Editing to remove non- value adding distractions and waste is the true essence of Lean.

There are many distractiong non value added elements in this photo.
There are many distracting non-value-added elements in this photo.

lean eliminates those distractions to reveal the true value.
Lean eliminates those distractions to reveal the true value.

Who is the “Lean Editor” to cut the non-value-added distractions and waste throughout your shop?

“Setups are going a little smoother (mostly);  there is much less wasted time searching for
needed tools; and everyone is showing a little more pride and professionalism
in their tidy new professional  work area.”

Avoiding unneeded tools is just as important as having the ones you need.
Avoiding unneeded tools is just as important as having the ones you need.

PMPA Vice President Tom Bernstein  of Torin Products, a CNC Swiss shop in Columbus Nebraska just shared his experience with Shadow Boards in  the December issue of Production Machining Magazine.
Its an easy read, and it tells as good a story about how to manage as it does about how to create Shadow Boards.
“The benefits are not just financial and measured in saved time. My team is now confident that in this area they exemplify Best Practice.”
File this one under continuous improvement! Read the full story here
In what areas does your team and shop exemplify Best Practice?

Think that Manufacturing is Dull, Dirty, Boring?
Guess again.
I recently visited PMPA member shop Central Screw Products / Detroit Gun Works open house earlier this month.
High Energy. Positive Energy. Great housekeeping.

Nothing dull, dirty or boring going on here.
Nothing dull, dirty or boring going on here.

Matt and Arnot Heller, III recounted their trips to China several years ago:
“Everyone was telling us, “You should set up in our manufacturing cluster here in (name of Chinese province). Not only will ther be manufacturing companies, but also suppliers and outside services you will require.””
“It occurred to us that we already had that back in Metro Detroit- arguably the greatest manufacturing cluster on the planet. The talent was available in the local shops, So we decided to “continuously improve” our operations in Michigan.”
The Heller’s moved their operations from  Detroit city center to Troy to be closer to their families, and invested in state of the art equipment and set up the shop using lean systems and integrating robots into machining operations.
As Central Screw Products, the company continues to provide customers with high quality, just in time precision machined products for critical applications.
However their Detroit Gun Works operation has become their engine of growth and helped them to upgrade their equipment, people, and reinvigorate their supply chain.
Upgrade to best industry practices...
Upgrade to best industry practices…

For many of us, Detroit is the Motor City.
For the Heller’s, Detroit is the greatest manufacturing cluster on the planet.

Here are  5 things that can unnecessarily add costs or delays to your Precision Machined Part:

  • Small  Order Quantities
  • Material Selection
  • Special Diameter Holes
  • Close Tolerances
  • Unnecessarily Fine Surface Finish
“Parts is parts.” But costs are influenced by decisions on manufacturability.

Small  Order Quantities are a two edged sword. Minimizing inventory on hand is an important Lean concept; but often the cost of separate setups for small runs is more expensive than holding a modest inventory. If your parts are standard to you, getting the economic order quantity correct can save you money by minimizing what you have to pay for set up costs. (And by the way, we’re working like crazy to reduce those setup costs!)

Material Selection can increase costs of production and can mean missed deliveries if the grade is “just not  commercially available.” Engineering requirements for the end use must be paramount, but the material contribution to manufacturing costs need to be evaluated as well. The reduction in suppliers, suppliers’ inventories, and every one’s attention to ‘Lean’  along the supply chain means that the ‘perfect material’ for that part just might be a six month lead time rolling lot accumulation with no assurances of delivery…

Special Diameter Holes are often overlooked as a cost driver. But with every non standard hole diameter specified, The suopplier will need to purchase higher cost non-standard drills, reamers, and plug gages. Lead times for specials could also mean your parts are delayed while tools are made for your job. Are you certain that a standard hole size won’t do the job needed?

Close Tolerances are a source of pride to the craftsmen of the precision machining industry. Our people, processes, and engineering can assure that the hole delivered is as specified. But if you specify tolerances that are ‘closer than needed,’ the extra attention, more frequent tool adjustments and changes, and loss of productivity to make those adjustments can add incrementally to the cost. We can make what you need- are you asking for more precision (cost) than you need?

Unnecessarily Fine Surface Finish, like close tolerances can add higher costs when specified unnecessarily. What is the reason for the finish specified? While today’s modern tooling and machines are able to provide better surface finish than machining technology of the distant past- for some requirements a separate grinding, shaving, burnishing or other treatment may be required. If there is not really a close fit, sliding fit, and there is no movement on/of the surface, over-specifying surface finish can needlessly increase your part costs.

Practicing ‘Lean’ and minimizing waste is not just the responsibility of the producer. As the 5 items above point out, eliminating needless waste is also a responsibility of the customer.

As my grandparents- who came through the WWI, The Great Depression, WWII rationing, and a host of other economic and life challenges- used to say to me:

“Take what you need. No more, no less.”

I think it’s great advice.

Here are 5 factors to keep in mind when analyzing work.

  1. Focus on the process. In my experience, it is seldom the people. If you start with the work instructions and compare to the process, you will find the answer.
  2.  Most waste comes from working on the wrong things. Are the activities being done actually adding value?
  3.  Classify the activities as definitely adding value, necessary, unnecessary, idle. Do everything in your power to eliminate all that do not add value.
  4.  Question “why?” for every activity that is being performed. Legacy is seldom worth paying for. How would a new startup today do this?
  5. Communicate with everyone. Continuous improvement requires buy- in from the team, and their contributions may well out-value what an outside observer will develop.

Whether you use  work sampling, just observation, time study, spaghetti diagram, flow charts, or notes scribbled on work instructions doesn’t really matter. The five points given above are the key to getting a savvy analysis of the job at hand.

I’m really more focused on Quality.
On draining the swamp, not swamp beautification.
Quality Assurance.
Organizational Improvement. (People and Processes.)
Lean is just another way of saying eliminate waste.
Six Sigma uses statistical jargon, but how many people in top management can even get close to describing the area under the normal curve at +/- 3 sigma? Or know that a sigma is a standard deviation? And what that means?
Let alone recognize non-normal data?
(“Six Sigma” is just another term for “Magic ” to the guys wearing ties at the OEM’s…)
I’m not into cute names for serious tools. We were using  powerful  statistical techniques before they got new cute  names and became safe  Okay fashionable  to say up in the carpeted front office.

Draining the swamp doesn't need tools with cute names.

However, if you are serious about Quality. Quality Assurance. Organizational Improvement. And Tools You Can Use to drain the swamp, instead of reading crap of unknown provenance from the web,  here’s your reading list:
1) Competing Against Time by Stalk and Hout
2) Toyota Way by Jeffrey Liker.Frankly, if you haven’t already read
3) The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt, (get this one first it will give you key insight into how to think about manufacturing.)
4) The Machine That Changed The World by Womack is also worth your time.
Take these tools, and love it.
Excavator photo credit.

Now is the time for innovationthroughout our organizations, not just the shop floor. Today we’ll provide you with a free “Tool You Can Use” courtesy of  Knowledge @ Wharton and  Boston Consulting Group.

Beyond lean 007v1
Another piece of the competitiveness puzzle.

“When people think about lean, they often associate it with reducing the workforce. But the cost is not in the line labor, its in the overhead. The most important thing  is the seamless integration of everything that goes into the production.” -Adam Farber, Boston Consulting Group.
Lean had its genesis in post-WWII Japan- facing a world with no capital and few raw materials, innovation at Toyota became a necessity- a process known as the Toyota Production System, or Lean.
Today, like Japan after the war, our organizations face a similar crisis: no capital, few orders, difficult to obtain raw materials, and difficult to find skilled people. Innovating throughout our organizations– NOT JUST IN OUR SHOP OPERATIONS, but  in sales, engineering, administration, in fact all areas- through the use of Lean tools can help us eliminate waste. Less waste means add more value for customers, improving the sustainability of our companies.
Click here for Rethinking Lean, Beyond The Shop Floor, a free .pdf from Wharton Business School and Boston Consulting Group.
In  1957  MIT economist Robert Solow showed capital and labor only accounted for about half of growth. The remaining half he attributed to innovation. For his work on the importance of innovation, Solow received a Nobel Prize in economics. For your work in innovating throughout your organization, you too may earn a grand prize, a more sharply focused, less wasteful, more sustainable enterprise
And that more competitive enterprise, is a prize worth having.