Archives for posts with tag: lean manufacturing

Not the most in-depth article, but not click bait either.  Yes, the death of American manufacturing has been exaggerated.  Clearly there have been significant losses in the manufacturing segment.  However, there are still  many bright spots.

The sector has shrunk, but it remains a significant part of the economy.

Source: Has the Death of American Manufacturing Been Exaggerated? – The Atlantic

As usual, I hope everyone enjoys the article.

Rindge Leaphart

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Walmart’s ‘Made in USA’ push exposes strains of manufacturing rebirth | Reuters.

Several months ago, I shared an article on Walmart’s push to re-ignite manufacturing in the US.  I’m glad to see the continued push in this area.  Per the article, it is interesting to note that one of the biggest issues facing manufacturers is the lack of local component suppliers.  It seems as if many component suppliers were driven out of business or moved overseas.  I’m looking forward to the results that come out of the latest Walmart confab on said subject.  Along those lines, I am in the midst of reading a book by the name of Factory Man – very good book that provides a decent overview of how (and why) U.S. furniture makers moved a majority of their manufacturing overseas.

 Rindge Leaphart

 

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How Steinway (Still) Makes Pianos | Mental Floss.

For those of you who have the time (8 minutes), watch the video of how Steinway manufactures pianos in NY.  Great video describing the craftsmanship that goes into each piano.  I’m not sure how many new pianos they manufacture each year (as you will see they are a job shop with very manual processes), but the process described and captured in the video is very impressive.   What they do at Steinway is clearly a work of art.

Rindge Leaphart

Good article- Fix The Machine, Not The Person | Lifehacker Australia. that illustrates that many times the problem with under-performing organizations is one of process / procedures and not necessarily people. How many times has one of us jumped to the conclusion that person X is not doing a good job versus surveying what organizational constructs might be contributing to the issue?   While the NUMMI Plant referenced in the  article might be somewhat of a dated example,  it is a good reminder to take a step back and consider what processes / procedures / organizational culture issues might be causing performance issues versus assigning blame to the people.
Rindge Leaphart

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Just a quick post on manufacturing in the US.   Given the political discussions taking place regarding outsourcing, I thought I would post a few links I found to be somewhat interesting if not all-together original.

The first is a link to Quora with responses to the question: Is it possible to make quality products in the US and still compete:

http://www.quora.com/Is-it-possible-to-make-quality-products-in-the-US-and-still-compete-in-the-market

Some of the responses to this question are pretty good and while not in-depth have some interesting links or insights.  Clearly manufacturing in the US has declined (outsourcing, China, rise of the service based economy) but my personal opinion is that US manufacturers will always be able to compete in industries or markets that require short lead times and / or some level of customization.  I realize that is a broad statement, but US manufacturing companies can definitely compete and win when they compete for products where customers require short lead times.  Additionally, there will always be political reasons (Airbus indicating that they will produce planes in the US) and in some cases regulatory that will always require some level of US manufacturing.  As many of you know there seems to be a slight movement afoot to bring jobs back to the US from China and other locales due to rising wages, quality, and general supply chain complications.  Even with this trend, times have clearly changed and I doubt as a nation that we will have as many US based manufacturing jobs as we once had.

The second link I thought was kind of funny and probably has never been bandied around as an economic indicator, but it does provide a chuckle

http://www.businessinsider.com/there-has-been-an-ominous-collapse-in-vending-machine-revenue-2012-7

I guess the decrease in vending machine revenue can’t really be attributed to people eating healthier.  Probably not, as I make a candy run to the vending machine 2-3 times per day.

Rindge Leaphart

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Many people have heard of the term Just in Time (JIT) as it relates to manufacturing, production scheduling, or delivery.  But have you heard of Just in Case (JIC) manufacturing? It is a term I coined years ago.  I coined the term one day while walking through a plant that only produced finished goods to order.  The business did not actively stock finished goods.  They stocked raw material and some sub-assemblies in order to produce with relatively short lead times, but in general they did not stock finished goods.  During the walk through, I looked at a work order for a part that was being machined.  The operator was machining lets say 30 parts, yet the sales order associated with the work order only called for 15 or 20 parts.  I asked the machine operator and his supervisor why they were machining more parts than were called for by the sales order.  The response I received was quite curious: “this is a really tough part to machine and we have many rejects, thus we produce extra parts just in case (italics added) we have to scrap a part.”  At that point a new term was born: Just in Case (JIC) manufacturing.  I asked the operator how often they actually had to scrap a part.  Neither he nor his supervisor could answer the question.

I told the supervisor that I suspected that they were overproducing and tying up unneeded cash in inventory.  Additionally, this was a plant that was trying to improve on-time delivery.  I explained to the supervisor that if they were tying up capacity by producing excess and unneeded parts, that they were impeding their ability to produce on-time with short lead-times.  The supervisor assured me that this didn’t happen often.  I then asked the supervisor to take a walk with me to the warehouse.  I asked the supervisor if he was sure they didn’t overproduce on a regular basis.  He assured me they didn’t.  I then asked one of the warehouse employees to pull up several recently completed work orders for parts that had been delivered to inventory.  When we checked several of the recently completed work orders, we found that a large percentage of them were completed for quantities that were larger than what the sales order called for.  At this point the supervisor was a little embarrassed, but there is more to come.  Employees on the floor ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS know more about what is going on in a plant than supervisors and managers.  Knowing this, I engaged the warehouse employees in a conversation on this subject and they assured us that this happened on a regular basis.  Once again, the supervisor was embarrassed.  At this point the employees told me about the T location.  Being an inquisitive lad, I asked what is the T location.  Their response: “oh that the is the trailer we have outside where we store all of the production overruns.”  At this point the supervisor was quite embarrassed.

As you might imagine the supervisor was besides himself.  But being a smart guy he put a stop to the overproduction and eventually eliminated the T location.  With several other changes we were able to improve the plant’s on time delivery performance as well as their financial performance.

Key takeaways  / reminders from that day: 1. I learned on that day that Inventory is the Root of All Evil.  If you want to know if you have a problem in manufacturing, check your inventory levels to make sure you don’t have an issue with JIC manufacturing.  2. I learned about JIC manufacturing. It is more endemic than you might imagine. Walk the floor and check your work orders to see if you have a case of JIC. 3. Always talk to the hourly employees, because they know what is really taking place on the floor.

Has anyone else encountered similar issues?

Rindge Leaphart

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