Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Just Right Size It

One of the challenges in kaizen is getting people to see beyond their perceived boundaries to what is possible. One example is using right sized equipment. Many times we end up buying the best value of equipment for the money with as many bells and whistles possible, just in case we need them in the future. With this thought process, we end up with larger equipment with unused capabilities than what we actually need.

Driven by our “finance thinking”, we can take advantage of our newly acquired, multi-purpose machine by herding more parts to it. How many of us have actually searched for parts to load up the capacity of these types of machines? This helps pay for the machine and proves (on paper, at least) that we really needed it. Agreed?

Using larger equipment including workbenches, tables, fixtures, etc beyond what is the absolute minimum required for the current process is muda. Many of us understand this concept and attempt to use the right sized equipment principle. As lean thinkers, we also prefer to utilize small, dedicated machines to prevent process bottlenecks and separate our process flows.

A perceived boundary we struggle with in using right sized equipment is only seeing what is offered. Most equipment manufacturers do not customize their equipment design for our particular process. As a result, we end up selecting the best off-the-shelf piece of equipment closest to our needs.

Here lies a great opportunity. The two best alternatives are to 1) build our own equipment or 2) Modify off-the-shelf equipment to fit our needs.

As seen in the above photo, at Batesville Casket Company, we believe in right sizing equipment to our needs. It took a moment to realize (see the possibility) that we were not limited to the standard table saw size. In this example, we cut down (modified) a table saw to reduce the foot print to the smallest as possible for this line. This is just one kaizen implemented helping us reduce the overall floor space by 42% a few weeks ago.


Anonymous said...

Mike, excellent post. Another thing to think about: right sizing the footprint of equipment is essential for reducing waste (muda) of floor space. However, in the goal to right size equipment, many organizations and teams forget the operator and “right size” the working height to a lower level. In turn this can cause the operator (feeding lumber into the saw) to work in a bent and awkward posture; introducing ergonomic risk and waste (muda) of motion.

My point is to consider all elements of the workplace (floor space, flow, motion, ergonomic risk factors) to ensure the improvement of one issue does not introduce another exposure (safety, ergonomic, etc.).

Mike Wroblewski said...

Walt, thanks for your excellent comment and you are spot on. It is not enought to just look at footprint area. It is critical to include the 3-D aspect (all elements) to reduce the burden on the associate when using the machine/equipment. We did add casters to this saw and checked the height of both the saw and the material rack feeding this saw to make it easier for our associate.