changeover in the SMED event. Their insights and buy-in is critical to sustaining the gains.