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Quality Principles

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 only

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 work centers one piece at a time. In these enterprises, every worker can and usually does perform all of the operations in the work center, 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 work centers, 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 lot sizes.


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