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How many of you are running your shop on lean manufacturing principles?2/20
for those of you that reply yes, I will acknowledge that this is a big huge series of questions:
-How long have you been doing this?
Don't be afraid to be long winded. I'm really into it and will sure as shit give it one good thoughtful read.
Thanks, you insightful bunch :)
You seem to be kind of a new face on this forum. You have raised a lot of interesting questions lately that seem to evoke considerable input. You should have been here for the pre-apolocalypse glory days when the topic of Lean was thoroughly trashed by the TOC guys. That epoch lasted a couple of years. The basic drift of the argument was that local improvements only produced phantom changes in throughput. The current thinking is that you want to use Lean principles to do the heavy lifting and Constraint Theory to prioritize where to put these efforts. (It all gets a little confusing, however, when you factor in low hanging fruit.)
About a year ago Paul Downs chronicled on this forum the great changes in his company when one of his guys decided to take on the role you seem to be interested in for your company. They made a lot of really great improvements. They didn't call it Lean thinking but every example they provided was right out of the rule book. Hopefully Paul's impending book will shed more light on how this worked out for them.
About ten years (+) ago, Modern Woodworking magazine ran an article about a company in Idaho called Woodland Furniture. At the time they were struggling to keep up with demand from their primary client. The consequences were significant in that if they couldn't deliver the goods someone else would and they would go out of business.
Woodland Furniture brought in a lot of gurus who provided all kinds of advice that would cost seven million dollars more than Woodland had available to them. The recommendations ranged from investing a bazillion dollars in ERP software or moving to a building ten times bigger than they were in. They eventually met a Lean guy who, after appraising their facilities and processes, concluded that with their current rate of growth they could probably stay in their current building for another five years.
The article discussed metrics like number of pieces of work in process at any time, total travel distance for a piece of furniture, total days from order date to ship date.
These are the same metrics that a local hospital might use when developing capital budgets for expansion. Every time they grow they need more parking garages but there is a limit to how big the campus is and they make more money with birthing centers than parking garages. You see stories like this that talk about nurses wearing pedometers to see how much travel time is associated for various procedures. Time spent walking is time spent waiting is more time cars tie up parking spaces.
My observation is that the more experienced a guy is when they show up the more energy you have to expend convincing them of the merits of lean. Part of this has to do with lack of familiarity, part of it is just ambivalence. One of the guys on this forum commented one time about how hard it would be to get employees to embrace lean if you couldn't even get the owners on board. To what I mean about this just read some of the posts on this forum about efficiency. If you mention Toyota or Boeing in an argument all kinds of people will tell you about how rich they have gotten in spite of shop dysfunction.
I caught onto Lean thinking one day while driving to work. I was thinking about something another forum member in my neighborhood had said about work in process. My epiphany was that Mrs. Smith was not the customer but merely the client. The customer for my wide belt sander was really the altendorf slide saw.
You can only hang one door at a time. If you produce 30 of them then you're going to need some extra space to store them and extra management to remember you built them. (Have you ever had someone cut out material that has already been cut out by someone else?)
I am not sure what you mean by "the course". Some of the best writing I have seen on this topic is "The Toyota Way" by Jeffrey Likers or "Manufacturer's Guide to Implementing the Theory of Constraints" by Mark Woeppel. Both of these books will bring this down to a local level that is easy to understand and which will yield much greater efficacy than putting stickers under your salt & pepper dispensers.
Not sure about the successes yet.
Also you should look at 2 second Lean a book by Paul Akers.
Tim loves the line from this book, "if it bugs you, fix it".
Other than that line, the only other thing that Tim and I agree on is politics.
I also recommend the Toyota way, where they chronicle how they developed the Lexus is a real page turner, seriously very engaging.
In many ways lean is all about eliminating waste. I've read the translation of Taiichi Ohno's book on the Toyota system development. Long, not a particularly easy read but well done. He credits these main influences on his work, Henry Ford, Dr Deming and the American grocery distribution system. Wikipedia has a good article on Dr W. E. Deming.
Holy, Tim Schultz. You've totally blown my mind away. I've concluded that if I can get a chance to meet either you or Paul Downs in person, I will beg, borrow or steal, both a week off and the plane ticket to do it. I'm serious. Email me if you are willing.
So I've been digging into the old threads. I've seen the genius from the Downs shop progression and also the arguments from the efficiency threads. I'm starting to formulate a theory.
First I should answer your question about what the course is. The course is APICS. Its for operations management. I got sent there as a young prodige in an international manufacturing company that produces high end mountaineering equipement. I learned quite a bit, but my too young, hot head and my gypsy tendancies lead me to quit abruplty to go live on a boat and manage live events instead of leading a high paying corporate life. Because, sometimes, I'm an idiot.
But anyway, now I'm probably learning more about LEAN from being in a shop that doesn't use it than I did from being in a shop that did.
So in the course I took, about 3 years ago, TOC and LEAN was both taught as one in the same. I guess the woodworking industry weren't the only ones having this argument and then they got merged?
Probably. This odd life has taught me that there is no black and white, only grey.
Which leads me to my next thaught about all the arguing about standardizing manufacturing in a cabinet shop. In my experience, when people argue hard it's because it holds something close to their heart. But usually they will bury this in endless debate/semantics. etc. etc. etc.
I am willing to bet that a lot of the arguing about introducing LEAN or not stems from two different type of passionate people--the ones that are deriving intelllectual stimulation from transforming an inefficient system into an efficient one, and the ones that would hate to see the last little bits of craftsmanship go to hardcore efficiency. But the thing is that, in balance, they both hold a marketing value.
I think that LEAN has to have a craft varient. And that the only way to develop it is from the ground up, like the Downs scenario (Downs, if you are reading this I hope you get a tickle from reading "the Downs scenario" ;) )
PS Pat, Tim and Larry, books ordered. Homework! I'd like to mention, because it's funny---A lot of modern manufacturing effiency is derived from toyota, but from expoerience, their textile division is a $%&* @#$%^ mess! Goes to show you, you can't be perfect everywhere :)
Tim Schultz and Pat Gilbert, have "brow beat" me so badly over the years, that through careful examination, I learned to track every action from the moment I got a call on a job to how long it took to drive to the bank. Course the trip is grouped with another action, as to not waste the fuel or the action, because coupling like movements can conserve energy and remedy wasteful action.
We cleaned house and identified tools, clients, processes and every morsel of waste to the point of if we examine this, is it a waste to look at it ? Or, is this truly what it is ? Can we improve it ? Serious.
We examine everything, from the trash to the payables. Why did we pay expedited shipping ? Our fault or the client ? We reduced the dumpster and it's associated cost and the trips to it ! Shipping expense ? What expense ? It's pretty much 'nil.
All this has incurred no expense to examine. And, the benefits have been, well, I am finally paying myself regularly and if we need a new machine, it's not where is the money going to come from ?
After the review of many posts here, posts from Paul Downs and Alan F got my hair to stand on end...... pricing configurations of thorough process(es) from site visit cost, shop drawing expense, to quality control time and delivery of the product. It all costs. Transparency in estimates and proposals to the client sells our work as much as our reputation to produce it well.
We see so much waste on the floor to this day, that I am building a raised office on the shop floor with glass walls to look @ procedures and analyze the data. This waste is truly my fault and I have to correct it. This is what LEAN has done for me.
Good God, even my son video tapes himself to exercise the waste from his response in body mechanics to a hit ball in the short stop area. He is 9 years old. He has seen Lean first hand. We don't unload the Milk from the car to the table, then to the refrigerator, it goes right to the refrigerator. Just ask him, you are wasting precious resources dude......
FWIW, I'm going to be speaking at the Las Vegas show on July 24th. I'd be happy to meet anyone after the talk.
I seriously love to see this--that the excess waste is your fault and that you need to correct this. This is problem solving and honnest discourse at its finnest.
I think it is so easy to get in the management trap of "if my bonehead employees just had 2 cents of pride this would not be an issue." Which is a funny thing if you think about it--the idea that any employee should be as loyal, consistent, smart, organized and willing as you, but is totally okay to be your production machine and subordinate, at nominal salary, for years.
It's a nice thought but it's utopia. Sure you can get some very willing and smart people, but it is my beleif that it is a manager/owner's job to set them up for success. Some will shine and rise in ranks, and others will be your boring job backbone that are essential but always need monitoring. Nature of the beast.
Btw, good job on involving your kid enough in your thought processses to have him be that thoughtful at 9.
Let the begging and borrowing begin! I'll contact you closer to the date for logisitcal details. Thanks :)
You folks are a fun bunch.
"A manager/owner's job to set them up for success."
Not enough people realize this.
That is the exact language I use when training on a process in our small shop. We try to focus on making the next step as easy as possible for the next person. One side effect from this is that it reduces waste. If you have a part in your hand, put it down in a way that feeds the next process naturally.
Totally, JR. Feels like everyone forgets the human factor. Intrinsic motivation is more powerful than a fat paycheck. Economics, philosophy and psychology all study motivation. Yet a handful of people are using it in their business model.
I was a scaffolder for a while and we had ourselves a dream team. 4 of us could bang off a 40 x 40 stage, skirted, painted, custom stairs and all, truck packed and client happy, in 2 hours. We were machines and we new it, and got an incredible high from it. We'd get paid for 4 hours as a minimum. Roll in with a flat deck stacked high and just tornado it down. Everyone had their job and everyone did it well. So we'd high five, go for a pint, and talk ourselves up about just how much we kick ass.
There was nothing glamorous or even that interesting about what we did, but it was done so efficiently and expertely that we couldn't help but feel good.
Working on recapturing this sentiment--couldn't everyone use a bit more of that in their lives?
I have always been competitive at everything I do. from the beginning every install was a race against the clock. I learned how to reduce trips in and out of the house where to place shelves etc. So that I could do it faster every time. One of the greatest compliments I ever received was on an install. The customer said "wow, you were like a machine, not one wasted motion the whole time you were there"
I definitely love "like a machine". Feels like Emeril throwing garlic into the pan... "BAM!"
Actually manufacturing never left. This country is by far the worlds biggest manufacturer. Real GDP, China is maybe 60% of the US GDP (remember empty cities show up in GDP but you would be hard pressed to convince anyone of their value). Then when you consider Capital Goods that are not even counted as GDP, the US is way ahead of everyone else.
A spot to look for growth opportunity is often where it appears to be anything but an opportunity E.G. Farming, Detroit, Manufacturing. There is a reason that Warren Buffet bought the Burlington Northern and investors are buying farm land.
Might be a renascence in this field?
What PhantomPhlyer is saying is pay attention to batch size.
PP--Is it weird that I really like change? In the last 10 years I have moved every 8 months. With joy. I change things often and fast. Down to the furniture placement in my house. I almost never cook the same thing twice, except eggs maybe. I will change industries, majors, for the heck of it. Racing thoughts and endless energy...
But your point is invaluable. Every body else hates it. It's taken me a while to clue into this. I've spent a chunk of my life wondering why the world moves like molasses. But now I do know, and always apreciate a reminder.
I need to learn how to play better ball with this. Because it is reality.
So Tim, batch size--gotta ask. I was told in woodworking school to condense my cut lists and work a machine at a time with a cart full of wood to cut everything at once. Makes sense no? Got stopped from doing this. We are so tight in our time lines that things need to get pumped out in order of install. How common is this?
Pat-- in your country maybe but in Canada its not the case. I used to live by train tracks (in the pacific northwest) and watch raw materials go west, and finished goods go east. All day long. Every day. And night.
I've worked in international logisitics and found out that containers often go empty to china, to come back full here. All the time.
What PP said was "if you take too big of a bite you and your team may choke..." That's the particular batch size I was talking about.
The batch size your woodworking instructors were talking about is the root cause of all your other problems. Building things before you need them will increase your management costs, mask your defective processes, increase your overhead and generally create molasses.
There is nothing more efficient than standing at a machine and coping every door rail until you realize your "efficiency" is starving the last process. You are looking for balance, not efficiency.
"Pat-- in your country maybe but in Canada its not the case. I used to live by train tracks (in the pacific northwest) and watch raw materials go west, and finished goods go east. All day long. Every day. And night."
That was true here in the recent past but that is changing as we speak. China is in for some rough times.
Somehow I had a brain fart as I thought I was responding to PhantomPhlyer at post #11 on the Just in time inventory vs ordering ... thread.
Speaking of Lean I was able to find a picture of Pat Gilbert's desk.
As you can see there is no fat in his system.
That is my stand up desk alright, how did you get inside of my office?
Hah!! Where is the yoga ball for inhanced posture?? ;)
Tim---gottya. Indeed. I don't actually beleive in making tons in advance, for that reason (just in time, right?). But when it's time for hardwood breakout for one single job, I am a little sad that anyone would stop me from doing it all at once because we are that tight at the throat for time, every time, that things need to be pumped out in order of that one install!
That, or it's totally normal and I'm being a complete prick lol :)
The small batch size works great if you have reduced the start/stop time for an operation changeover to near zero. Any time used in the start/stop operation is waste. Piles of slow moving parts are also waste. There is the trade. The piles of parts can be reduced by eliminating as much change over time as possible. Go, no go gages work well. A shaper can be reset very quickly w/o electronics by using simple reference gage blocks. Height off the table to the cutter top edge, fence off the miter slot.
-How long have you been doing this?
We started about 7 years ago.
-how did initial implement go?
Glad you said "initial". As the company a friend of mine works at calls theirs "continuous improvement". But, it went pretty well.
-how much convincing did you have to do?
As to the decision to do it, since I'm the owner, there wasn't any. As to getting the employees on board, we had some really great instructors that were able to show the benefits. Our employees were quite excited about it, in fact.
-where did you catch on to Lean?
The wife of a friend of mine works for VMEC, and suggested we talk with them as we were preparing to move into our current facility about 11 years ago now. They offered quite a lot of assistance at no charge, and we made some valuable contacts through that relationship. One of them told us about a state grant that would help cover the cost of LEAN training, so we decided to go for it.
-Did you take the course?
Not the APICS course that you are referring to. We had onsite training provided by VMEC.
-How is it going?
I am very pleased.
-What sort of successes have you acheived?
It's kind of hard to put any hard results down, but just being able to find what you need when you need it is valuable beyond measure. Even though we always had what I would say (and the instructors agreed) was a relatively organized and efficient shop, we have certainly changed our approach on certain things. Probably the biggest impact has been on inventory - putting effort into figuring out the "right" levels. We have also rearranged one of our production areas, and we use the principles learned when adding equipment.
I was also wondering if anyone had been down the consultant route.
David, what was the VMEC training like? Was it a tailored revamp or more of a general teaching of LEAN principles? How much time did they spend with you?
I've been thinking lots about LEAN for a craft based industry vs LEAN for more soulless manufacturing. There are bound to be important differences.
My exposure to LEAN was a bit of a ruthless machine, thousands of employees making peice work repetitive tasks, everything down to thread monitored and databased, things outsources to the cheapest bidder who fit the quality criteria, the whole world mapped for supplies. Everything had an equation.
Don't get me wrong, big machines like that are fascinating. But so is man and chisel. Sometimes I wonder if our ubercool hardwood detailing dept would still exist if we looked too close at it in a dollar bill sort of way.
Probably the answer is in the middle? As long as craft has a marketing value, I'd think it has a probably hard to define, yet present, dollar value.
I've always somewhat disliked when people speak of a divided left brain and right brain, as if you could only use one half at a time. Quantum physics, industrial design, and graphic arts for example... full brain use, marvels of human mind.
Brain droppings... I love sundays.
I would say that our training was somewhat customized. That is, they didn't actually re-write the training specifically for us, but as we went through the "canned speech", specific examples from our situation were introduced. The instructors had spent a fair amount of time beforehand, learning about the business so they could bring "real world" examples into it. And they would dig into their "archives" to find other examples that were relevant to our situation.
I don't recall the specifics of the amount of time, but it seems like it was probably around 10 days. We spent one day a week for however long it took to complete it.
How many of your guys do you think could cogently explain the concept of Lean Manufacturing if they had to teach it to others?
Do you find they just agree that life is better with small batch size? Is the logic intuitive for any of them after training or do you have to consistently remind them about 5S etc?
I don't think any of my guys could teach it without preparation. I don't think I could either...
Of course it takes constant refreshing. It's not "natural" to most people, no matter how much sense it makes when taught it.
But having been given a good grasp of the fundamentals and benefits, it's pretty easy to keep them on track.
"Do you find they just agree that life is better with small batch size?"
That is an interesting question that has come up a few times. If the big batch process makes more sense, e.g. book cutting panels, would you not just use bigger batches in that department make for faster production?
"Is the logic intuitive for any of them after training or do you have to consistently remind them about 5S etc?"
That is logic, certainly not peculiar to Lean. To some people it is intuitive to others not so much. Either way the more people you have trained in logic the better your company will do.
There seems to be an implication that bottom up should be used instead of top down. But IMO you need both.
Regarding batch size, that is not a decision made on the floor.
Approximately 75% of our work is make-to-order, so it's a moot point there. On the remainder, it's up to management to determine stocking levels & re-order points, and therefore batch sizes. Production just does what they're told...
So anyone else got any consultant types of sorts?
Anyone used SCORE? Every state has some sort of consulting service for small, medium sized businesses partly paid for through Federal programs.
Pat, Batch size that works efficiently would vary a lot with shop size and systems for moving the parts. As for stack cutting a lot depends on the software. Can it vary the optimization to finish all the parts for a given product run and still manage a reasonable set of stacks? Since stack cutting is so time efficient you don't need to keep the saw cutting, Use the saw man some other place for awhile. A lot will depend on how you can handle full sheets to the saw w/o scratches if you are cutting pre-finished. Few of us have rear loaders but a vacuum lift sure helps for us with only front loaders. How many sheets can be finish cut varies also. When the stack gets too deep variations creep in. We can only cut 4 sheets @ a time, so not an issue here. Many variables!
After reading your batch size talk, it hit me like a pan in the head that that is something that my place really has down for their boxing dept batch size, I think. CNC + panel saw man pumps out just enough for the assemblers, but not too much to store/trip over.
Now an owner question is "the CNC cost us a ton--it should be constantly operating". And it's not. But if the boxing dept is always busy, and no one is tripping over premades, is it not a good thing?
Just a question, not a statement. I am truthfully asking.
Read the "Goal".
Short read that will answer your question and it is a page turner.
It is my understanding the Eli Goldratt never worked in a manufacturing setting. Is this true?
Tim, I was also trying to figure that out. I know that he was a consultant for manufacturing, but I think his actual work experience was in a physics lab. Not to say that the same principles can't be applied.
I know that The Goal is a work of fiction, but that doesn't mean anything--a fiction author is indeed trapped in his own framework and is most often spewing something about his own life...
So long story short, I'm not sure either :)
How would I know?
The premise was that he was physicist or a scientist that came up with the premise. Either way you have to admit that it is self evident?
That being said, the guy with the scheduler software, that posts on here frequently, says that the dogma of the goal can be beaten by plugging in an optimum solution using his software and he explains it to some Goal advocates somewhere.
Or there is the guy who learned us about the bucket brigade which throws even more of a curve on this subject.
And of course tempering the Lean, Theory of Constraints, Bucket Brigade is the economies of scale. I mean when you have to make hundreds of something, I don't care how good your setup time is, when you have hundreds of something to do it puts a new spin on the subject. E.G. Lean would say each product should be placed at the next machine, others would say conveyors are the way to go, but when you start talking about 100s or more pallets and pallet jacks are the way to go. But at the same time I see Toyota factories that have different models of cars all on the same assembly line. There is a lot of options on this?
Hot diggidy dog! Are we getting into Kurt Godel here? I like it already :)
"the CNC cost us a ton--it should be constantly operating"
Well, yes and no.
There is no point filling pallets of stuff that can't be used until the 22nd century, so that's "no".
However, there are two other "yes" solutions.
1. Find a product that has or can have demand created for it, and produce it.
2. Find bottlenecks in the rest of the shop so the CNC can keep producing the product it already makes. Of course, this means selling more of the product you already produce.
Notice that the answer to this problem is really sales related...
"the CNC cost us a ton--it should be constantly operating" Should be and has to be are far apart. Ideally everything should be working at full output. Few if any really need to be to justify their cost. It is a matter of ROI. If your return on a CNC is better than any other investment you could make (in your shop) then it counts. There are far greater returns to CNC than just the pile it produces. Downstream labor reduction, fewer errors, higher quality product, new opportunities, etc. Many not directly/easily measurable in $s. We have become so dedicated to our production method (based on our router) that I can't see us ever going back. Ours runs 8 to 10 hours a day. Given the risks of what would happen if it had a major failure and the prospects of picking up more work, I'm saving my pennies to buy another.
As for the Goal, it doesn't matter if it is friction or not. It is a tale of logic being applied.
Pat, "I mean when you have to make hundreds of something, I don't care how good your setup time is, when you have hundreds of something to do it puts a new spin on the subject. E.G. Lean would say each product should be placed at the next machine, others would say conveyors are the way to go, but when you start talking about 100s or more pallets and pallet jacks are the way to go. But at the same time I see Toyota factories that have different models of cars all on the same assembly line. There is a lot of options on this?"
I don't see a big difference in any of these. Most are based on the concept of FLOW. Keep it moving, eliminate anything that doesn't result in greater product output (that the customer is willing to pay for.)
"I don't see a big difference in any of these. Most are based on the concept of FLOW. Keep it moving, eliminate anything that doesn't result in greater product output (that the customer is willing to pay for.)"
The difference is the batch size. Toyota in their factories are apparently able to get it down to a batch size of one. It is hard for me wrap my wits around how they can do that.
Just to drill edges on parts for instance, you will get a much different time than if you are drilling just a few. Yet Toyota has figured how to reduce that difference in time down to a negligible amount of time. So the bigger time difference is in having 0 over processing or WIP.
That is amazing to me and a real work of art. And a huge amount of time and effort to get to that level of production.
"Downstream labor reduction, fewer errors, higher quality product, new opportunities, etc. Many not directly/easily measurable in $s"
That's the thing I keep coming back to. Everytime you think you have things nice and measured, you've forgotten something. Or a whole whack of things.
This hardcore souless manufacturer I worked for... I couldn't help but notice how down to the penny every aspect of production was. The workers were cattle and it was head office vs the people and the overseas suppliers in finding ways to grind every little penny possible. Workers can't even pee on shift. Answer a quick text, anything. Complete cattle.
I can see why anyone would do this, of course. Capitalism, machine, board of directors, etc.
Enter office staff. Holy expensive, innefficient shitmix of half educated, self entitled, human beings (I'm not judging, I was one of them). Hour long paid lunches, dicking around on facebook, 5 person "color department" that could spend some quality time picking colors and naming them clever things. Nicely paid at that.
Board room meetings that were more of a social event and never accomplidshed anything, ever. And this company is insane profitable. Still operated at 11% profit during the entire recession.
I'll take a momment to appreciate local trades, who doesn't have too much time for any of this type of BS. It's nice to be here :)
Take a look at this video
The diff is in top down or bottom up IMO
Look at the Morale here
Who do I send an invoice to for the last five minutes of a one minute video?
Who do I send an invoice to for the last five minutes of a one minute video?