By Marty Haywood
In the Printing/Mailing industry, we think of plant floor design as a linear flow of materials from process to process, paper, and ink on one end and a completed mailing on the other. If you have space, this is not hard to achieve.
This article is not about where to place the people and machinery; each plant floor is unique. It is more about how to improve productivity. And yes, it may mean that you do have to move the furniture.
More than a few years back, I set an addresser line in a nice new manufacturing space. It was actually larger than I thought would be needed. I had the electrical drops put in, set the machinery and began trial production. Then the plant manager brought me the bad news. All the space I thought was mine was actually going to be shared with another department. My space was cut down to the bare minimum. Suddenly my nice linear flow of materials in and out of the space became a nightmare. What productivity gains I realized on the addresser line, were all but entirely lost when we brought product onto and finished mail out of the production line.
The root cause of the failure was the inability of plant management (myself included) to communicate exactly how much space I would have to work with. Which leads me to the first ďDOĒ:
Do communicate with all parties. The importance of this cannot be understated. Communication is difficult but not sharing information is detrimental to being productive. In the days before computers in manufacturing spaces, I co-supervised a department where we were given a clear production schedule each morning. I distributed copies of this schedule each day to each work pod on the line. Everybody knew exactly what to expect. And when. If there was a change in schedule (and there were many), everybody would get a copy of the new schedule. Gone were the issues with material not arriving when needed or way before they were needed, clogging up the manufacturing space. Everything arrived just as production required. That communication was key.
It wasnít a stroke of genius, just asking people why things went wrong and responding. You can apply this in most any operation.
Do everything you can to remove your team memberís reasons for not meeting goals. This goes along nicely with the above. While you canít address each and every reason a team member gives you, you can and should listen and act whenever you can.
Manufacturing has become highly automated. No longer does a plant floor have to be linear flows. Modern plant floor design takes into account more than the movement of materials, but also the waste, the value of the product from the customerís perspective and the quality. This is known as Lean Manufacturing.
Lean Manufacturing had itís beginning with Toyota in Japan and is practiced today as the Toyota Production System (TPS). Iím a history buff and could fill this whole article with the rich history of manufacturing systems. Iíll show a bit of restraint and concentrate on the more practical side.
While full implementation of TPS is not feasible for all but the larger print/mail operations, some of TPSís key principles can and should be incorporated into plant floor design.
DONíT allow Waste to creep onto your plant floor design. And everything is waste that doesnít go directly into the product.
ďWaste is anything other than the minimum amount of equipment, materials, parts and working time which is absolutely essential to add value to the product or serviceĒ Ohno Taiicho
Waste exists in every manufacturing operation. The Japanese use three words for waste in manufacturing Muri, Mura, and Muda.
Muri is a failure of not having clear expectations for the team members that actually create the product. That translates into making repetitive tasks easy for the people that do them. If isnít easy, it is overburden, tasking your team members unnecessarily. Muri is also caused by poorly designed or cluttered work spaces. Make sure that work areas are efficient and kept clean.
Mura is the lack of uniformity of procedure or material. I worked at a company that at the end of the month, there was an ďall hands on deckĒ approach to getting all work in process out the door. Even if the product was not due to the customer. Team members were stressed, overtime was clocked and all to meet monthly targets. But the next week departments were struggling to find work to do. There were shortages of work in progress and people were idle as the flow was restored.
Muda is the failure of processes to efficiently produce. There are seven key wastes in Muda, overproduction, inventory, transportation, defects, motion, over-processing, and waiting.
In lean manufacturing, there are three basic principles of quality; Jidoka, Kaizen, and Kanban.
Quality is a goal to be strived for. While perfection is never to be attained, the only good comes from trying.
All of these methods come with different levels of sophistication and expense. You may not be able to replace machinery on your plant floor to meet jidoka standards, but you may be able to reduce the attention a machine needs from a human operator until you can replace that machine. Some of the simple things that you can do to improve your communications with team members will reap the largest rewards. And without a capital investment. Just an investment in people.
Marty Haywood is the Customer Support Specialist & Partnership Liaison Officer at AccuZIP, Inc. Martyís history includes custom manufacturing, advertising copywriting, and over 20 years experience in the Print/Mail industry. He is an Ideallianceģ Advanced Certified Mail Professional. AccuZIP, Inc. is a national software company that has provided feature rich solutions to manage Contact Data Quality, Address Hygiene, USPSģ Postal Presorting and Compliance and Mail Tracking and Reporting for over two decades. Its solutions are used by many industry verticals to streamline, standardize and simplify processes associated with data entry, data management, direct mailing and multi-channel communications. You can reach Marty at email@example.com.
About AccuZIP, Inc.
AccuZIP, Inc., a national software company based in Atascadero, CA, provides feature rich solutions to manage Contact Data Quality, Address Hygiene, USPS Postal Presorting and Compliance and Mail Tracking and Reporting. Our solutions are designed to be utilized across many industry verticals to streamline, standardize and simplify processes associated with data entry, data management and multi-channel communications. AccuZIP products and services make it easier for businesses to get their message out to the right people at the right location when they need to most. Now in our third decade of doing business, the company has built an outstanding reputation for value, service and innovation. For more information visit www.accuzip.com .
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