Lean Manufacturing Projects

Industrial Filters

Position: Project Manager

Objective: Reduce cycle time of a product line from 6-8 weeks to < 2 weeks.

Results: Published cycle time of one week; 24 hour cycle time available; labor cost reduced 41%; inventory reduced 15%; WIP reduced 67%.

Summary: We first analyzed the process (value stream mapping) and found that order entry and engineering each took one week. The resulting job order went from department to department in the shop and that took 4-6 weeks. By simplifying the process and paperwork in both order entry and engineering (over-processing), we reduced the office time to one day or less.

Since the shop was laid out by machine type, a product had to travel throughout the shop in order to be manufactured. We created a work cell in which all products in question could be made. The cell concept was advantageous for this operation for several reasons:

  • It allowed us to change from batch orders to single piece orders, which were more suited to customer demand. If a customer ordered a small quantity, it was not an imposition. (reduce overproduction)
  • It reduced transportation between operations. (Waste of transportation)
  • It reduced handling (wasted motion) by eliminating trips to and from the stock room.
  • It reduced WIP (wasted inventory)
  • It increased flexibility in capacity because the cell could be operated with one to six employees.
  • Reduced handling reduced scrap and rework.

The only operation that was changed significantly from the main shop was the punch press operation. The punch press set up took eight hours initially and had to be done by an experienced set up mechanic. We were forced to simplify the set up for two reasons: 1- to reduce cycle time, and 2- to simplify the task so that an operator could set up the press. If the set up remained the same, we would be restricted to a minimum of two people at the cell and one had to be a skilled mechanic. Availability of the mechanic was also a consideration. We had a press purchased for the cell. It was smaller than the other presses in the shop because it had a dedicated product. The die sets were also dedicated and were set up with dowels so that the set up time by a non-skilled employee was about fifteen minutes.

X-ray Film Processors

Position: Manufacturing Support

Objective: Build to Demand

Result: Build mixed models to demand; finished goods reduced.

Summary: The Company built X-ray film processors according to a sales forecast and stocked the finished goods. Because of the complexity of the units, it was thought that they had to be built in batches. In addition, a unit build mode was being used where one or two people would build a complete unit. An assembly line based on a Kanban pull system was initiated. I was part of the team that determined the operations on the line, calculated the Takt time, wrote the work instructions and certified the operators for each station.

Portable Air Tools

Position: Senior Consultant

Objective: Increase Production

Result: Production increased 50% from 1200 units/month to 1800 units/month

Production changed from small batch to single piece flow.

Summary: A new production line had been set up intending to produce 1800 units/month. Current production was 1200 units/month. Because the new unit was very well received in the marketplace, it was desired to have the existing line produce 2000 units/month and be scalable to 4000 units/month. If possible, production should change from the small batch quantity to a single piece flow. There are four model families and currently 750 model variations. When design is complete, there will be approximately 1000 variations. The time frame for all implementations is four weeks.

A group was selected from the assemblers and key support personnel. Everyone was given basic Lean 101 training so that all would have a minimum amount of knowledge. They were then led through a review and change of the layout with coaching by the consultants.

It was found that 2000 units/month was attainable and the prorated amount of 100 units/day was actually attained on the first day of start up.

A team coalesced from the group and systematically began addressing the factors that hindered production.

The team had listed these factors in the previous four weeks.

Single piece flow was accomplished.

$160,000 of excess inventory was removed from the floor.

The required assembly space was reduced by 1/3.

The project was completed in four weeks.

Fire Resistant Safes

Position: Senior Consultant

Objective: Increase throughput

Result: Developed and ran a pilot system which would enable production to meet design; production could increase from 100 units/hour to 180 units/hour

Summary: A client had recently installed a complete (raw material to packaging) production line for its new "flagship" product. The line had been designed for 180 units/hour and while current needs were 150 units/hour, current production was averaging 100 units/ hour. The objective was to determine the reason(s) that the current production rate did not meet the design production rate and then propose and demonstrate a solution that would increase the production rate to 150 units/hour.

The reason for the reduction in the production rate was that the length of the production line was too great for the existing culture. Although teamwork and Lean Thinking were evident, they were not strong enough to support a single, long line. Once the line stopped, all production stopped. In an effort to maintain production, employees 'batched' products and created WIP. This exacerbated the problem. The solution was to break the assembly part of the line into four independent cells for the following reasons:

  • It is easier to create a work team of eight employees than it is to create a work team of thirty two employees.
  • Flexibility increased: If there were a problem with one cell, the other three cells would not stop production. Four models could be made at one time.

One cell was created as a trial. Employees selected for the cell were not given any training initially and did not make the intended rate. They were then trained in 5S, work standardization and teamwork fundamentals. Finally, they were coached for one week in how to implement what they had learned.

The cell was created as a spur of the main assembly line and the employees initially made 30 units/hour. This would equate to 120 units/hour if there were four cells. After training and coaching, al teams (three shifts) were averaging 45 units/hour, which would equate to 180 units/hour for four cells.

Cardboard Boxes

Position: Consultant

Objective: Create on-time delivery; if possible, reduce floor space.

Result: 100% on-time deliveries in the first month; 80% WIP eliminated; 1000 ft2 of floor space made available.

Summary: A box manufacturer had a product line that habitually missed delivery dates. In addition, it was thought that additional floor space was needed because they seemed to be running out of room.

The production quantities were restricted to equal the order quantities; production was limited to customer orders. Set up and material handling time were reduced. Three work centers created the product. The first center was in a separate building from the other two, so it was decided to make daily, scheduled runs between the buildings. The third work center was moved next to the second work center and a Kanban area was set up so that the third center pulled from the second center.