manufacturing plant

Is The Entire Manufacturing Facility Neat, Orderly, Well-Lit and Quiet Enough So Workers Can Communicate?

Evaluating orderliness is one of the easiest ways to assess the effectivity of a plant. Manufacturing can be chaotic even at its best, but there’s no need to add to the chaos by allowing a mess. Messes cause waste — wasted time looking for parts and tools, wasted motion moving things around. It’s no coincidence that the “Five Ss” mantra of lean relates primarily to keeping order.

As a refresher, the Five Ss are:

Sort
Only things that are necessary to do the job should be stored in the work center. Everything else should be removed. As you evaluate your plant, consider whether your process includes time to remove and store unnecessary items at the end of a job. Less clutter increases productivity and reduces wasted time, and it enables workers to focus on the job at hand without distractions.

Set in Order
This can be thought of as “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” When you know where things belong and you make an effort to be sure to return things to their assigned place, it eliminates wasted time searching for what you need to complete a job. Putting like objects together also makes it easier to remember where to find things. Look for pegboards or bins for hand tools and jig storage, and similar items stored near each other.

Shine
Not only should everything be in its assigned location, but workstations as well as floors, walls and equipment should be clean. A clean workspace shows pride in the operation and helps motivate workers to produce quality products that delight customers.

Standardize
Does your facility run using standard equipment and processes as much as possible? Standardization eliminates exceptions that slow down production and can cause quality issues.

Sustain
Every effective plant has processes for ensuring consistent quality and discipline with time built in for cleanliness and tidiness. Without building sustainability into your operations, your plant will never achieve its full potential.

For more about the 5S method, read James P. Womack’s The Machine That Changed the World.

Do You Post Up-To-Date Production Goals and Operational Metrics?

Any endeavor works better when everyone involved is working toward the same goals. Decide on your most important goals, measure them often, and post the results where everyone can see them. It helps if your manufacturing ERP system has built in operational metrics so achievements update automatically since gathering data can be time consuming otherwise. If you don’t know what to measure, start here with some ideas from LNS Research.

Does The Production Flow Resemble a Straight Line, Or Is It More of a Curlicue?

Think of your production facility as spaghetti. Does your process flow look like spaghetti right out of the box, or does it look more like the tangled mass you get after cooking? Strive to make your process flow as straight and simple as possible, with minimal movement between stations and no backtracking if possible. Eliminating unnecessary handling and movement will increase throughput, reduce inventories and improve throughput, making your operation immediately more effective. Check out this article in Assembly for some great tips on plant layout.

Are Work Instructions and Product Specs Visible and in Use at Each Workstation?

Effective manufacturing companies have a focus on quality, and that means that workers must have easy access to process instructions, assembly diagrams, specifications and worksheets as they perform their tasks. Every workstation should have an easily accessible spot for the necessary paperwork, or better yet, consider these ideas for using a mobile device to display the information. When you walk through your plant, do you see the paperwork at every station? Check a few. Is the paperwork for the currently running job, or is it left over from previous work? It’s much less expensive and much more effective to build quality in than it is to rework it in later. Make your dedication to quality a priority for everybody.

Where Do You Put Scrap?

To err is human, which means even the best run operations will generate some scrap. Hiding scrap in a distant corner is a sign of an organization focused on blame. Don’t set up a shrine to scrap, but it should be easily visible so people recognize that there is a cost to errors. In fact, some companies go so far as to post the value of their scrap heap right there to really bring home the idea that quality costs money as well as causing late orders and unhappy customers.

Are There Jigs, Fixtures or Other Mistake Proofing Measures in Place at Each Operation?

Continuing with the quality theme, you want to be sure that every process is as mistake proof as possible. Jigs and fixtures that only allow one way to come together help eliminate assembly errors. The right fixtures promote safety as well as quality, helping to protect workers as well.

Is There More Than a Shift’s Worth of Inventory at Any Station?

Inventory should be stored near where it’s needed, but that doesn’t mean you want it all on the plant floor all the time. Too much inventory at work centers requires excessive material handling and it obscures priorities. Instead of making it faster to find the needed material, too much means workers waste time looking for the right part amid the chaos. Try to keep inventory to no more than you need for a day or a shift for maximum effectivity.

Is All Inventory Clearly Labeled and Identified?

Many parts look alike but don’t have the same specifications. Make sure every item is clearly labeled and properly identified. Work with suppliers to ensure that you receive material with acceptable labels. Try to standardize on bins and containers so labels can always be affixed in the same location so they are easy to find. Make sure your receiving, stockroom and material handling team understands the importance of accurate labeling and that they take the time to check everything before picking or putaway. Searching for lost or mislabeled inventory wastes a lot of time in ineffective companies. Most manufacturing ERP solutions have built in label printing capabilities. If yours does, you should use it. If it doesn’t, maybe it’s time for a new ERP system.

Are Equipment Maintenance Schedules Planned and Posted?

Nothing messes up production and shipping plans more than unplanned equipment downtime. Your plant should have a comprehensive maintenance and calibration plan for every piece of equipment. Schedules should be posted, along with the date of the last preventive maintenance (PM) activity. Knowing when you have a PM planned can help make manufacturing more effective because workers and supervisors can plan production more effectively, and it ensures that the PM doesn’t get pushed aside. Well maintained equipment is more efficient and operates more effectively, helping to keep the line on schedule and ensuring better quality output. An integrated EAM system can help with this by reserving time in production schedules for every planned maintenance activity, and keeping track of required maintenance and calibration activities.

Is There a Clear Focus On Quality?

One of the most effective ways to ensure efficient manufacturing operations is to focus on quality. High quality output helps keep the plant on schedule, ensuring on time delivery for happier customers. Good quality helps control costs by reducing scrap and rework. Every step you take to promote quality also helps with safety, which go hand in hand.

The quality message should come through loud and clear in your plant, and workers should feel empowered to speak up or even stop the line when they see a quality problem emerging. If your people don’t act when they notice a problem, ask yourself whether your commitment to quality is real. You might also want to consider using a quality management system (QMS) that is integrated with your manufacturing ERP system. The right QMS can help with documentation and process control, as well as training, corrective action management and change control.

After walking around your plant with these questions in mind, you may discover that the plant is not operating as effectively as it could. Some challenges can be easily addressed by using built in capabilities in your manufacturing ERP solution. Your ERP partner should have a no-cost program in place to help you understand the capabilities you have available. If your ERP vendor doesn’t have such a program, it might be time to consider a new ERP partner that is as dedicated to your success as they are to their own.

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