Achieving Steady Flow
Dividing the activities into logical buckets of work that each person can accomplish within each takt time helps define and maintain a steady flow of products.
Where there is a highly volatile change in mix each day, this tool can be invaluable
in determining how many people are needed and where they are best deployed.
We also can determine the shop layout depending on who is assigned which
tasks. Most shop layouts are determined by where the open spot was on the
day each machine arrived. Often, little or no thought is given to how flow will be
affected. In this example, if Stan is assigned the activities of gathering material,
shearing, and laser cutting, then it makes sense that these operations be positioned close to each other.
This value stream method has been a tipping point for many make-to-order
shops where a standard product is not a reality. If you are one such shop, and
the traditional VSM system doesn’t work for you, give this method a try.
Gary Conner is a senior consultant at the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership
(OMEP), 7650 SW Beveland St., Suite 170, Portland, OR 97223, 503-580-1156, www.
Mapping Makes a
Difference at McKenna
McKenna Metal, a precision sheet metal shop in
Portland, Ore., is housed in
a 15,000-square-foot brick
building just a few miles
away from the confluence
of two major rivers, the
mighty Columbia flowing
south from the Canadian
border and the winding
McKenna Metal is also at
the confluence of two major external influences related to its business. First,
customers want their products on time, at a low cost,
and with the highest quality. Second, changes in the competitive landscape have begun eroding margins and profitability.
When Scott and Rosalind (Roz) McKenna expanded their home-based
business into their current location in 2009, they had relatively few competitors for their highly customized work. In the face of an economic downturn, hungry competitors losing juicy high-volume work turned their attention to customers who needed prototypes, one-offs, and low-volume
For McKenna Metal, survival meant turning to lean manufacturing as a
vehicle to extract waste from its processes. Through an engagement with
the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership (OMEP), McKenna Metal
applied 5S (workplace organization), TPM (total productive maintenance),
setup time reduction, and initial value stream realignment.
It also implemented value stream mapping (VSM). What successes has
McKenna Metal had? It has reduced overtime and helped it avoid expanding into a second building. Ultimately, this eliminated the need for a second shift. The company is able to understand its value streams, make adjustments accordingly, and excel at meeting customer demands.
This can be your company’s story too.