Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book Review|Lonnie Wilson|How to Implement Lean Manufacturing

I will spend some time reviewing Lonnie Wilson’s book “HOW TO IMPLEMENT LEAN MANUFACTURING”, in general I do not like books that claim to be able to help a company implement something as complex as lean.

When anyone asks me if they should buy a book, I usually say “NO”. Especially if the reason for buying the book is to become an overnight so called expert in the subject after spending their evening reading the idiots guide on how to xyz…

No book can show you how to implement lean manufacturing specific for your own company, your processes, your situation is very different to anyone else’s. The concepts of lean have to be applied specifically to your own situation, which book can do this, this book can’t and neither can any other book.

Don’t buy this book or any other if you expect it to somehow transform you into the expert that your company really needs. You will not be doing yourself or your company any favours. Lean manufacturing is not something that you can learn from a book!

This book cannot teach you everything that you need to know to be able to implement lean manufacturing, you need help! You need someone that has been there, seen it, and is now wearing the t-shirt as they say! I will speak at length in a later post about the selection of lean manufacturing consultants to help you with how to implement lean manufacturing.

You may get the idea that I am negative about the book, I am if you think it will help you go from scratch to being able to implement lean and make business improvements! If you want it as a guide and some examples of how to implement specific ideas then it can help, but you will need an expert, the best of books are no replacement for someone with experience.

Don’t buy the book unless you want it as a reference, a repository of ideas on how to implement the various techniques, an alternative to compare what your consultant is doing against, but not as the answer to all of your problems! The book will give you some ideas about what techniques are available and some good examples of how they can be applied.

Lonnie Wilson’s book “How to Implement Lean Manufacturing” is not the answer, but it is close! With the right help and experience it can be helpful, but don’t expect that reading a book will turn your business around!

Seven Wastes|Eighth Waste

In previous posts on how to implement lean manufacturing I have been discussing the seven wastes, as in all lists it is necessary to add one or two after the original number. So in the tradition of the forth part of a trilogy and the 102nd of the 101 ways I will present to you the eighth of the seven wastes – and maybe even throw in the 9th and 10th.

Generally accepted as being the eighth waste is that of the waste of Human Talent, not using all that your wonderful staff can contribute to your business. How many businesses neglect to ask their employees how to improve the business, after all what would they know? They have only worked there for the last generation or two between them and have seen every up and down that the business has to offer as well as their life time experience – what would they know?

Well, they probably know a lot more than you! Combine all of their thinking power and they will know an awful lot more than you – so use them. It does not matter what business improvement technique you look at, it will talk about team building and using your biggest asset, that of your people, don’t neglect them, you do so at your own peril.

Not only can involving them help you to find quick and often simple ideas to improve your business but the mere act of involving them will make them feel like a far more important part of your business. Don’t you want your staff to be highly motivated and working for the benefit of the business, or would you rather they hung their brains next to their coats when they clock in?

From quality circles to employee councils or just simple suggestion schemes companies need to use their people, this is how to implement lean manufacturing. Who knows best what really works in your business, it is the people doing the actual work!

To top up the list of wastes in today’s climate of being environmentaly friendly, we can also include the waste of Energy and the waste of By-Products.

The waste of energy being exactly as it sounds, forgetting to switch off all the lights and machines when everyone leaves for the weekend is a fairly obvious example of this waste. It costs us money at zero benefit to the business, so why do it, and why do we do the same at home also? But also look into more depth into your processes, can you replace some of your equipment with more efficient versions? Are there motors and pumps out there that use less energy for the work being done? Maybe more expensive initially but working out much cheaper over time when you add in their lifecycle costs.

The waste of By-Products, can you use your “waste”? The little offcuts and sawdust from your furniture business; how can you utilize them? Or would you rather pay to have it all taken away and sent to landfill? Could you burn it and heat your factory, or even generate your own electricity? I know of more than one company that does exactly this, one that actually generated more energy than it consumes and sells it back to the grid. What could you do with your by-products?
Well if you are learning how to implement lean manufacturing and you have been reading about the seven wastes here and can think of some additional wastes to add to the list feel free to leave a comment. Use this link for a full list of wastes for waste reduction.

Seven Wastes|Waste of Inventory

In a previous post on how to implement lean manufacturing I discussed the seven wastes, within this post I will discuss the waste of Inventory. The build up of stock and work in progress that fills our factory floors and our warehouses.

If you wish to learn how to implement lean manufacturing you must try to get as close to single piece, just in time flow as you can. Producing what the customer wants when they want it. Today many of you will be looking at your factory and saying that you cannot ever achieve that, but as every advance in technology arrives and every little thought occurs to your operators and engineers you move that little bit closer to achieving that ultimate goal.

I am sure that the book printers never thought that they could print just one copy of a book as requested by the customer, but the technology now exists in a number of large book stores across Europe and the US. The customer can select the title he wants and the machine prints and binds the book of his choice while he waits (sorry another waste – but the customer could always do his other shopping while the book is printed.) This eliminates all of the wastes associated with the keeping of inventory.

A few years ago I went to a manufacturer of board games in the UK, they were looking for a handout from the government to purchase a new machine to help their struggling business. At the time I was working for the Department of Trade and Industry providing help to manufacturers in the UK, and although we had no grants available I suggested that maybe it would be possible to find some way to free up the required money from the business.

I walked around the business and was shocked at what I saw, the business had been in operation for over one hundred years, an old established family run business, but it was filled with inventory. Over half the factory was filled with stock, finished packaged games. Over half of the people were employed moving around the seemingly randomly arranged warehouse picking orders for toy stores around the country and overseas.

I spent time in the manufacturing area and the stores and tried to consider how I could remove the need for so much inventory. The cost of which was in excess of one years turn over of the business, and I also discovered that not only was a whole years turnover invested in the stock but they also disposed of five to ten percent of this every year as it became obsolete or damaged. But the management felt that the only way to satisfy their industry was to supply from stock as they have done for many decades.

I used my watch to time the various operations in the company (not overtly I hasten to add; most people do not like someone standing over them with a watch), the results were a shock, it took longer to find and pick the product from stock to ship to the customer than it did to manufacture it and put it into stores! The company could manufacture faster than they could pick stock!

The company was cash starved and needed a fraction of a week’s turnover to purchase a new machine (to make more inventory), but tied up over a years cash in inventory, and that was just the finished stock, not the component parts for the manufacturing. This was hardly how to implement lean manufacturing.

The factory could afford to close it’s manufacturing for the next year and still supply it’s customers, then turn from supplying from its inventory of finished products to producing to order. The company would have half the people and need half the space, or if there was demand they could use the staff and space to increase their turnover.

They had no idea how to implement lean manufacturing techniques, or that they could do things differently than they did. Unfortunately trying to persuade the current owner of the business in his late seventies that he was doing it wrong was like trying to keep the tide out, it did not matter how many diagrams were drawn or figures computed, he had to have his inventory – the factory closed one year later with everyone losing their jobs because they could not compete.

So many companies have inventory because they think they need to have it, they use it as a buffer to hide all of the other real or perceived problems in the factory. The inventory allows them to continue if they have quality or reliability issues, but does not force them to tackle the real problems.

Inventory is often depicted as the sea, with all of the problems of the business being submerged rocks on which your ship of progress could be wrecked. As you lower the level of inventory you have to tackle each of these rocks before you hit them, be that your long lead times, reliability or quality problems or whatever else you are hiding beneath the inventory.

Lean manufacturing as we know it has mostly come from the Toyota Production System (TPS), the engineers there would lower the inventory levels regularly, or remove people from the system just to uncover these rocks. Tackle the problems that were uncovered and be left with a more efficient cell (I am sure the operators probably shuddered every time they saw the engineer approach the shop floor, knowing what was about to be done!)
The waste of Inventory is probably the biggest waste of all when you are learning how to implement lean manufacturing due to it’s ability to hide every other waste. I will post another case study shortly to highlight this. Use this link to go to the full list of wastes for waste reduction.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Seven Wastes|Waste of Overproduction

In a previous post on how to implement lean manufacturing I discussed the seven wastes, within this post I will discuss the waste of over production. One of the most serious of the Seven wastes which leads to the waste of inventory.

The waste of over production is caused by producing more than is required or producing what is required faster than you need to. Why do we do this, generally because of the usual problem of oversized batches, poor scheduling, and poor balance of the processes causing one process to produce much faster than subsequent ones leading to build ups of work in progress.

But why do we use such large batch sizes? We use these excessive batch sizes because of the need to overcome other perceived problems within the factory. We use them because the setup times on our super machine are too long and we want to utilize the time available to produce parts, not in frequent periods of non-productivity caused by the setups. Why not use the technique of single minute exchange of die (SMED) to reduce the setup times rather than ignore this waste of waiting! I will discuss the application of SMED in a later post on how to implement lean manufacturing.

Why else do we use large batch sizes leading to the waste of over production? Well there are many reasons, but generally it is because of all the other wastes within our system that we try to insure against. We over produce just in case the machine breaks down tomorrow and we can’t keep the rest of the factory moving. So rather than deal with the problem of unreliability we hide it under a sea of inventory. Use techniques such as total productive maintenance (TPM) to tackle the problem of unreliability. We don’t trust the quality of our products so we produce extra to account for the defects that will be produced. How many companies have you worked in that always add a specific percentage to every requirement to allow for defects, this percentage being multiplied back in the process until you end up building twice as many of the initial assembly or component than you actually need!This is hardly how to implement lean manufacturing, hiding all of your problems rather than tackling them.

We plan to build to much because of the problems above, we perceive and worry about these problems and try to overcome them by building more than we really need. This often leads to us planning to not just build too many products but also planning in massive delays between processes to enable batches to be moved about, quality problems to be dealt with, waiting times to be overcome and so on.
When learning how to implement lean manufacturing we need to make the value flow at the beat of the customer, not produce at the rate we feel we need to overcome all the problems we have. Tackle the problems not hide them by implementing the waste of overproduction, one of the greatest of the Seven Wastes. Overproduction is a choice not a necessity. For a full list of wastes use this link for waste reduction.

Seven Wastes|Waste of over processing

In a previous post on how to implement lean manufacturing I discussed the seven wastes, within this post I will discuss the waste of over processing. Wasting time and other resources doing something that adds no value to the customer.

What does this mean? Sorry to Rolls Royce for using the following example but it is probably one of the most frequently used examples, why polish the rotor blades of the engine where it does nothing for the function and cannot be seen! How often have you seen processes where they paint or finish areas of a product that never get seen and where it will have functional benefit.

Sometimes it is necessary to paint unseen areas due to the risk of corrosion, but is there a better cheaper alternative? Could you coat the material with a cheaper alternative, or use materials that were not prone to corrosion in the first place.

In addition to these obvious wastes, think about the functionality of your product, is it really adding any value to the customer or are you doing far more than he really wants? What is the point of having a refined top of the range suspension for use on perfect UK and US motorways and highways if the car will be driven on rough concrete roads with poor joins and multiple pot holes? Do you think that the ford car produced for the European and US market has the same suspension as that produced in India for the Indian domestic market?

Is it worth using an expensive computer chip capable of many millions of calculations per second if it will be utilized in a very simple application where a much simpler and cheaper version could be utilized. Are you defining tolerances of fractions of a mm where actually much wider tolerances could be allowed?

When implementing lean manufacturing we want to aim for perfection, but that perfection is what the customer values not more. Ensure that instructions and standards are clear to ensure that we do not incur the waste of over processing.

If you want to learn how to implement lean manufacturing, you need to not only think if each step in the process is adding value, but is that value required? Is that value in excess of what the customer needs?

In the next post about how to implement lean manufacturing I will talk about the waste of over production, one of the most serious of the Seven Wastes. Use this link to return to a full list of wastes for waste reduction.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Seven Wastes|Waste of Transportation

In a previous post on how to implement lean manufacturing I discussed the seven wastes, within this post I will discuss the waste of transportation. The waste of transporting the product from one location to another.

The waste of transportation is distinct from the related member of the seven wastes, that of motion, in that transportation is the movement of product from one location to another rather than the motion of the person or the machine.

This is commonly a major waste in many companies, moving of product from one area of the factory to another for the next operation rather than the next operation being adjacent minimizing the movement. To demonstrate the distances travelled within the processes, I once worked on a project to improve the efficiency of a company producing ground to air missiles! The missiles actually travelled further in the production process than they could travel when they were fired!

One of the things that you try to achieve when learning how to implement lean manufacturing is flow of product through the factory. The ideal situation within any process would be the product moving from one process to the next without any gaps or delays. You need to minimize the waste of transportation. Of the seven wastes this is normally a symptom of other wastes, the wastes of inventory and overproduction.

Most factories try to organize themselves into functional areas, one area for cutting, one for machining and another for assembly. This is a common set up within factories. Batches of material are cut in the first section, then palletized, stored then eventually transported on a fork truck to the next section. The palletizing, the storage and transportation are all waste, none of it adds any value to the product that the customer wants to pay for.

A better organization for the shop floor would be to organize the area into product lines using similar processes, that way the individual processes could be brought closer together to enable flow and reduce the transportation. If processes are adjacent would you need to produce large batches? If you don’t have large batches can you just hand or slide the product on purpose build racks to the next process eliminating the need for transportation?

So what we are looking for is the lean approach, which is that of a close coupled layout which enables one piece flow and eliminates the need for transportation.

So if you are learning how to implement lean manufacturing and you walk into a factory and see fork trucks and pallet pump trucks everywhere you look, you can be pretty sure that they have the waste of transportation as one of their seven wastes. For a full list of wastes use this link for waste elimination.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Seven Wastes|Waste of Motion

In a previous post on how to implement lean manufacturing I discussed the seven wastes, within this post I will discuss the waste of motion. This is the waste of time and effort due to any motion of the man or machine that does not add any value to the product.

This waste of motion has a long history of being documented, Frank Gilbreth a guru of time and motion from the time of Taylor specialized in this area. He highlighted the many motions that a bricklayer made when building a wall, the bricklayer bending down to ground level to pick up a heavy brick then having to bring it up to working height. This wasted time as well as having the potential to cause stress to the back of the individual involved. (He also was also the inspiration behind the “cheaper by the dozen” films but that is getting away from how to implement lean manufacturing, I am sure that you can find much information about him if you want to learn about his life and works.)

As already discussed earlier while we were writing about how to implement lean manufacturing, anything that does not directly add value to the product is waste, lifting the brick from floor to working height is not adding any value therefore it is waste. It is also a health and safety issue in many places, and with today’s society being heavily focused on finding blame for any problem and applying a financial penalty to the responsible it would be sensible to minimize any unnecessary motion of this type! You will see in many companies now self adjusting tables that keep the product to be processed at just the right height for the operator to eliminate bending as the stack reduces in height as it is used.

The motion within a machine can also be wasteful contributing to the waste of processing time. You often see after a machine is loaded with product the tool will move towards the holding fixture to begin it’s work. The tool obviously has to be clear of the fixture to enable the operator to load it, but often it is far to far away which means that time is wasted as it travels to the jig. This may be only a few seconds but if the process is repeated as often it is, many times over a shift, the loss can add up quite significantly.

In addition to this, the movement speed is often left at the same rate as the “working” speed, so instead of the machine moving rapidly from one position to the next when not actually applying any work it moves at the slower work speed.

Again, stand and watch and study what actually happens, it is surprising what you will observe if you take the time to actually watch what is happening. Watch and question what you see. Why is the material where it is, can it be brought closer? Why do we have to keep turning the product and switching hands, is there a better more efficient method?

So watch and question everything, this is how to implement lean manufacturing, in my next post I will continue to discuss the seven wastes, moving onto the waste of transportation. To go to the full list of waste use this link for waste elimination.

Seven Wastes|Waste of Waiting

In a previous post on how to implement lean manufacturing I discussed the seven wastes, within this post I will discuss the waste of waiting. A fairly obvious waste you would think, waiting for the previous operation, or the machine to finish what it is doing.

Why do people end up waiting? Generally they are waiting because the processes are not balanced, that is they don’t all take the same amount of time. Even in the best flow lines it is very difficult to have all operations perfectly balanced. But in a lot of manufacturing companies this is a major waste.

You see one machine starved of product as the previous process has not finished producing the large batch of components and the batch cannot be moved until all complete. You see people standing idle waiting for the fork truck to transport that large pallet of material. The operator on the machining centre watching the machine patiently while it completes its eight minute cycle.

Just go and stand in the center of your company and watch what is going on, how many times do you see people just waiting, or working slowly so as not to bring attention to the fact that they do not have enough work?

When learning how to implement lean manufacturing, you learn how to make the value flow at the pull of the customer. As I have already mentioned before when discussing Just In Time (JIT), the ideal would be to have a single piece flow, the product moving through each process when required by the customer. The idea at this point is to try to balance each operation so that they take as close as possible the same amount of time. If you go into a car assembly plant and watch the operators on the line, they all have the same amount of time to complete the work before the car has moved into the next section. If the work took too long then it would not be complete before the next section began their work!

Many of the other wastes contribute to the waste of waiting, one process will often be waiting for the previous as rework is completed due to the waste of defects and so on.

As to the operator waiting for his CNC machine to cycle for eight minutes or the injection molding operator watching his ninety second cycle, many companies now will have them operating multiple machines organized in a cell to utilize their time fully. But so many still have the operators stood there waiting “in case something goes wrong!” The operator could be loading the next products into an additional fixture, working on the next operations or running additional machines, but not just waiting – do you really want to pay someone to stand and watch a machine for the bulk of their day?

So if we are going to learn how to implement lean manufacturing we need to learn how to eliminate this waste of waiting. The easiest thing here is to look at our flow and try to balance it. Tools such as Heijunka can be used here to help with balancing the flow, more about the tools in future posts. Look at our scheduling within the factory, we often plan delays into the process! Look at the physical locations of machines and processes and try to bring them closer together. Reduce batch sizes to as small as possible, aim for single piece flow.

So if you are learning how to implement lean manufacturing and you walk into a factory and see people waiting everywhere you look, you can be pretty sure that they have the waste of waiting as one of their seven wastes. To return to the list of wastes use this link for waste elimination.

Seven Wastes|Waste of Waiting

The waste of waiting; processing time

In a previous post on how to implement lean manufacturing I discussed the seven wastes, within this post I will discuss the waste of waiting, specifically processing time. Excessive time spent processing product will cause your product costs to be higher, or alternatively your profit margin to be lower.

Processing time if excessive will cost you time and therefore money. It will give you low productivity therefore high labour costs. Your machine costs will be higher and utilization lower. All of this leading to as I said above higher costs or lower profit.

This also reduces your capacity, you are using your time and resources doing something that ties up your machinery and people and not allowing them to work on new business opportunities. I have been into many businesses that have had to turn away work because they do not have the capacity to fulfill the contracts.

The causes of excessive processing times are many, often they are down to the people aspect, they are not properly trained or do not have the required skills. The methods that they are using are not right or are not clearly documented causing variation.

The machine or jigs that they are using may be worn or incorrectly set. There is poor knowledge of how to operate the machinery and how to set it up. This may cause additional problems such as defects also. I have been into many factories to investigate the cause of defects and delivery delays and found many problems in this area. Like defects people tend to live with the problems without dealing with them.

I have seen many instances where an operator will spend time forcing either defective product into a fixture or correct product into an incorrectly set fixture, this taking excessive time to do but the operator just continues to do it month after month.

When you learn how to implement lean manufacturing you will spend much of your time watching processing on the shop floor. You will see many times wasteful acts due to incorrectly set machines or defective supplied products that have gone on for years. The operators live with the problems, thinking that they are doing you a favour by working around the problem but actually slowing down the process. It often becomes part of the training handed down from one operator to the next!

We often have excessive processing times due to our supplied product either being wrong or wrongly specified. How long do some machining operations spend doing “roughing cuts” to bring material closer to size for machining rather than buying in material at the right size.

Design often plays a vital role in processing time, for example fixing being placed in difficult to access locations for assembly. They can often be moved or eliminated altogether by altering the design so that components “snap” together without the use of separate fixings.

Watch every step of a process and question every aspect of it, why does the machine run at that speed? Why are there so many fixings? Are there always burrs to remove? Does the fixture always have to move so far before the operation begins? You will be surprised what you will see, just take a few hours and just watch one of your processes and use some simple good old fashioned common sense.

As I continue my ramblings about how to implement lean manufacturing I am sure you will find many techniques that are relevant to eliminating wastes such as Kaizen. My next posting will continue with the waste of waiting. To return to the list of wastes for waste elimination use this link.