68 The FABRICATOR JANUARY 2016
move people around to manage those more com-
plex builds. Because of the way the product was de-
signed, it really set us up for an assembly process
that captures the ability to manage complexity, the
ability to have quality inspection points in those
lines, and then to manage a steady flow down the
moving conveyor of the main line.”
The factory produces 17 different models of skid
steers. You can immediately identify the JCB skid
steers by the fact that they have one rigid lifting
arm, allowing operators to enter the cab from the
side instead of clambering inside from the front.
“From one machine to the next could be an entirely different build, because of the wide variety of
options we offer people,” Traywick said.
The company staffs up assuming that the entire
line is for fully loaded machines, which provides the
capacity buffer needed to handle the variability. But
again, all that variability is handled in the subassembly area. The final moving skid steer line moves
at a set pace, and products flow off at a steady rate.
Upstream processes essentially produce common
puzzle pieces. To build all the various skid steers the
market demands, assemblers put together those
puzzle pieces in different ways.
Some unique puzzle pieces are unavoidable,
though. For instance, the skid steer line produces
equipment for customers around the globe. It would
be great to put the same diesel engine in every machine, but not everyone is willing to pay for the Tier
4 engines required by emissions regulations in Europe and North America. So the line needs both Tier
3 and Tier 4 diesels fed into it.
Overall, though, the product’s modular design
has simplified manufacturing, a fact that becomes
immensely clear in the fabrication area.
Sequencing Starts in Fabrication
“Today we’ve moved to a kitting style of machine
build,” Berryman said. “The sequencing of the ma-
chines used to start at the assembly line. Now it
starts all the way back in fabrication. And the flow
of material has moved away from line-side storage
Walk back in the fabrication area and you wouldn’t
know the department was fabricating parts for so
many different machines in sequence. This again
is thanks to the machines’ modular design. Many
different machines use the same fabricated compo-
nents (see Figures 5 and 6).
“Our metal fabrication strategy has been to be as
vanilla as possible,” Berryman said. “We would prefer not to have to define what the machine needs
to be until it hits the subassembly area. The last
thing we want is the fabrication department trying
to manage hundreds of different part numbers. If
they can make 10 different part numbers that then
can become part of 400 different part numbers once
they hit the assembly line, that’s the ideal. And in
our cab and chassis fabrication areas, we were able
to do that.
“We make only three different cabs and eight dif-
Managing the Constraint
ferent chassis,” Berryman continued. “And we don’t
have to decide what they need to be as far as all the
features and options of a particular product until
they hit the assembly line.”
Moreover, the fabrication department now builds
to a carefully managed work-in-process buffer. “They
run to a buffer and are not affected by the assembly
line being unexpectedly down. And the assembly
line can pull from that buffer and not be affected by
something in fabrication being down. It really has
helped us put more stability in the operation.”
What hasn’t changed since 2000 is the operation
constraint: parts coating. JCB’s coating operation
involves paint prep via shotblasting, multistage
cleaning in alkaline baths, then powder coating or
electrocoating. To prepare, coat, and fully cure all
the components for one machine takes between
eight and 10 hours.
Diesel tanks that have been laser-cut, bent, and welded are staged for grinding and coating.
All outsourced parts for JCB’s skid steers, backhoes, and HMEE product lines, with tags showing the price and supplier they came from, are on display so that employees can identify potential cost savings.
JCB salespeople often give plant tours to customers and
prospects—nothing unusual about that. What is less usual
is a station in the middle of the manufacturing floor where
people can access videos of JCB products in action. JCB
calls this a “customer focus area.” It’s not unusual to see a
salesperson, operations manager, or supervisor standing in
this area talking with a customer or prospect.
The station also serves as a training tool for new em-
ployees. “It gives people admiration and appreciation for
customer challenges and the machines they’re building,”
said Aaron Traywick, manufacturing engineering manager.
“It also gives people an understanding of how important
This “customer focus” area is steps away from
the fabrication department.