On a factory’s shop floor, a lot of improvements can be implemented and sustained without any investment, apart from a few whiteboards and small tooling at the process level. There is little correlation between the amount invested in high-tech equipment and the level of improvement.
Let’s go through 5 examples to illustrate various technologies and approaches that may make sense in your factory.
Whiteboards can be used as visual boards for local leaders. Once those leaders are trained to use the boards correctly and they take action when they see issues, it is part of ‘visual management’. It supports problem solving on the shop floor, close to the processes, and that has a strong impact on the factory’s ability to drive improvements.
2. LED lights
Just one step above whiteboards are LED displays and Andon/stack lights. They provide immediate alerts that a piece of equipment or a process has departed from standard, and local leaders can go and study the situation quickly. Again, problem solving on the shop floor.
3. Mobile apps and TVs
Obviously, more modern systems can be used to collect and manage information, too. For example, gathering data in real time on tablets and displaying key numbers (along with alerts) on large screens is helpful in showing the workers and their leaders what the performance (quality, efficiency…) is. It helps them maintain the right pace as they work. It calls for attention where there are issues. For example, we have recently implemented an inexpensive app that does this, and the amount of investment is rather modest.
All those data can be pushed into a central database, and there are now many analytics packages that can be configured to show just the right dashboards to the right people – from Power BI and Tableau to open-source alternatives such as Metabase. That can be auite valuable if decision makers are not located on-site.
4. Reward programs
Simple reward suggestion programs generate many new improvements that tend to be simple to implement. It is usually a good idea to make them visual, too. The morale of the staff increases as they get rewarded (money, gifts, special meals, etc.) for their ideas and time spent to submit the suggestions.
5. Expensive equipment with data collection & control
Finally, to maintain certain manufacturing processes under the necessary degree of control, or to test certain key materials, the factory may need to invest in expensive equipment, for example a CMM machine to confirm very tight tolerances are met, or air conditioning to maintain temperature control.
However, when it comes to process control, we have found that at least 70% of the benefits can be gained with inexpensive approaches, in most situations.
To conclude, the technology doesn’t matter much. Try to keep your visual management boards simple.
The thought process of total waste elimination is what generates a myriad of savings.
For example, one-piece-flow generates the elimination of material handling, the reduction of WIP and WIP rejects/rework, and an increase in efficiency. It further improves morale as the company’s focus on Quality First mandate creates pride in workmanship.
If you want to understand your facility's risks and how to improve operations, schedule a complimentary consultation with CMC's consultants today.