Micro Assembly Operation

The Situation:

  • Losing customers and losing business.  Crisis situation.
  • Unable to win new contracts and bring in new business.
  • Costs were too high.
  • Deliveries unpredictable.  OTD was too low.
  • WIP too high.
  • Apathetic work force with a “can’t do” attitude.

The Wants:

  • New business.
  • A more predictable operation that could meet delivery commitments.
  • A reduction in costs and improvement in asset utilizations.
  • Higher throughput where there is less cost per unit produced.

The Level I Eight Week Project:

  • Created a committed team where there were standards set on behaviors and language.
  • Set a standard of collaboration where the team met for 5 days straight in a Lean Process Razing Kiazen.  Past lean events failed to produce results, because of a lack of proper time commitment and resource commitment.
  • All unnecessary equipment, tools, and trash were removed in a 5S like activity.  Dumpsters worth of junk were removed in a couple of days.
  • A new work flow was established along with reorganization of the equipment.
  • The team simulated work flows to figure out how to run different part numbers through the newly designed work cell.  The team came up with a highly innovative and advanced approach which dramatically increased utilizations of equipment, improved throughput, without negatively impacting cycle times.
  • The team helped operations sell the new work environment by telling them how it would help them, be more secure for them, and make their work more valuable.
  • Constraints were identified by part number family, and takt times where established.  This allowed for realistic production loading, efficient backlog management, and setting realistic customer delivery commitments.
  • The new cell was operationally within a week and up to full production throughput within two weeks.
  • Operators were trained by the team and encouraged to take ownership of the cell and start implementing their own improvements.

The Result:

  • The business was saved.  Instead of firing people to try to cut costs, the business grew and became profitable for the first time in over ten years.
  • WIP was reduced by 70%, throughput was increased by over 100%, cycle times were reduced by over 50%, costs were reduced by over 25%.
  • The plant went from being below capacity to at capacity and then beyond.
  • The team, on their own initiative and their own leadership, conducted similar projects and converted the entire plant floor to work cells.
  • The work force went from apathetic to enthusiastic and engaged.


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