Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mocking Boards

As we embrace many of the lean ways including shifting to a more visual management approach, be careful not to turn a good visual management board into a mocking board.

Let me explain. Recently, while on a gemba walk through a plant, I spotted a new TPM board by one of the machines. TPM stands for Total Productive Maintenance. From the aisle, I could see some cool stuff on the board including a TPM map, TPM checksheets, timelines, problem logs, problem tags, etc. Excited and curious about this new visual management board, I approached the operator and asked her about it.

Her reply surprised me. “Oh, that. It’s my mocking board.”

I asked her what she meant by mocking board. She explained that the board was just put up a month ago by maintenance. She even attended a training session on filling out all the forms and how to do tasks to check on the machine herself. The first couple of days, they (the maintenance guys) were responsive to fixing items on the machine but than nothing.

For weeks nothing more happened despite all the tagging and logging of items requiring attention. She had asked her supervisor, on several occasions, on the status when maintenance was going to fix the items. No answer and no action.

As a result, she now views the visual board as a mocking board. All the items stay on the list, always in front of her, mocking her, because they are still undone. It is a visual monument to all that is wrong and broken with her machine with no activity to fix it.

Wow. Here are the beginnings of a cool visual management system that is quickly turning into a clear message that as managers we do not care.

The good thing is that this problem is quite visible and all we have to do is see it and take action to correct it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Where's the SMED?

The SMED system which stands for Single Minute Exchange of Dies, developed by Shigeo Shingo and published in his 1985 book, guides us to achieve a machine setups in under 10 minutes. The quick changeover thinking has been around for a couple of decades now but many companies still have not achieved this level of changeover. To this day, we have setups taking 60 minutes and longer. Why?

Are these long setups not viewed as a problem?

Do we just accept the status quo of long setups?

Do we even track and monitor setups?

Is it easier the just buy faster (more expensive) machines than to roll up our sleeves and figure out how to reduce our changeovers?

Is it not a priority? Are we too busy with out limited resources (yet we let go resources in the last layoff)? Short term thinking wins again?

Where’s the SMED? Can any company report that all of their setups are 10 minutes or less?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Best Kanban Signal of All

There are many types of kanban. A kanban could be cards, bins, containers, trays, carts, spots on the floor, golf balls, ping pong balls just to name a few. What’s the best kanban signal?

First, what is a kanban? A kanban is simply a signal used to authorize production in a production system. Any method of signal works can work well if we are disciplined to follow and maintain the system. A kanban is typically tied directly to the physical parts making it easier to keep in synch with demand. As parts are pulled for consumption, this signal is sent to the supplying workstation or source as authorization to make more parts to replace the ones used.

However, before we automatically jump to using any kanban system just because we believe it is the “lean” thing to do, is there a specific problem or need in the first place? This is one of the most common mistakes made on the lean journey. We see a lean technique and rush to put it in use everywhere we possibly can. It’s like holding a hammer and running around looking for nails to hit, soon everything starts looking like nails. We rarely take the time to really understand our problems or needs before we act.

What if we can produce products for our customers in one week while the customer delivery expectation is two weeks, would we set up a kanban system to replenish parts? No, just build to the actual customer order which is the best kanban signal of all.

In this example, there is no need for a typical kanban replenishment system at this time. But if our leadtime extends beyond our customers delivery expectation, we certainly have a need to set up a production system to satisfy our customer with the least amount of inventory. After gaining a better understanding of the problem, we might consider using a kanban system while we are working on reducing our production leadtime within our customer delivery expectation.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Lean Six Sigma Survey

James Marsh, Senior Researcher at Sheffield Hallam University is requesting our help in the lean community on his research project exploring Lean and or Six Sigma and its environmental benefits/tradeoffs. It takes 5-10 minutes to complete and is completely anonymous.

Please click on this link

Thank you for your help!

Top 14 Ways to Reduce Changeovers

If you are looking to boost your output or increase your responsiveness to customer demand but want to avoid the significant capital costs of purchasing new equipment, take a look at reducing your changeovers or setups. If you typically spend one hour to changeover a machine and run 8-10 setups a week, you are wasting a whole day a week or up to 52 days a year of potential machine time. Try focusing on these few things and you can spend less time in your changeovers almost immediately.

1.Have Everything Ready for the Changeover Next to the Machine Ahead of Time. This means everything- material, tooling, tools, fixtures, paperwork, check gages, etc. Our goal is not to leave the machine to search for anything while doing a changeover. No more walking around and searching. Create a home location staging area for these items or use a tool setup cart and make it easy to find these items in order of need during the set up all within reach. Anyone can really lead this activity once trained in what needs to be collected up-the machine operator, the setup person, the leadperson, the supervisor, a temp employee, or even one of the office employees. Even if you don’t do any of these others items list below, DO THIS ONE.

2. Use a Checklist. The easiest and simplest way not to forget any items needed for each changeover is to list everything on a checklist and use this list to verify things are not missing ahead of time. A pencil and paper is all you need to create a checklist.

3. Fix Broken Equipment. What gages, tools and equipment are broken and we force the setup operators to workaround these problems? Find what is broken and repair it.

4. Keep up with Current Events. Make sure all the data (program numbers, machine settings, etc) are the latest and greatest. The only thing worse that not having information is to have conflicting or wrong information. Review all the standard set up documents and make sure all the right information is recorded and consistent.

5. Just Ask. By simply talking with the set up operators and asking what would be helpful to make setups easier, you can find out what they need. If you ask, be prepared to act on this information fast. If not, you will be sending a message that management doesn’t care and this valuable source of information can be lost in the future.

6. Look for Cheat Sheets and Share the Knowledge. Some operators who perform changeovers have a log book or set up notes to help them remember setup information. Use this information to look for helpful “tricks” or techniques that is undocumented. Officially record this information to eliminate the need for having personal notebooks and share it.

7. Improve Homemade Work Aids. Perhaps the setup operator has made up some cool homemade work aids to position, lift, gage hold, align or perform some other function in a setup. How can we improve this homemade devises?

8. Double up the Changeover Team. Most setups are done by a single person which can add to the wasted time in a setup especially when we need to work on both sides of the machine. What would happen if we used a two person team for changeovers? More likely we can cut our setup time in half and do tasks in parallel.

9. Don’t Skimp on the Tooling. Invest in additional sets of tool holders so the tooling can be pre-set ahead of time. But before you wake up your purchasing person to start ordering all this brand new tooling, do a plant wide sort (step 1 from 5S) and see if there are any underutilized tooling that can be used. Check the auction pages for potential sources of used tooling. Go to local shops or manufacturing facilities to see if they are willing to sell any of their tooling. You don’t have to duplicate all the tooling immediately to make a big impact, target a few critical setups and concentrate on getting a few holders to start.

10. The Best Changeover is No Changeover at All. What opportunities are there to dedicate equipment to certain parts thereby eliminate the setup completely?

11. Don’t Screw Around. How much time are we spending bolting, fastening, blocking and clamping the tools? Can we reduce the number of bolts and clamps? Can you use ¼ turn bolts or other quick clamps? Can we replace manual tools with an air ratchet?

12. Throw Away your Hand Tools. Taking the last step a bit further, can we eliminate the need for hand tools all together? Instead of using allen head screws or bolts, can we use hand twist ¼ turn fastener?

13. Put it Away Later. Sometimes in our eagerness to maintain an organized workplace, we have conditioned ourselves to put things away immediately. This is a great behavior but don’t delay a setup with putting items away. Wait until the machine is up and running and then put everything back in it’s home location.

14. Don’t Go the Mountain; Make the Mountain Come to You. What resources demand the setup operator leave the machine? For example, do we have to take the first piece parts to a Quality Lab for approval? Instead of going to the Quality department what if we had the Quality department came to us? Take a close look at our quality procedures and requirements with the goal of approving the part at the machine with no waiting. What do we need to make this happen? Can’t we get the quality inspector to be at the machine when needed? Do we really need to use that monument QA equipment instead of portable check gages or go/no-go gages?