When was the last time you walked the shop floor? I mean really walked it, paid attention to what the techs and inspectors were working on, looking at, and most importantly, the ratio of time spent actually working to time not working (and no, I don’t mean breaks)? What you may see could surprise or scare you. If your technicians and inspectors are spending more time not working, then you have a cycle time issue. Sure, you have a lean shop and your personnel can quickly access their tools, but after that shop is lean and they are still spending time not working on product, then you are suffering from one of the top five killers of cycle time.
1. Printing paperwork
Sure, paper is handy, paper is tangible, but paper is a waste of time. Paperwork is lost, redone, and rerecorded more times throughout the day then can be generated. Volumes of binders and marked up paper is not only miserable but clutters up the workspace and only encourages an incomplete record of information. How much paperwork are you printing, and then reprinting due to loss, changes, and data recording that is ineffective? Even the most seasoned technicians that may be a little nervous around computers would love to get rid of the paperwork. Help them out, go paperless. I mean really go paperless, not just putting manuals and work instructions online. Make it interactive; make it intelligent, make it a true Manufacturing Execution System.
2. Logging into a drawing system
Drawings are perhaps the most critical piece of the manufacturing and build process and require the most analysis to determine correct revision, correct diagrams, and correct specifications. How often is your technician or inspector having to walk back to the computer, log in, double check revision, print, and then recheck the drawing? Probably a lot. Many shop floor networks not only are slow, but there is so much security placed on the network and log ins, it’s not atypical for a simple drawing pull to take 5 to 10 minutes to access. That time is wasted time. Make it easy for your techs and inspectors, get the drawings on a big monitor (near their work station of course- see next killer) make it a touch screen so they can interact with the drawing. Most importantly, start questioning the IT policy and security to see what is possible to make log on quicker and more accessible.
3. Walking to the computer
Where is the computer located for the technical or inspector to access? If it’s less than 2 steps away, then you aren’t helping your cycle time. What is the ratio of personnel to workstations? If it is more than three, then it’s too many. With today’s wireless infrastructures, mobility options, and cheap hardware, there is no reason the shop floor shouldn’t come first when it comes to having the most accessible workstation (especially when you went paperless due to killer number one).
4. Waiting on changes
On your shop floor tour, go to the shelf of parts on hold, or paperwork nook of “waiting on changes.” Then, look at how long this buildup has been touched. Chances are there is some product that’s been sitting for a long while. In addition, it’s probably waiting on a change or engineering decision. It’s not the technician’s job to track down status of work orders. Their job is to keep working so, get it off the technician’s or inspector’s plate. Make a determination if this is likely to be resolved in the next ten days. If it is, then, get on it. If it’s not, then determine an alternate option. Scrap it, send it back for rework, finish it as a specific build revision and get it into inventory. Don’t let product sit, waiting for change to happen, if you do that, it never will.
What extra stuff do you have your techs and inspectors doing; wiring mandatory improvement ideas, finding FOD, double checking certifications, validating an eDHR? All the extra activities being performed are not only not part of their job description, but they are a waste of time. You have paid administrative personnel that can handle these actions. What activities were incorporated due to a response to an audit or corrective action? Has anyone gone back and determined if the corrective action is effective? If it is not, then it’s killing your cycle time. Remove all barriers from production and let your employees focus on what they were hired to do; build and manufacture parts. There are countless tools – including your new paperless shop floor system- that handle adminstrivia tasks. Let the workhorse do the overhead working.
When looking at ways to reduce cycle time, look at the ancillary activities happening on your shop floor. Chances are, you are experiencing one or multiple of these cycle time killers. Focus on removing them, and you may be surprised at the result.