Recently an engineering manager we worked with craved for additional engineering involvement to truly be able to take cost out of a product through design. I am in strong agreement with the engineering manager and would welcome his direct involvement in any design review. During my days with Allen-Bradley we had roughly calculated that it cost the organization around 100K per year to maintain a SKU, if you added up real estate costs, ordering, receiving, putting away, cycle counting, pulling parts, material conveyance and maintaining forecasts, BOM etc in your ERP system … so anyone who is willing to reduce SKU count by 50% is a saint in my books.
However, we also need engineering to help us design out labour in our processes on the shop floor. Typically when I review the output of a work centre, value stream and plot the actual outputs on a graph the demonstrated output is quite often at 50% of the original estimate. Now give any operations individual a process and a target to get units out of the door and they will figure out a way to accomplish the objective even if it is not labour cost-effective. This is probably why when a labour content reduction is required management focuses on the operations group to get the job done. Once you have plotted your demonstrated output it is understandable that operations should be held accountable for consistently performing to the demonstrated output performance. However, if you need more through-put you will need the help and expertise of engineering to review and change the processes to deliver more or the same with less labour. This can be demonstrated in a simple graph.
Seems like a simple enough concept but only too frequently it creates that Ah Ha moment. Once folks understand this simple concept it eliminates the confusion of roles and responsibility on the shop floor between the two factions.
Of course one of the most powerful tools that enables all parties to come together to collaborate is the exercise of Value Stream Mapping and developing your action plan and tracking charts. Many organizations are using VSM to identify and eliminate waste but forget about their investment in the tool once the organization endures some stress of a change in business conditions.
A change in business will require a change in process so as a team you need to reach for your investment in a VSM and begin another review through the eyes of your new business situation.
We all strive to identify and accomplish the perfect process but it is only through a series of process enhancements that this will be accomplished.
VSM is a great team-building exercise so include as many people as possible. Once you have your maps completed it should align the troops with a common focus and a clearly defined road map to capture the target.
VSM is not a solution but rather a tool enabling you to see, you will then need to align your other Lean attributes to support the cause.
5S+1 - to insure workplace organization that you only have the tools and materials required … everything else is waste.
TPM – regular operator checks to early identify potentially unpleasant surprises and get them fixed!
Daily Team Report-Outs - to plot our progress and remain focused on the targets.
Set-up Reduction – to improve agility within the processes will require that set-up is not a time-based obstacle.