Forecasting is possible with respect to operation length. With a bit of planning, it is very easy to determine how long it should take to complete any part of the manufacturing process. The joy of forecasting is that it will help you to determine what the total time a process should take will be and can help identify when there is a problem in the manufacturing process.

For example, if a process is forecast to take four minutes and it is consistently taking five, this is the first indicator that something is not working properly. This can mean that the forecast was wrong and other revisions need to be made to accurately reflect the development costs of the project or it may mean that there is a problem with either the employee or the machinery being use to perform the operation.

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If the forecast is too short, then the base cost of the product may have been underestimated and the price scale may need to be revised. If the forecast is proving to be too long, it can indicate a need to review the product to determine if all aspects of the process are being completed properly.  On occasion, it can mean that someone did not understand the process properly and is missing a step. It is important to catch these errors early as if they go unnoticed, they can lead to the production of defective products and the need for massive amounts of reworking.

Knowing what is required to complete a process is essential to accurate completing a job. If the company’s engineers are not able to adequately estimate process times, then it may also indicate a problem in the engineering process. If they are not making accurate time estimates, then they may be underestimating your costs and cutting into profit margins.

 

 

Always think one step ahead and that you are always looking to the future. With lean manufacturing options, it is imperative to plan ahead. If you cannot think of the next step and look to how one step affects the next, the entire process will be delayed.

The best way to think of it is as a form of whole body manufacturing.  What’s good for the toes have to be also good for the knees, arms, fingers and eyes or the process falls apart. If the toes then are only thinking about themselves and not thinking about what might be good for the rest of the body, then the support for the entire project fails and the body dies.

Thinking about how to build the next step on to the one that is currently underway means two things. First, it means planning for the operation to go smoothly. If you can envision how one step becomes the next, then you can envision how the product comes together and can find ways to make the process work more efficiently.

The second objective is to literally be looking toward the future. As part of a lean manufacturing team, you should be able to think about the next step for your company and your product. Imagine how else it might be used or what other supplemental products could be developed to accompany it. By thinking one step ahead, you can help improve the company’s future and therefore your own.

 

 

 

Human performance ergonomics can accelerate your Lean manufacturing process with low-cost and high-impact solutions. Melding the human machine with the mechanical devices in your company can create new ways of looking at the manufacturing process and simple solutions that had previously been overlooked. One of the keys to lean manufacturing is both the minimizing of the overhead and the excess processes and one of the simplest ways to do that is to make the ergonomic corrections to workspaces that make doing the job that much easier.

One of the simplest ways to make a worksite most ergonomically correct is to raise the work surface to a comfortable level. This should be done to eliminate the need for stretching, bending and twisting. Not only does this make the worksite safer for your employees, but it also makes it faster. Without the need to bend and stretch, the time taken for each individual part is improved and the entire line can move faster.

Another rway to make work stations more human performance based is to create storage areas for the most commonly used materials and tools as close to the work area as possible. Again, it is important to eliminate any unnecessary movement and to streamline the process. Each additional movement adds time to your production line and makes the entire assembly more expensive and take longer.

It can be hard to fathom that every second added to the assembly means an increase in costs, but each extra movement for each person is cutting into the company’s bottom line. By streamlining the work area we assure that workers avoid stretching and straining injuries and help to minimize the danger of repetitive stress injuries.

Other ways that the human factor can be considered in the manufacturing process is to consider seating for employees who will remain in the same place for several hours or to provide cushioned mats if the job requires that they stand for hours.

 

 

 

 

Cross training of the employees is to have job rotation and sharing.  One of the keys to kaizen manufacturing is to be sure that we are not overly reliant on any single employee. Having specialist is a good thing as people tend to be fastest at thing they do on a regular basis, but if an employee can only do one thing in the assembly process, we are missing their potential and possibly harming the entire process. Teaching employees how to back one another up through techniques like job sharing and job rotation helps build teamwork.

The concept is really simple. If all Susie does is operate a CNC lathe, she might become really good at it. But what happens when Susie is sick or on vacation? If no one else knows how to use the lathe, then the machine sits empty while we wait for Susie to get back.

Or worse yet, what is the lathe breaks?  Do we send Susie home because her machine is down?  Or what if we are behind in the painting department, but all Susie knows how to do is operate the lathe and she is days or weeks ahead of schedule? Do we continue buidlign a surplus of parts we don’t currently need so that she can keep working at her usual job?

None of those options make any sense, yet many companies operate with just that mentality because it might be difficult to cross train their employees. Yes, the extra training does take an investment of time and yes it sometimes takes employees away from the things they excel at, but it can be key to building teamwork and letting people develop a sense of community within the workplace.

An important part of any cross training program should be regular implementation of the system. Especially if the work is technical or precise, employees should be encouraged to practice another position on a regular basis. After all, it does you no good to train Sam to operate Susie’s lathe if you never ask him to do it except for once a year while she’s on vacation. Cross training requires regularly practicing the different skills we develop. One way to do this is to get two people to share two jobs and take turns at them.

Nope, sharing is not just for kindergarten. Job sharing can mean that both employees are a bit more productive and interested in their jobs. Switching regularly stimulates their minds and makes them think about the job instead of simply doing it by rote.

Another advantage of rotating jobs among your staff is that one might observe a cost cutting measure that others have missed. The best way to find cost-savings measures is to find them I your own work station. If several employees do the same job over the course of a month or a few weeks, then there are that many more pairs of eyes looking at the system and identifying things that can be done to improve it.

 

 

Sequence generation helps identify non value added steps: storing, moving and unnecessary inspection steps. Taking the time necessary to identify each step of a manufacturing process can help you find the places where you aren’t making money and possibly eliminate them. This is a simple process that can help companies figure out what steps they have been taking just because that’s the way we’ve always done it or because we simply don’t realize how much time we are wasting with these seemingly insignificant little steps.

It sounds simple. Raw materials or parts come in from suppliers then theya re taken to the line where they are needed and voila we turn them into the things we make, right? Sadly, it is almost never that easy.

First, we have to check the parts that came in to make sure that they meet our specifications, that we got the right number, etc. Then, almost invariably they get stored somewhere until the line is ready for them. That part we should be taking care of in the ordering system, with a just in time delivery system, but once it is on the plant floor, we need to determine how our rubber bands become widgets.

In almost every manufacturing system, there is a place where the process breaks down.  If there is something we are doing along the way, between getting the rubber band and making it into the perfect widget, that is wasting time or money by taking our time or employee resources and it is not making the widget better or stronger or helping it to sell, then that step needs to be eliminated.

Quality control certainly means that we need to inspect our widgets and make sure that they are meeting the standards set for them, but double and triple inspecting si sometimes done again without thinking about it. For example, if a part is inspected as it comes off one machine and then checked again before it begins the next step, the inspections are redundant and wasteful.

If parts are being stored in a location away from where they will be used and have to be moved back and forth between the usage area and the storage area, we are wasting company time.

The most simple way to create a sequence generation is to literally walk a part through from the moment it comes through the shipping bay door to the time it is packaged and on its way out again. For larger operations this can be a more figurative walk through,  but for smaller sites, actually walking the floor can help show points where problems can occur.

 

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Ergonomic design can increase productivity significantly while eliminating work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Mention ergonomics and everyone immediately thinks office. But the reality is that having a well-designed workspace can make everyone’s job faster and more comfortable. Equally importantly, it can prevent repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome which cause pain for our employees and our pocket books.

Repetitive stress injuries occur when we subject out bodies to doing the same thing over and over again in a position that is not natural for our bodies. One of the first observed forms of this was carpal tunnel syndrome in typists who held their hands at a prescribed but uncomfortable angle for hours on end. We have since learned that repetitive stress injuries can happen to virtually any bone in the body, though it is most common in joints.

One of the first ways companies sought to deal with these injuries was to give employees breaks and while that offers some immediate relief, it was until medical professionals got involved that we discovered that we could modify our body positions ever so slightly and prevent the injuries.

Imagine how surprised we were to find that Mom was right and posture does matter. By sitting properly at the keyboard, typists can achieve better accuracy and faster typing. The same thing applies in a work station.  If an assembly line is designed at a height that requires less stretching and bending for your employees, they will be able to work faster. Every extra motion eats up time. Sure, it’s only a second here or two seconds there, but all those seconds add up over the course of the work day and slow your production.

And, the more you require an employee to turn, twist, bend and reach to do their jobs, the more likely they are to twist wrong and injure themselves. Proper planning prevents on the job injuries and the costly medical bills that go with them. Keeping your work force healthy also means that production is not delayed by training a new person to do the job or having to take a cross-trained employee out of another position to replace the injured employee.

The benefits of ergonomically designed work spaces are many and the bottom line for the company is that planning ahead and making the ergonomic changes needed save wear and tear on you employees, making your assembly plant a happier, safer and more productive place to work.

 

 

 

 

Communication and team work are key to Kaizen manufacturing.  Because one of the principle components of this system is to maintain our supplies at the precise needed levels, it is imperative that we are all working toward the same goals and are talking to one another. Nothing can stop an assembly process more quickly than a lack of communication in the development process.

Take for example the fiasco GM faced in 1991. The design team at GM thought the six-passenger Chevy Caprice was a winner. But when they took it before the factory workers at the Willow Run Assembly Plant, the people who actually build the cars weren’t so sure. “Everybody said, ‘Wow, What an ugly car!’” (Rimer, 1992) No one told management that they hated the new car and they built it anyway.  The car bombed and in 1993, the plant that made it was closed (Rimer, 1992).

To be honest, the people on the line will not be right one hundred percent of the time. But they are consumers and some of them have been building your product a lot longer than the guys in engineering and design. If someone had said something when they first saw that 1991 Chevy Caprice, could the employees at Willow Run still be employed?  It’s hard to say. But what we do know is that if they felt they had a vested interest in the company’s success, if they knew that they would be listened to and their opinions mattered, it could have saved GM from a car that magazines called a nightmare and Shamu the whale (Rimer, 1992).

The idea behind this concept is that everyone has a good idea sometimes. It may come from a secretary who takes a shortcut through the factory and wonders why a production process is not more streamlined or it may come from a line worker who notices after doing something five hundred or a thousand times that it would be quicker if…

Like maybe it would be easier to put those o-rings on with a dental pick.

This can be a tricky proposition, because it is very easy for a company to get bogged down if everyone is trying to redesign the process. Thus, the first place this should start is at your own work station. Before you begin telling someone else how to improve their work, think about your own. And, there is no need to run straight to the president with your ideas. Start by talking with your line leader or direct supervisor about your ideas. A good time for this is during setup or clean up, so you are not interrupting product flow. And, realize that what sounds like a really good idea, may have been tried before or there may be a reason why it can’t work.

That dental pick idea, seemed like a good one at the time, but it turns out that sharp objects, like dental picks can slice right though some rubber and the o-ring looks good to the naked eye, but fails to do its job resulting in product failure.

The other key is to have everyone working toward the same goal. How this is accomplished varies from factory to factory, but mostly it begins from the top down. If management can give employees a clear idea of the goals, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly, then employees can take a greater interest in making sure those goals are met. For the folks at Willow Run who were thinking that no one was going to buy their product, they were right. But few of them knew exactly what that would mean to the company and ultimately to them.

 

 

 

 

 

Rimer, Sara. “A Caprice that chevy Couldn’t Sell”October 24, 1992,  New York Times http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE6DD153FF937A15753C1A964958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=print, November 11, 2007.