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Building Operational Excellence

This is part of my reflections from the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.

Robert Miller presented about the principles and dimensions The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence uses to assess companies for the award.  Robert explained the important factors for any company that wants to achieve operational excellence.

Companies need to:

  1. Define Excellence
  2. Define Continuous Improvement
  3. Understand Transformation
  4. Tell the Truth

The first two are about setting expectations so people know what is expected of them.  The third is about understanding what your people will be going through.  The last is the most important.  An organization needs to be honest with itself and where it stands.  They can’t sugar coat their situation and they can’t hide it from their employees.

Companies need to bake operational excellence into their culture.  In order to do this, it starts with principles that help define systems that help to build tools to support.  I have recreated the graphic that Robert showed that helps explain why companies fail in building operational excellence into the culture.

Have you seen this to be true?  With lean transformations, I have seen this quite a bit.  Companies start by implementing tools and then later figure out the tools aren’t working because they don’t have the systems in place to support the tools.  Then even later the company realizes they don’t have the same underlying principles that a company implementing lean successfully does.  By this time it may be too late.  The lean implementation may have been thrown out the window.

If the lean implementation does last long enough to realize the principles are needed to lay the foundation then the company has wasted a lot of valuable time.  It is good they got there.  The company could have had larger or better sustaining gains if they built the same direction as they thought about it.

When a company can think and build from left to right, the greater chance of success of embedding operational excellence into their culture.

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SMED Part 3 – Reducing Trials

A commonly used lean tool/concept in manufacturing is Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED) or quick changeover.  By definition changeovers from one job to the next is waste.  It does not add any value to the product/service, nor is the customer willing to pay for it.  Since it is waste but necessary in many operations, the goal should be to be as quick and as efficient when changing over as possible.

Shigeo Shingo showed how getting changeovers done in just a few minutes can reduce the batch size that can be produced, which creates less inventory and increases the cash flow.  When achieved, a changeover that is done in less than 10 minutes will save a lot of money.  The ideal state is to get the changeover to instantaneous so no capacity is lost.

During my time I have seen what I call three levels of the SMED concept that can help depending on where you are with implementing quick changeovers or lean.  This is the third of three parts explaining the different levels I have seen.  I hope this will help others with their SMED efforts.

The last topic in this three part series is about reducing the number of trials at start up.  The definition of a changeover is from the last good piece of the current run to the first good piece of the next run.  So any trials to align or purge or anything else in order to get a good piece is considered part of the changeover.

Here are a few suggestions to get the thinking started on how to reduce the number of trials during a start up:

  • Pre-set adjustments – This is where you can adjust your machine quickly to a pre-determined setting that should be very close if not exact for the job you will be running
  • Offline fixturing – Create a fixture offline that simulates the functionality of the machine.  Then set up the press to receive the pre-positioned die just like the fixture does.  This should help on the accuracy of the process.
  • Set pins – Build pins that would allow a fixture (such as a screen) to be set in the same place every time.  This will help with pre-set adjustments and sliding in a fixture that was aligned offline to be accurate each time.

The three things I have discussed about SMED are not the only parts of SMED.  There is a lot more to SMED and quick changeovers that can help.  Learning to become very quick with changeovers can really help drive the business in reducing inventory and increasing cash flow.

SMED Part 1 here

SMED Part 2 here

SMED Part 2 – Quick Releases

A commonly used lean tool/concept in manufacturing is Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED) or quick changeover.  By definition changeovers from one job to the next is waste.  It does not add any value to the product/service, nor is the customer willing to pay for it.  Since it is waste but necessary in many operations, the goal should be to be as quick and as efficient when changing over as possible.

Shigeo Shingo showed how getting changeovers done in just a few minutes can reduce the batch size that can be produced, which creates less inventory and increases the cash flow.  When achieved, a changeover that is done in less than 10 minutes will save a lot of money.  The ideal state is to get the changeover to instantaneous so no capacity is lost.

During my time I have seen what I call three levels of the SMED concept that can help depending on where you are with implementing quick changeovers or lean.  This is the second of three parts explaining the different levels I have seen.  I hope this will help others with their SMED efforts.

Another big concept in SMED that I have seen help many times, is the quick release and tool modification concept.  Too many times, I have seen examples of turning screws or bolts that are 2 inches long in order to secure something.  Quick release clamps give the functionality of holding something in place without the need to screw something in.

(click on image for larger view)

The example above shows a screw with a knob that was used on 4 corners of a screen to hold it in place.  A team changed this to 4 lock down clamps that take less time to secure than one of the screw knobs.

Another concept is trying to find ways to modify tools that are used in order to prevent wasted movement during the changeover.  I worked with a team one time that needed 2 different size wrenches to do the changeover inside a piece of equipment.  Everything they needed the other size they would have to get out of the equipment, get the wrench and then get back in to work.  The team decided to cut the two wrenches in half and weld the sizes they needed together in order to make things quicker.  Here is another example:

(click on images to see a larger view)

On the left the operator has to scoop the powder and then strain it into a container and then pour it into the machine.  The modification on the left had the strainer built right into the pour slot for the powder on the machine.

Getting quick releases and modifying tools may be something that can help your SMED efforts.

SMED Part 1 here

SMED Part 1 – 5S Will Improve Your Changeover Times

A commonly used lean tool/concept in manufacturing is Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED) or quick changeover.  By definition changeovers from one job to the next is waste.  It does not add any value to the product/service, nor is the customer willing to pay for it.  Since it is waste but necessary in many operations, the goal should be to be as quick and as efficient when changing over as possible.

Shigeo Shingo showed how getting changeovers done in just a few minutes can reduce the batch size that can be produced, which creates less inventory and increases the cash flow.  When achieved, a changeover that is done in less than 10 minutes will save a lot of money.  The ideal state is to get the changeover to instantaneous so no capacity is lost.

During my time I have seen what I call three levels of the SMED concept that can help depending on where you are with implementing quick changeovers or lean.  This is the first of three parts explaining the different levels I have seen.  I hope this will help others with their SMED efforts.

The most basic level of SMED I have seen is organization.  The lean tool/concept that comes to mind is 5S.  Knowing when to use 5S is the key.  If the area where the changeover occurs is not organized or operators and technicians spend a lot of time looking for the proper tools/parts for the changeover then 5S is a good tool/concept to pull out of the lean toolbox.  Operators shouldn’t leave the area to go look for the tools/parts that should have been in the area of the changeover.

Here are just a few ideas to get you started in thinking about how to use 5S to help reduce changeover time:

  • Have everything that is needed brought to the area and ready before the last good piece of the run comes off the machine (some of this may be brought to an area on an organized cart)
  • Have the tools/parts needed within reach of the physical location from where it will be used (no walking, even in the area, to get what is needed)
  • Think about organizing the tools in the order they will be used (this can also help make visual where someone is in the changeover process)
  • Be sure to have plenty of tools (you have a wrench but if it is being passed between two people why not buy a wrench for each person so they can work at the same time)

I have seen changeover times drop by 50+% just from implementing good 5S practices around changeover tools/parts.