The productivity principles improve reaction time
and reduce costs by eliminating waste, but these are only possible
with a corresponding set of quality principles. For example, making
one-at-a-time in immediate response to exact
customer demand means that each one has to be perfect. The only way
to do that is to make every person in the system personally
responsible for his or her work to a personal customer that can be
looked in the eye. Given the proper tools for process control and
problem-solving, along with a management environment that draws the
line at process capability and says we stop and fix anything beyond
it, coupled with a visibility management system that invites people
to help one another instead of posting keep out signs, value-adders
can continuously improve quality levels in the quest for perfection.
A rigorous productive maintenance program is also a necessary part
of this strategy since most processes have some equipment dependency
and waste elimination removes all surplus equipment.
The People Factor
REAL JIT can only be implemented through
empowered, self-directed teams of people who synergize their
collective brainpower in a consensus manner within a defined
charter. (In other words, they must work within predetermined rules
and limits or else the result would be anarchy.) To make this
possible, major changes are required in the company culture.
Management must create workable charters or leave a vacuum by
default. Policies are needed to stabilize the workplace and motivate
people to continuously improve. Management practices and style must
transition from the autocratic boss (7 think; you do) to a
team-building coach who trains, inspires and leads the team to
places it's never been. Individuals must learn to work together as
equals in peer groups that take initiatives and operate
decentralized enterprises which can respond rapidly to customer
demand changes without bureaucratic delays.
All of these are significant cultural changes
(shocks, in some companies) which will require a formal, organized
program to evolve to the new style over a period of years. Both
managers and team members, or associates, must first experience the
new culture in a non-threatening, laboratory situation before trying
to phase it into the workplace. It is not easy. Nor is it optional.
It is the table stakes of REAL JIT.
Focused Flow Manufacturing
Even the best teams will have difficulty
achieving world class performance in a traditional plant, where each
person's perspective is limited to a very narrow range of work. REAL
JIT plants are organized into focused factories and group technology
centers which produce families of finished products or salable
components and subassemblies which flow through the workcenters one
piece at a time. In these enterprises, every worker can and usually
does perform all of the operations in the workcenter, which
magnifies their perspective by orders of magnitude for their subset
of the business. This type of physical arrangement, coupled with the
empowered teams, leads to an incredible increase in productivity,
quality and improvement actions. Either one alone, in isolation from
the other, can lead to really big disappointments.
Within the enterprise workcenters, many
traditional indirect functions, like inspection, material handling,
scheduling, machine setup, minor machine maintenance, packaging,
housekeeping and even work distribution are done by team members as
part of their do-it-all job assignments. As a result, fewer pieces
per person are manufactured when compared to previous direct labor
standards, but far more pieces per person are made when compared to
the combination of all the previous direct, indirect and salaried
labor in the process. Between enterprises, a customer-supplier
relationship exists as usable entities are shipped to meet actual
downstream demands. This is difficult, if not impossible to achieve,
unless the enterprises are self-contained, as if
they were outside suppliers.
Pull Scheduling and Control
To maintain the flow between workcenters, setup
reduction efforts are undertaken to reduce setup costs to
non-events, making smaller and smaller lot sizes possible. (It's
much easier for grains of sand or small stones to flow than it is
for irregular rocks and boulders.) Uniform scheduling methods are
then used to reserve capacity for families of parts, with some of
each part variation planned to be produced each day and mix changes
accommodated easily and almost invisibly on the shop floor. Computer
systems are simplified to take advantage of their power where useful
and to eliminate wasteful transactions or unnecessary reports.
When the scheduling system is based on flow production of small
quantities, small amounts of material can be provided to all work
stations and replenished as consumed. The replenishment signal is
usually a card, which is sent to the supplier as needed. The same
system can be used for both inside and outside suppliers. Because
Production Control calculates and distributes the cards every month,
they can control the level of production and incoming materials
better than ever thought possible in the past. However, it won't
work in traditional, operations-oriented plants which produce large
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