David Collins, our Consulting Director, outlines 2 simple changes that have a profound impact on a Chinese factory, both in terms of quality and costs:
- Better material presentation for operators in the lines
- Production line re-organization and balancing
So what are the low-hanging fruits here in China? What’s something you, with your customer, your company, can do in one month? What is it that you can just start with so you can see immediate results and get your people really excited about change in both quality and cost? And so let me talk about a few things that I’ve seen that we can do very easily.
The first and the simplest thing to do is to set the line up differently. And I don’t mean moving the people or anything like that, I mean placing the materials in such a way that the operator doesn’t have to walk to get them, doesn’t have to reach very far to get them, doesn’t have to turn around. Remember, you want your operator concentrating on the work that they’re doing. You don’t want them worried about where the materials are. You don’t want them worried about “how can I go find it”. You don’t want them stretching and hurting their arms, or using bad body motion that’s going to make them uncomfortable over an eight, ten hour a day. You want them concentrating on the job and doing it correctly.
Two things will come out of that. One, quality will increase because as they concentrate only on the job and they’re not worried about how to get to their material. They can actually pay attention to what they’re doing and do the job in a very complete way. And obviously the second thing that happens is, they start to feel more comfortable and you can see that they have more time to do other jobs, once the material is close by, and you can start to make the line more efficient. You can maybe combine a few jobs. You might find out that two people have now have 15 to 20 percent more time to do actions on the product and so you can split the job up better (we call that line balancing). And so you can balance the line a little better so that people can actually do the work.
Understand something: if you really time, the amount of time the person is actually working on the job, we find here in China that its three to six seconds of actual, value-added work to the product. Instead, we want to get you up into the 50-second to 55-second range of value added work onto the product. Think about that. That is almost ten times, more time spent on the product itself. That can help you reduce the amount of people you use by over five times. Now this part takes a little longer than a month, but there’s no question in the beginning you can start doing material setup and control to get you a much better line within a month and have that start to snowball into some really nice production gains and quality gains in the future.