The fabricator’s paint lines adapt a
traditionally large-batch process to
accept the small lot sizes received
from upstream cells. Now the company is tackling another adaptation,
this one involving its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
out and just need a two-stage washer; maybe you’re just
cleaning and rinsing. Now you want to go to a three-stage
process; all you have to do is add more modules. It all locks
together, almost like LEGOs.”
The company has no plans of doing this anytime soon,
but change is inevitable in contract fabrication. Shop floor
configurations transform with the product mix, and this
someday may include changes to the painting operation.
Metcam purchased a pretreatment line long enough to
handle its largest parts. If the line happens to be cleaning
parts that don’t need so many stages, the technician simply turns off a few spray modules—a typical practice. But
what if someday Metcam’s product mix changes to the
point that it needs a third paint line for smaller parts? The
fabricator now has the option of removing some modules
in its current line and using them to build that third line.
“We work off of some of the ideas behind the theory of
constraints here,” Ward said.
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Several years ago, before the shop’s transformation to
a cellular layout, WIP was everywhere. Machines ran flat
out all the time, but fewer products were shipping out the
door. Parts didn’t flow, but instead slogged forward from
Parts enter Metcam’s new modular pretreatment line, installed this year as part
of the fabricator’s second finishing line.
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Most of this WIP, staged near the paint
lines, will be shipped within 24 hours.
This includes the WIP in front of
the paint lines (see Figure 8). The
vast majority of work ahead of the
paint line won’t be there long. “Most
of this will be painted this afternoon,”
said Ward. “And it will be gone to-morrow morning.
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“I don’t tell anyone [in upstream
processes] to slow down because
the paint line is behind,” Ward continued. “I want everyone to run wide
open, and I’ll figure out how to get it
through.” This may include moving
certain people to the paint prehang
area or to masking.
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“I see these guys mess with each
other, too,” Ward said. “Every time
the paint backlog gets a little low, the
people in the paint area say, ‘Bring it
on.’ And the people upstream ramp
it up and get parts to them. And they
say, ‘OK, big boy. You’ve got your
parts now.’ They have fun with it.”
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70 The FABRICATOR November 2013
one rack to the next. Now those racks
are gone, and the little WIP that remains makes the constraint processes stand out.