Very closely allied with the concept of accuracy is that we must also achieve great speed. Companies in the three-to-nine range of turns will focus on reducing all lead times including order entry, manufacturing, and procurement lead time. See Figure 4. The company that has already achieved 20 or more turns will be focusing on tools that will create very short, accurate, dependable cycles. They will often do that by using techniques that tie time to the flow of materials. Something as simple as colored totes that communicate the timing of the materials will help ensure that the materials move in a FIFO manner throughout the processing cycle.
All these efforts are focused on eventually reducing the cycles to a one-piece flow. Most companies today are very interested in reducing their lead time. This will drive the turns up from three toward nine. However, to go beyond that, we need to utilize concepts that will not only speed up flow but also lead to smaller quantities at the same time. Saundras uses the concept of "one less at a time" where we should be reducing setups, adjusting shop layout, and many other techniques to get closer to one-piece flow. Many companies today are learning and utilizing the concepts called "lean," which focus on improvements right on the shop floor from the people who do in fact manage the flow of the product.
Andon boards such as shown in Figure 5 can be effectively used to manage the process inside our plant and motivate all people to work together. This board also shows the takt time between successive good units, which serves to focus all our attentions on coordinating cycle times. This is where lean and one-less-at-a-time will help us move closer to one-piece flow. This initiative to improve the process toward a one-piece flow not only reduces inventory but also gives us greater flexibility to meet customer demands.
Additionally, we see many companies working diligently to develop their suppliers. In fact, some companies seem to think that all quick delivery should be centered on suppliers who can really perform. However, those companies who aspire to double-digit turns will focus their attention on the customer. I like to say that they will work proactively to "develop customers." This means that we talk to the customers long enough to find the "win-win" situation. For example, is it good to get an order from a customer for 10,000 pieces to deliver ten weeks from now? Why, of course it is! However, if we run an order through our shop for 10,000 pieces for delivery in ten weeks, we will need to do a lot to plan the priorities and
interaction with the other orders we have. A more proactive approach is to ask the customer how they intend to use our products. If they too are a manufacturer, they may well need the items in a flow delivery method. Would it not be better to make and ship, say, 1,000 pieces a week for ten weeks? How about 200 a day for 10 weeks— that's even better for everyone.
Daily shipment of orders causes us not only to focus on short cycles, but also to improve our operations and move toward daily or one-piece flows. This type of thinking in dealing with our customers will indeed move our turns from the 20 on up into the 60 range.
To Be Continued