The day today ended about 10 pm. It is 11 pm now as I write this, which translates to 7 am Pacific Time. I will leave the remaining time zones as an exercise for my European readers. (Hello, Corrie!)
Once we hit the shop floor today we were in “understand the current situation” mode. It turned out to be more difficult than I expected due to a high level of variation, some real, but most self-inflicted, on the line. Yesterday I mentioned my great plan to put the less experienced people on the front line of the cycle time study. Well, I ended up doing that, along with everyone else, since the area we are working is fairly spread out and has 11 people working in it.
After getting our heads around things, we have these areas of focus tomorrow.
- Establish an even and visual pitch on the moving conveyor. We need to know when work cycles are supposed to start and end so we have some kind of baseline about where the cycle time issues are. This will help.
- Basic 5S and parts presentation in the first position. This guy is responsible for setting the takt for everyone else since he is the one who launches the unit down the conveyor after his stationary build. We might try to move most of his build to the conveyor too. I think it has been on the conveyor in the past because the unit moves through the first pitch without anyone touching it.
- Start recording line stops. When, why, how often. Basic understanding of where the problems are.
- Detailed work combination analysis of a semi-automated testing operation at mid-line. We know there are disruptions there, but those disruptions cause major distortions to the actual (vs. planned) work cycle, so we need to understand whether the operation even has the theoretical capability to meet takt.
- Work on a sub-assembly operation and at least try the concept of building unit-by-unit instead of batching to the weekly published schedule. Stuff is late to the line. It is probably not a capacity issue but rather that capacity being used making stuff other than what is needed right now. This will be a little complicated because they actually feed parts to more than one line position. Thus if they get truly synchronized with their customer, they will not build a unit set of parts because this is a mixed line, and different positions have different products at any given time. Instead they will have to shift their focus from “unit” to their individual main-line customers and build what they need next.
The real overall challenge is that this is a two-day event, and we spent the first day just getting our heads wrapped around all of this. So tomorrow will be busy. But people are learning, and that is the whole point. It is important not to lose sight of the reason we are here. If the host company gains, so much the better, but it is really about the participants learning something we can take back.
And yes, I have been deliberately vague so as not to compromise the host company. They have been at this a long time, and done some very impressive things. This particular area, however, needs work, which I suppose is why we are in it.