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Manufacturing Flexibility 

 

PART VII. 

 

Synchronized manufacturing has seven essential components:

• Flexibility to react to constant changes in the environment. As previously mentioned, the environment is there to be fore­casted, or in the best case, to be adapted to it.

• Dynamic scheduling based on real-time restrictions. To plan for the materials or to know beforehand the bottlenecks is not enough. The production people need to have the ability to schedule the plant based on the constant changes that happen, controlling the execution of an order through each of its production steps from its release to its delivery, verifying at every moment who does what, when, how, and where.

• Transfer the concepts of total quality to the shop floor. Quality is laid on the foundation of one fundamental principle, and this is that the customer is the one who defines it. The same concept can be applied to the internal customer, the one that is related to each work station, either as vendor or as customer. In the fabrication process, the quality of the internal customer will depend on the one of the internal vendors, which makes it then mandatory to know in detail what the customer's needs are, under which arrangement, at what time and amount. 

* Apply the philosophy of JIT and Kanban dynamically. A workstation, under normal Kanban conditions, interacts only with its contiguous customers and vendors, reacting to the pull of the demand in any given situation on the floor. On the other hand, the dynamic Kanban has exactly the same principle, with the slight and important difference of not only looking to the present situation, but also analyzing the different alternatives of the immediate future, simulating distinct scenarios to select the most viable according to the actual circumstances. 

* Manage the priorities based on customer service. Contrary to defining fixed priorities, which present a discipline and definition problem, synchronized manufacturing methodology establishes priorities based on scheduled delivery dates, providing an efficient customer service method. Also, this method maintains the relative priority at each production level, combining different optimization criterias at the same time. 

* Admit that nothing happens as planned. Unpredictability will not disappear. Statistical fluctuations like equipment breakdowns, missing raw materials, absence of skilled employees, urgent orders, production delays, or any other Murphy's law capable to be applied to the plant will always be there, even with the best methods to avoid them. 

* Have the capability to adapt to these changes. Given the fluctuations, an increased ability to readjust the schedule to

the changes will provide a sounder security that the work stations will be producing in the right moment, the right product, for the right customers.

This is something like the daily trip to our office on a highway. We know that the average time of the trip is 30 minutes, with a statistical fluctuation of 10%. Even by knowing this fluctuation and therefore leaving the house 33 minutes earlier, nothing will prevent us from getting to the office late if we encounter a traffic jam on our way. Now, what is important is to listen to the radio services (control system), which will inform each car (the work order) about the situation (the variability), suggesting alternate ways (rescheduling), to arrive on time (objective) at our office.

Conclusion

I would like to conclude with a story my father used to tell me when I was a kid. Once upon a time, a man wanted to fly a plane; unfortunately, he fell out of the plane; fortunately, he had a parachute; unfortunately, it did not work; fortunately, he saw he was aiming for a haystack; unfortunately, a fork emerged from the haystack; fortunately, he avoided the fork; unfortunately, he avoided the haystack, too.

Our production systems need to give us the flexibility required at plant level. If flexibility is a strategic objective sought to obtain a competitive advantage, these systems will allow a company to interact at the variable level at which the environment presents given that, after all ... Nothing happens as planned.


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