From line workers to executives I’ve seen far too many manufacturers living a life of chaos and stress. Every day a new struggle of desperation as deadlines come faster and bills breathe down your neck.
Add to that a tough economy like the one we’re in right now and you’ve got the ingredients for a perfect storm that leads to low morale, employee turnover, and ever-shrinking profits. But what if you could break free of the chaos and accelerate your shop straight to the top?
The good news is – It is possible, I’ve done it so can you!
I’m excited to share three strategies which have been developed over the past 15 years and “road tested” on more than 3,000 projects with outstanding results.
Strategy 1: IMPLEMENT FULL KITTING
One of the foundations for getting the best performance from your production system is the “complete kit” or “full kit” concept, which states that work will not start until all the required inputs for completion of the job have been received.
People waste a lot of time looking for information, supplies, and specifications such as graphic layouts, colors, attachment details, current drawings, etc.,
You know the drill – How much is this time costing you?
Imagine if every time you started a job you had everything you needed to get it finished. The effect of this improvement is that your speed improves, and jobs get done faster.
Full kit traveler preparation is the effort of completing, accurate, and timely production job folders called TRAVELERS. It is the process of clarifying requirements and getting approvals etc. for a project before a task is released for execution.
Job Travelers are the physical document that accompanies each unit of production, or job, and indicate the unique characteristics, plans, and specifications, which separate if from the other jobs.
Work orders should be broken down into separate travelers by product family (or type) and fabrication commonality (the pathway the product flows through the shop). This not only allows for better focus. It, in effect, creates smaller batch sizes which help streamline fabrication and speed the flow.
Usage example: Say you have a customer order for a set of channels letters, some post and panel signs, and a digital graphics package. These product types are “misfits,” because they follow different processing paths through your shop and therefore should be planned, scheduled, and fabricated using separate job travelers.
Take the time to get your Travelers 100% ready. Make sure you have everything that you need so that when you do start on the job, you can go from start to finish without disruption.
Strategy 2: REDUCE WIP CAPACITY
When too many projects are in execution compared to available capacity – hereafter referred to as high work-in-progress or high WIP – it automatically causes execution priorities to become unsynchronized.
For example, if several projects are simultaneously in execution, different departments might prioritize their work differently. All projects can make some progress but then become stuck at integration points where work-streams from different departments have to come together. Task priorities within departments could also get unsynchronized, in which case even the departmental work-streams would take longer. Unsynchronized priorities also create schedule conflicts, which can cause the individual resources to multitask, which results in lower quality.
If FEWER projects are in execution, the chances are much higher that task priorities within and across departments are synchronized. The higher the WIP, the smaller the chances that task priorities will be synchronized!
Therefore, the first rule for execution success is: limit the number of projects being run at one time. Projects should be staggered based on the most limiting resources because at any time only as many projects can be executed as you can get through those constraints. Any extra projects will only spread resources more thinly and destroy synchronization. Enforce this rule even if it means leaving some resources idle!
Strategy 3: CONTROL TASK FLOW
With low WIP and FULL KITTING firmly in place, a single priority system can be established. The essence of the third principle is simple but profound: Prioritize tasks according to constraint consumption. The highest priority is given to tasks that are consumed at the fastest rate. When every person and department follow these priorities, they are all synchronized – automatically!
Constraints-based priorities not only are synchronized, but they also cause project status to be reliable. If resources work on the right task, at the right time it is assured the current project status is an accurate predictor of the future – despite uncertainties, most of which can be overcome if recovery actions are initiated.
The FOCUS here is on priorities, and “flow,” not efficiencies.
Now that you have an explanation of the principles, I’ll continue with the processes that support the synchronization of task priorities on the plant floor.
To maximize production workflow you must pivot towards a strategy like the one I’ve outlined for you today. One that produces low WIP, high flow, short lead. Just imagine all the benefits it can deliver!