Monday, February 27, 2006

Sears Quick Tool Change Replacement Muda

Sears has a cool quick tool change system in their Craftsman tool line called Speed Lok that has converted me from the old method of changing drill bits with a key. The Speed Lok system has a quick connection that allows for the quick change. It works great on projects where I need to drill a pilot hole first then easily change bits to screw in the boards.

From a lean manufacturing point of view, this is a nice quick change system. However, when it comes to getting a replacement bit, the Sears system has muda. All drill bits are considered perishable tooling with tool wear and breakage so there will come a time to replace a bit. This past weekend, in the middle of a project, my 5/32" bit broke.

I thought it would not be a problem to just replace it. It didn't turn out as easy as I originally thought. Apparently, my local Sears store does not carry individual bits of the Speed Lok system yet carried a wide selection of the old key method bits which could be bought individually. My only choice, if I wanted to stay with the Speed Lok, was to buy another set. The smallest set was 21 pieces. Why force a customer to buy 21 pieces when they only need 1 piece? MUDA!

Maybe a different Sears store carries individual bits but that would take me out of my way. Good thing the 21 piece set was on sale, I saved 50% of the cost. If I could have bought just the individual bit, I'm sure I could have saved even more.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Sound of Manufacturing

In my recent post on the Top 5 Rules of Effective Measurement Boards, Rule #5 is to meet daily at the boards. And the best method is to go to gemba and meet directly on the shop floor in a manufacturing environment. As Rick Maher points out in his comment, they love their boards for their daily meeting however "we are unable/unwilling to hold our daily meeting at the boards because the noise of the plant is too loud and distracting". Their solution is to move the boards which are on casters to a conference room for their daily meeting. Any ideas?

The public image of manufacturing as a place of smoke stacked buildings that are dark, dreary, dirty, oily, smelly, and noisy is certainly a throwback to the old days. That is not say that all manufacturing plants are a Garden of Eden, but many improvements to the manufacturing environment have taken place over the years.

In a lean journey, a strong 5-S program helps dramatically improve the working environment of a manufacturing plant. In the past, dirt and poor light were an accepted condition because that is just the way it is in a manufacturing setting. With 5-S, we changed that way of thinking. Dirt, clutter and darkness are not allowed anymore. But what about noise?

Noise is probably the last area to conquer in manufacturing. Rick's plant is probably just like many of our plants. With all the bells blaring , towmotors revving , horns honking, metal slamming, intercom chattering, air compressors churning , air hoses hissing, motors running, skids dropping not to mention people yelling, music blaring, saws buzzing, belts turning, conveyors squeaking, hammers banging, welders buzzing, presses pounding, tools humming and fans turning. The problem is that we are conditioned to accept this noise level as just the way of manufacturing life.

Without knowing any details of Rick's plant, I will try to offer a few improvement ideas. First, decide that noise levels can be improved just like dirt and low lighting. Start by asking the 5 Whys to get at the root cause of noise. For example: towmotors make lots of noise, why? They have loud mufflers? Why? The mufflers have holes in them? Why? they have not been replaced? Why? Maintenance has not replaced them? Why? Not listed on a PM Program.
Now we can replace the mufflers and add them to the PM program.

If you pushed the lean principles, I would ask the questions from a different point of view. Why do we need towmotors in the first place? We move bulk stock around the plant. If we organized into cells with one piece flow, towmotors can be eliminated (or drastically reduced). One noise source eliminated. So try to eliminate it before reducing it.

The overall noise issue would be an excellent Kaizen event. Form a team to root out all the noise sources and eliminate or reduce them. A sound meter can be easily purchased for low cost to measure the before and after noise levels. Set a goal for an 80% reduction in one week.

Be creative in your approach with isolating noisy equipment with sound dampening panels and eliminating metal to metal contacts (use padding, carpet, foam, plastic, etc.). Use two-way communication systems instead of a plant wide intercom. Block the air compressor noise by isolating it or adding dampening panels. As you replace tools, make lower sound levels a desirable criteria in the selection process. Have a plant wide effort for noise reduction by fixing leaks, replacing hoses, and oiling squeaks. Are all the buzzers and bells still useful? Get rid of unneeded signals. Don't get in the habit of turning on all the equipment at the beginning of the shift when some equipment is not needed. Turn off these machines when not used regularly.

I hope these suggestions help in your lean journey and reduce the noise levels. If anybody has other suggestions or experiences with noise reduction efforts in their plants, please help us by adding them to our comments. Thank you Rick for presenting an outstanding challenge!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Waste can Sometimes be Put to Good Use

I promote the elimination of waste as one of the driving forces of lean manufacturing and I am not deviating from that objective. However, I saw a cool example of turning waste into a second, useful life.

This past week, I ordered an Imada force gauge and test stand from MSC Industrial Supply. My buying experience was outstanding. MSC arranged for a non-catalogue item (the specific test stand I wanted) directly shipped from Imada within two days. Instead of saying "Sorry, we don't carry it", they told me "Let me see what we can get from the manufacturer!". All over the phone it two minutes. Great Job MSC!

When the package arrived at the my dock door, I quickly got the packing slip passed on to purchasing and opened the box. The cool idea I saw inside was waste put to good use. A bundle of shredded office paper in a plastic bag was used as protective padding. What an excellent use of typical paper waste. Great idea Imada!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Point the Way on Charts on Graphs

Here is a good idea I recommend for your charts and graphs on measurement boards - adding an arrow. This arrow will indicate the good direction of the chart. For example, a quality PPM goal will be positive if decreasing so the arrow will point down.

Many people may not understand how to read your charts at a quick glance. Some charts going up is good and other charts going down is the positive direction. It may be confusing which one is which on your chart. So make it easier for them! Add this little visual indicator and everyone will quickly see which direction is the positive one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Top 5 Rules of Effective Measurement Boards

Keep everyone informed by using a department measurement board or dashboard listing the top metrics during your lean improvement journey. For measurement boards to be of any value, here are a few must do rules.

Rule #1 Board Information Must Always Be Current

To be effective, the board must be updated regularly with the latest information. Once the information becomes stale like an old bread loaf on the kitchen counter, it will be useless as an improvement tool.

Rule #2 Boards Display Only Most Important Metrics

When choosing metrics for a company, plant or department, the list grows fast to cover all the possible measures that management deems important to control a business. That's the wrong approach from the old way of "thinking". Remember, you are now "Lean Thinking". That means metrics should be specific to the goals of a lean thinking organization. Measure safety, Measure time (order to customer delivery to payment), Measure quality from the customer point of view (complaints and defect in Parts Per Million), Measure number of improvements, Measure the bottom line.

Rule #3 Promote the Team

The results of each metric is due to the diligence, creativity and basic roll-up-your-sleeves hard work by each team member of the area. Give them the credit for what the metrics display. Put their names and pictures out front for all to see.

Rule #4 Boards Show Future Action

It is important to show the metrics and achievements of the department on the board. Track progress, be proud of the accomplishments and recognize the team. But in reality, it looking at life through the rear view mirror. The measurement boards are also boards of action. List countermeasures, improvement action plans, people responsible and implementation dates. Emphasis should be towards the future on what we are planning to do in addition to the history lesson of what we have already accomplished.

Rule #5 Meet Daily at the Boards

As mentioned many times before, lean manufacturing principles strongly promotes going to gemba. Instead of a typical daily manufacturing staff meeting or production meeting held in the conference room, go around to each of the department board for the updates. Have the leader or even an individual team member update the group from the board. It will certainly promote the importance of the metrics for all to see and give others the chance to see improvements at gemba. Improvements can be seen in 3-D on the shop floor better than any paper report.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Needs a Good Home

A place for everything and everything in its place is the motto of 5-S. The muda of searching for items and the added frustration after a lengthy hunt can be eliminated by following this principle. To follow this deceptively simple principle can be a challenge.

All it takes is organization (establishing a home), communication (letting everyone know where is home) and discipline ( putting it back after use). The hardest of the three is usually the discipline portion of the equation. We tend to let our bad behaviors and old habits get in the way of change. We can also rationalize that we will put it back later because something important just came up. With training, persistence, and following up, we can overcome these old habits. If you show that this is important, it will become important to others.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Biggest Barrier in American Business Getting Lean

One of the most basic fundamentals in the lean approach to business is the single biggest barrier preventing the majority of business "getting it". It can be simply put just like the title of Jim Womack and Daniel Jones' book, it's all about "Lean Thinking".

As Dr. Shigeo Shingo stated, "much more than a matter of technique; it is an entirely new way of thinking about production itself". That's our problem. We don't think lean, we just use the tools..sometimes.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Gas Tank Poka-Yoke

Have you ever been driving a rental car (or a car that you normally don't drive) when you pull into the gas station to fill up only to realize that you don't know which side of the car is the gas tank? In the past, you had a 50/50 chance of getting it right when you pulled up to the pump. After getting out of the car to check, you may have to pull back in on the other side...Definitely muda.

Here is a great example of a simple poka-yoke device that solves this problem. Look on the dashboard at the gas gauge. Most newer cars have added a simple arrow indicating the correct side of the vehicle to fill up the gas tank. Cool poka-yoke device, almost as good as the low gas indicator!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Signs don't always Work

Signs have been a common method to communicate information since the beginning of the written word. Unfortunately, we don't always follow the instructions as seen in this actual plant photo. I wonder why this particular sign did not cause people to follow it's directive? Many times we think by just putting a sign up will solve or prevent a problem. Think again!

Should we track down the offenders and make public examples of their civil disobedience. Verbal warning, written warning, double secret probation or just fire them? Some management would think along these lines.

Wouldn't it be a better approach to poka-yoke (mistake proof) the situation. Putting this lean principle into action, maybe a sloped roof would prevent this problem. Are there places within your work environment where signs are ignored too? Take a moment to see if a better approach can be put into action.