Took a walk through the shop floor this afternoon. As I entered the shop from our break room, here what I see. I have been doing a lot of research on lean manufacturing lately.I am very intrigued by what I have read, but for the life of me, I am having a hard time justifying some of the lean guidelines as it pertains to our company. I am looking for your input as to what stands out, and if there is anything that screams "anti-lean" in this picture. My thought here is that I am sure you guys can identify multiple things in this picture that initially seem to go against the lean principles, and as you point them out, I would like the opportunity to explain (if I can) our methodology of why we do things the way we do. Maybe we can all learn something by having an open discussion.
I have been doing some reading and research into this idea of lean. And at face value it would appear that this entire picture goes against what I have been reading about. Cabinets "stacked" in a corner, a group of base cabinets half completed laid out out on the shop floor not currently being worked on (WIP) from what I have read. But then again, Everyone keeps talking about smaller batch sizes, who is to say what the appropriate batch size is.
With the info that I have gathered so far, I wonder if this entire lean idea is meant for a "large" manufacturing plant that must produce products ahaead of time in order to keep an inventory of SKU. That is not what our shop is about at all. We only work on jobs/cabinets that have been ordered.
It's good that you're starting to look at things in a different light. Lean will help you to define what things look like through one lens.
"wonder if this entire lean idea is meant for a "large" manufacturing plant that must produce products ahaead of time in order to keep an inventory of SKU" ----Not at all. Lean is all about not doing something until it is ordered. There is ALOT of fat in most custom operations that can be trimmed through lean and continuous improvement.
There are two things about a custom environment that make it challenging to improve. First is the mindset; many dismiss lean right of the bat because they "never make the same thing twice". Well....How many different ways can be make a box. Is that sink base from this job like the one from the last job?
The other is that in a custom shop, the waste isn't always as obvious. Take a one man shop; He may mill lumber for a day or two, then assemble, then sand, then finish. If he only mills lumber 5 days per month, the waste during that process doesn't "feel" like a big deal. But, it all adds up.
No one else has really chimed in yet to point you in a direction. What I notice in the picture is the WIP is taking over the shop space. Why not build/assemble each one at a specific station, complete, then move to the next?
"Everyone keeps talking about smaller batch sizes, who is to say what the appropriate batch size is."
Entire books have been devoted to this topic. But, I've yet to see a batch size that was too small put in actual production. In Eli Goldratt's book "The Goal", he recommends cutting the batch size in half, then see how that goes. Once you're happy with that, cut it in half again. For me, I release per project for best flow. If the project is say more than 15 cabinets, I may break it down even further. A good rule of thumb may be what you can install onsite in one day.
I am no lean expert but slowly slowly getting lean practise in operation. I tried for a few years to get a crew of 3 to go LEAN on a panel saw/edgebander setup, sadly got fed up, bought a CNC, got rid of 1 guy and so far it has blown them out of the water, increasing production and reducing overheads.
I think ANY operation can benefit from LEAN "thinking" whether it be 1 man or 100 however it seems you can only really do true pull style manufacturing with minimum 3 people on the floor so you can set up 3 stations.
1. Machine it
2. Fabricate it
3. Set up, QC, dispatch.
If machining is finished. That guy can jump on the bench and fabricate to push more cabinets to set up. If each member moves up or down the chain at the right time then your really motoring!
The buy in of the guys and girls on the floor has been the biggest hurdle for me. Such resistance!!
The low hanging fruit is the best start as mentioned above. Maybe your guys walk from one side of the factory to the other to get a hammer or a handful of screws??
I think focusing on job batches is a good start point. What needs to be completed for a job to be ready to leave the factory? Then work back from there.
@ Pat - I am not sure exactly what "bugs" me. Our company has grown from 4 guys working out of a pole building to 16 people and a 10,000 sq ft shop floor in 6 years. I take the responsibility of "providing", if you will, for these 16 people and their families very serious and I want to position our company for the future as best I can. With that said, as I read more and more about the lean principles, I feel like so many of the procedures we have in place would be considered anti-lean, but yet they seem to work pretty well for us.
About the included picture:
90% of the stacked up cabinets that you see on the far back wall all belong to the same job. That "job" was finished up Wednesday morning (day of post) with a scheduled delivery date of Friday am. Does this qualify as "just in time" (JIT) production? You may ask why stack them against the wall and not directly into the delivery truck? Well the delivery truck is on the road delivering the project before this particular one.
-Cabinets laid out on floor:
this is the job that that gets delivered on Monday morning. Our shop foreman likes to have multiple cabinet boxes laid out at the same time (as many that will fit on the shop floor at any given time). This way all dados get glue at once, all box parts can be nailed together at the same time, clamps can be applied at once, all finshed ends puttied & sanded at once...etc. Does this qualify as lean? I keep reading that we should be taking 1 "unit" from start to finish, then start working on "unit 2".
Just trying to figure out the best way to apply some of these principles to our current set up.
I too have been reading on Lean operations. Started beginning of the year on the journey and so far it has been very productive. I know that I have a long way to go still but it is definitely working.
I make children's step stools. We use to build in batches of 40 at a time, then 10. Took one person about 7 hours to do 40 of them. The work process had over 65 feet of travel from beginning to end. After analyzing the process, we rearranged the process so that it only takes 22 feet of travel. Then started processing one at a time all the way through the build area. Now my person can do 60+ in a 7 hour shift. Also quality has gone up as he is only concentrating on one item all the way through at a time. He is catching errors that he didn't see before.
We have started tracking how long each process takes and are finding it eye opening in how little time is spent on actually making products and how much is wait time. Working on ways to reduce wait time from area to area.
Have instituted kanban cards for ordering supplies. It has really helped in that we don't run out of supplies anymore.
Concerning your picture: I believe each cabinet should be completed all the way through as you are constantly handling each one multiple times. This can only lead to damage as they are sitting around and people have to navigate their way through the pile as they come out of the break room. Opportunity for damage. I also believe that if you know when the delivery truck is be available for loading, that you schedule the items to be finished the same day that it is to be loaded. This will require more planning from the start of the job as to when to schedule the start of the process. Again I feel that the more the product sits around the shop, the more opportunity for potential accidental damage.
"Concerning your picture: I believe each cabinet should be completed all the way through as you are constantly handling each one multiple times. This can only lead to damage as they are sitting around and people have to navigate their way through the pile as they come out of the break room. Opportunity for damage. I also believe that if you know when the delivery truck is be available for loading, that you schedule the items to be finished the same day that it is to be loaded. This will require more planning from the start of the job as to when to schedule the start of the process. Again I feel that the more the product sits around the shop, the more opportunity for potential accidental damage. "
Thank you for the feedback. I follow what you have to say, unfortunately the idea of finishing 1 "unit" at time and placing directly into the delivery truck would not work for us at this current time. If we were to refer to each job/kitchen we sell as 1 "unit" We typically have multiple Units due for delivery on the same day. If unit 1 was finished 100% on the day of delivery, we would be late on the delivery of "unit 2" as we would just be starting the project the same day it is due. I don't see any possible way of not working ahead, which will lead to some storage time.
I understand what you mean about it appears that it will not work. Some of the things that we are doing now didn't appear they would work. So I ran small tests of different ways of doing the work and the flow. It worked in the tests and now we do them all the time like that.
It is about flow. Working one box at a time through the system, doesn't mean that you don't have the next one started.
Example of how I do it:
1. Evening: cutting shift cuts the materials for the orders to be built the next day.
2. Morning: build crew will build everything cut the night before.
3. Afternoon: finishing crew will finish everything that was built that day.
4. Morning: crew will package and ship everything that was finished the afternoon before.
So there is always orders coming right in behind each other by using work cells. Each cell completes their step and it goes to the next process. This way work is always progressing through the shop.
In your case with 2 orders being delivered on the same day, I would complete the first delivery the day before in the evening and the second delivery will finish up delivery day in the AM. I would also designate an area where the completed orders are staged for putting into the truck. Mark this area with a painted or tape outline and mark it as such. Nothing else goes in this area. I would also make sure that there is a safe zone around it so that nothing would accidentally damage the products. It should be possible to have WIP so that orders are following behind each other.
I know that this is more work to schedule it but I have found that the more scheduling and organizing I do before the job starts, the easier it moves through the shop.
No expert here, but observations based on the image above....
The good things...
Looks to be decently clean.
It's good that the hardware seems to be being kitted with the cabinets.
Nice looking toe kicks.
The not so good. Some of these have already been mentioned. Maybe a good 5 Whys exercise?
No tools in close proximity to the base cabs on the floor (What process is being performed while the bases are in their present position? Where are the tools for this? This should be obvious, but it is not from the image)
Seems there would be significant wasted movement, and over processing, handling them as a large batch.
The cabinets do not appear to be in an ergonomic position to be processed. Putting something down to pick it back up later is not generally very efficient. Tough to see in the image, how are the cabinets being moved inside the shop?
I have no clue as to flow of the base cabs on the floor (What direction are they moving in?)
As much as one piece flow is discussed, it can be difficult to get there. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can't.
Not sure the one piece flow is the answer here either.
I worked for a shop a million years ago that went from assembling the way your picture shows, a large batch.
An efficiency expert came in and sold the owner on assembling with conveyors.
After a few months the owner abandoned the conveyors and went back to the method in your picture.
The assembler carried a nail gun and a few hand tools. And it was way fast.
I don't know the reasons why. I'm guessing maybe setting a target is more important than flow? Also the economy of scale is something to think about. Admittedly anti Lean but necessity forces you to produce if you have a big pile in front of you mixed with a stiff deadline.
Residential does not require a whole lot in the way of deadlines as the schedules are so relaxed.
But targets are not unimportant maybe if mixed with Lean they could make for good policy.
@ Blaine, thank you for the comments, you ask some very good questions that I will look for solutions to resolve.
You have offered some great advice /ideas to think about and so much so that I thought to my self that this guy knows what he is talking about, right up to this statement:
"Residential does not require a whole lot in the way of deadlines as the schedules are so relaxed."
Of course I am just giving you a hard time in the name of fun, but seriously I spend the majority of my day doing whatever needs to be done in order to meet tight deadlines. It may me a private client that can't be without a functioning kitchen for more than a week, or it may be from a home contractor that is relying on you to meet the schedule so as not to screw up everyone that comes in after. Measuring the project, design meetings, engineering, estimating, production, delivery, all need to be accounted for to meet a deadline.
I will chalk your statement up to trying to be a funny guy. The one thing our company does not lack is a work ethic. Whether or not you see anyone in the picture I posted has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this post.
A lot of people who consider Lean Manufacturing conclude that it somehow is not appropriate or necessary for their business. They surmise that their company is too small to take advantage of it or too custom to be able to implement standardization. Others are absolutely booming in this economy and see no reason to mess with success.
The irony here is that both of these companies are exactly the ones who would benefit from lean logic the most. The small shop has no extra resources to squander. The large and (apparently) successful company has usually been around long enough to have survived downturns in the economy and should know better.
Some of the activities that we engage in add value. Most of the activities, however, only add waste. Some of this waste is necessary and some isn't. The goal of lean is to get rid of the waste that isn't necessary.
Things only have value if the customer thinks they have value. The customer only gives us money for the things they value. In woodworking these are just the processes that directly change the shape or color of a board. All other activities are in support of changing the shape or color of a board.
The customer doesn't really care how you do this. You could sprinkle pixie dust on the wood and they would be happy if this gets the job done. They don't care if you put it on a cart and shove the cart 100 feet or 10 feet. They only pay you to push the board that 20 inches over the jointer.
Lean processes will increase your capacity. This is what you need when the economy is booming and you can't build all the jobs you could sell. Lean processes will lower your costs so that when the economy tanks you continue to stay in business.
Lean takes thinking and it takes commitment. It is far more than fixing what bugs you.
Lean will give you a logic structure to help you udevelop tools that will allow you to be in charge of your where you want your constraint to be.
Fixing what bugs you will help minimize things that are annoying but do not move the needle necessarily towards remediating a specific constraint.
Fixing what bugs you is good in that it can assist to free up resources to bear on more targeted outcomes. The biggest benefit to Fixing what bugs you is on morale. If nothing else it teaches people to be cognizant of the fact that there is usually a better way.
Sometimes you hear people say "If it ain't broke don't fix it". Sometimes you hear people say "There's ten good ways to skin a cat".
The first group cannot recognize when something is broken. You don't want these people in a management role in your company.
The second group are absolutely correct about there being 10 ways to skin a cat. There is the very best way. There is the second best way and the third best way...... Do you really want anybody in your company using the 4th or 5th best way???
A pictures save a thousand words, but video saves a thousand pictures. I can't tell a lot from the picture. I would like to see a video of 10 minutes of whats going on and we could tell you more.
I dont know what process you are working on with all the cabi ets. I do see that they are laid out very randomly on the floor and if you are traveling back and forth to complete a task you have extra work in maneuvering around the cabinets. I also see 5he hing plates laid out but not installed. So an employee walked at least once and probably multiple time to place the hinges on the cabinet to be installed. If he had a tub of hinges and a drill, he could take one at a time and install them right into the cabinet. No wasted time counting, then setting on the to kick. No chance of scratching the toe kick that will require extra processing to ready for finishing. No additional trip to come back around and install them.
I also se an air hose or extension cord on the floor that is a walk way hazard and has to be looped over or around the cabinets.an overhead line could reduce that.
The guy at the workbench doesn't appear to have safety glasses on and he has multiple items that are laying on the bench that have no order to them. Are they all needed to the task at hand where do they go when not in use?
One piece flow isn't a fixed "only do 1 at a time" I would never suggest to cut out only parts for one cabinet at a time and complete it through finishing before starting the next one. Its taking a look at the waste that the system creates and reducing it. How many guys are building those cabinets. How much motion is involved, where are the parts flowing from, where are the tools at how far are they walking per cabinet?
Stand back and watch and you will see the answers.
Also, dont be defensive your methods or critical of the feedback you get, we are just seeing, literally, a snapshot of your business. Work ethic wasn't questioned and people can have a great work ethic, and work really hard and be totally inefficient in what they do. Its my job as the owner to teach and train the people who work for me on how to be the best at whay we do, and that is hard work for sure. Lean has to come from the top, you can't tell your pm to implememt it and let him handle it.
Good luck on your lean journey.
I was an anti-lean guy for years and years. Thought it was just a conspiracy to make consultants rich. To some extent that is true, but not the point here.
Definitely read Paul Aker's book, it's a real eye opener. He's even kind enough to give it away for free, and will even answer emails with questions!
Without knowing a thing about your company, and in the spirit of making a small 2 second improvement, I noticed the cabinets came from somewhere, and will be on their way somewhere else. Here's an example of waste in the form of over transportation. Would it be practical for your operation to have rolling carts/work platforms your cabinet sit on? You paid someone to pick each box up and sit it on the floor. You have to pay them again to pick the box up and carry it somewhere else. That's something you can't bill your customer for, and is a non value added operation.
Once you make one little improvement like that, others will come along naturally. One day you'll realize "why am I paying a guy to roll this cart from one end of the shop to the other end to do the next operation. I'll move that machine/work station right next to the preceeding one.....".
Thank you all for the great feedback, please keep it coming as I have to believe that just talking about this subject and keeping it top of mind is good for all of us.
@ Derek & Jerry
you both bring up some very interesting points, and I appreciate it very much. Have either of you had your staff read any of the lean publications? I am thinking of requiring our entire staff (office & shop floor) to read one of the publications. We could view it like continuing education, where the company fronts the bill for the material, class etc.. and the employee completes on their time. This way everyone would have the same information available to them as move forward.
Jerry's comment regarding putting all of your cabinets on carts is an important one. We took that several steps further at our shop.
We have three scissorlift work benches at our shop. For the most part assembling the cabinets takes place on two of the benches. The third one has a large lazy susan for strictly assembling the boxes. Each bench has identical drawers on each side. One of the drawers holds screws and one of them holds hand tools. The hand tool drawers have colored faces with color coded hand tools. If you see a blue hammer lying around you know precisely which bench has a missing hammer. You also know precisely where to put that hammer. This is a kind of standardization that works for big or small shops. (The hand tool drawers use Fastcap Kaizen foam)
We have about 40 carts that are all the same height, about 15 inches tall. Our cart collection, like most everybody else's, was developed on an ad hoc basis over many years. As a consequence they were completely random sizes at completely random heights. This required a random stacking strategy that was not real compact.
About a year ago we were faced with a tremendous storage problem. The construction economy in my town is so overheated that projects can't get their sub-trades to show up on a reliable basis. As a result of this we found ourselves running out of space to store cabinets. Scheduling strategy also had to factor in what you were going to do with the cabinet after you built it.
Our solution to this was to throw out almost every cart in the building and start over with standard dimension carts. These carts are now exactly the same height as a lowered scissorlift work bench. The benefits of this standardization are abundantly manifest. Most cabinets can now be moved from the bench, throughout the shop and into the loading zone by one person. The carts have a footprint of approximately 24 x 32. They can be configured as single, double or triple length.
Each cart has a flip up handle so you can wheel it empty from the loading zone without having to do use the soccer kick system for transport when idle.
The best thing we did was to buy good casters. Good casters allow us to double stack base cabinets on each cart. The scissor lifts raise to about 51 inches which is just what we need to drag one cabinet onto another when loaded on the cart.
Standardization is the 4th "S" in a FIVE "S" program. Standardization in cart construction has doubled our storage capacity, minimized the labor to move cabinets and made the cabinets safer to move,
I got side tracked on that last rant. I meant to respond to what Jerry's comment:
"One day you'll realize "why am I paying a guy to roll this cart from one end of the shop to the other end to do the next operation. I'll move that machine/work station right next to the preceeding one.....".
Taking the time to consider how you sequence your work will pay big dividends. In Jeffrey Liker's book, "The Toyota Way", he describes a sequence that was changed on the Camry Automobile line. Toyota has been producing the Camry automobile for a long time. For many years they did all the chassis work in the chassis department. When this was complete it would roll down the line to the next department.
You would think that a big company like Toyota with all their process engineers would have this right. One day a guy in the electrical department commented that it would be a lot easier to mount the electrical harness if he could walk into the area rather than lean over the fender. As a consequence of this input Toyota now puts the front axle in farther down the line, They were perfectly comfortable challenging their assumptions and throwing out time honored tradition.
We had a similar epiphany at our shop in the drawer box department. We've been building the same drawer box for 15 years. We rabbet a half inch plywood drawer bottom into a 1/4 inch groove. The front and back of the drawer are connected with pocket screws. We have dedicated machines with powerfeeders for each one of these processes. You would think that after 15 years we were pretty good at building a drawer box. If you would have asked us we would have certainly said so.
One day I decided to formally sequence the drawer box operations. I had two new people to train and I thought it would be best to give them a laminated cheat sheet with cliff notes. The drawer box has 5 parts. The operations to produce the bottoms are always identical. The processes for the front of the drawer are different than the back of the drawer. The processes for the back of the drawer depend on what kind of slide we are using. The position of the groove for rabbeted drawer bottom depends on what kind of slide we are using.
As a result of taking the time to formally describe these processes (with a level of detail a new person could understand) we were able to find FIVE new processes improvements. Three of these improvements were very significant ones to the final outcome.
This amazed me. After 15 years of putting the axle on in the chassis department we decided to try something different and, as a result, have a faster, more bulletproof drawer box that works with any kind of drawer face.
What I meant to say is that by formally sequencing your processes you can lower management costs. If you know it is in station 4 you know that processes for station 3 actually happened. It probably also happened with less struggle and more optimality.
You could solve the drawer box conundrum by having everybody just fix what bugs them or you could formalize how you were going to approach problem solving.
A very simple way (and more effective) way to get engagement from the troops is to give them a stack of 3X5 cards. Have them break down each assembled product into it's constituent elements and then list out every step it takes to produce that element.
After each card is filled out arrange them in sequence. If you want to get wild & crazy go to the office supply store and get some self-adhesive magnetic business card holders and use the back of the business card to write the processes down. Now you can use the refrigerator magnet system of management.
Notice, no computers involved. Lots of room for audience participation. A tertiary benefit of this approach is you will soon see who your natural leaders are in the shop by how engaged they are in this exercise.
Now you have a flow chart that everybody can participate in. Now you have something that could sort of resemble a chalk board diagram your football coach in high school used to show you.
Start running plays with the refrigerator magnet.
How would you staff each work station if you had two people available to build 30 drawers? How would you staff it if there were three people available?
Building a drawer box is really no different than a soccer game. The goal is similar. You gotta get the ball between two sticks. The game is the same no matter how many players are on the field. The strategy, however, is quite a bit different if you have 4 people on the field vs 2.
Now you have the basics in place to have a bucket brigade.
Since all of your steps are on refrigerator magnets you can put colored stickers on those processes that require minimal training or are very hard to screw up. The new person can do those steps.
By configuring the drawer department in a bucket brigade the new person can have a mentor on the left and on the right. He has to keep up with the guy pushing parts to him and he has to keep up with the guy pulling parts. You now have six sets of eyes on every problem. Pokey people don't get to set their own pace. It is like a sewing bee with a bunch of cackling women.
This won't happen by having a bunch of armies of one just fixing whatever bugs them.
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