An awkward production process and workflow in the Transit Antenna build area was creating excessively long lead-times. Floor space in this small factory was being used too liberally with the owner considering purchasing a new building to meet their needs.
Shop floor layout was restructured into a single work cell for the antenna build area. The primary “bread & butter” products were streamlined using work instructions and the cell was balanced. KanBans of 5 parts between operations were instituted, later becoming 1 piece between assemblers/operators. Visuals were posted to aid in critical processes and many “rules” were challenged. Working closely with company engineers we created several fixtures to make critical dimensions and procedures mistake-proof. Many redundant tools and procedures were eliminated from the process. Testing procedures were also incorporated into the process for immediate feedback and quality verification. Implementing Standardized Work was another important part of the solution.
Initially the “visual shock” of turning 26 workbenches into only 6 workbenches was almost overwhelming. Where floor space was a highly valued premium, this was one of the great accomplishments of the effort. Soon after the re-layout and implementation of the new processes it became obvious that production was increasing to unprecedented levels on many of the programs. Teamwork became the norm, and along with a great deal of collaboration with engineering, many programs began using modified/standardized components. Since a maximum of 6 people were now needed to operate the cell (including the newly integrated testing area), the remaining 5 people were relocated to other areas needing help throughout the plant. Because this level of success was experienced in every area of the plant staff was not replaced as natural attrition occurred. Sales were in a slump for this market at last check, but should they rise again this small company will be able to nearly double their production with about 1/2 the staff they once employed. No one lost their job due to improvements.