Basic No. 9: Sequential Production
Effective shop floor
control has proven elusive as we have upgraded our manufacturing
control system from MRP to MRPII and then to ERP. To capture control
of shop floor activities, we need to stop beating a "dead
horse" and start implementing and improving the Sequential
Production Process. The winners are!
It takes more than systems
sophistication for manufacturing companies to gain control of
factory operations. To achieve on-time shipments at healthy profit
margins, companies need to continuously improve obsolete MRPII/ERP
shop order "launch and expedite" systems with the
simplicity of sequential production. The assertion that sequential
production only works in high production, widget-manufacturing
environments is a myth. Leading low-volume,
"make-to-order" manufacturers are improving schedule
flexibility, customer responsiveness and profit margins by
developing and implementing the Sequential Production Process.
Henry Ford first
introduced sequential production at his River Rouge operation in
1920. Using sequential production as a foundation for his
principles and techniques, the Ford plant was able to go from receipt of iron ore to
casting the engine block, and to shipment of the machined engine
block in a final assembled car in an astonishing forty-eight hours.
Fordís success, however, was limited by a manufacturing philosophy
that called for the absolute power of a management hierarchy. Today
the success of sequential production is in the hands of production
workers and team dynamics. Product build/test operations content and
sequencing, production tools and instructions, logistic layouts and
cycle time targets are some of the responsibilities of the line
worker in todayís sequential production environments. The
improvement of speed, quality, costs are all placed within the
responsibility and control of the production worker through team
Sequential production is
neither an inventory control system, nor a replacement for MRP. It
is an organized and focused assault on production flexibility,
speed, quality and costs. It is a process that requires total
employee involvement and participation in the continuous improvement
of manufacturing performance. It focuses on cycle time reduction via
reduced lot sizes and setup times, preventative maintenance,
workplace integrity, visual scheduling and worker flexibility.
Sequential production tools and techniques include process
capabilities, reduced process variances, causal analyses with root
cause determination and relevant corrective actions.
While starting a
sequential production project at the end of the production process
is good advice, one heavy equipment manufacturer started at the
front because they could never start a customerís machine build on
time as they always had to wait for the machineís welded base
structure to be finished. The excuses for the delay: late shop order
releases, raw materials shortages, no one told us to start, and
itís a huge, complex, time consuming project. It was decided to
break the machine structure build process into a six-station
sequential production work cell: 1) raw materials prep, 2)
sub-assembly welding, 3) frame welding, 4) tank build/installation,
5) manifold build/installation and 6) painting. The plan was to flow
the work from one station to the next using visual scheduling and
point-of-use logistics. To everyoneís surprise and delight, not
only did this new production process make life easier for the weld
shop personnel, it increased productivity and improved quality and
eventually even reduced inventories. But most important, customer
lead-times were reduced because machines no longer had to wait for
the welded base structure.
A good approach to Sequential Production Process implementation is first to train all workers in the continuous improvement process (kaizen) and team dynamics. Next is to select a logical pilot project that would be carried out in advance of the rest of the plant "roll-out". The project should provide an area that can be isolated from material flows in the rest of the plant, but with production processes similar to the rest. The objective is to gain a quick success before "roll-outí to convince the skeptical that it is the way to go.
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