Applying Lean Six Sigma in a Job Shop

Posted by on Oct 5, 2012 in Lean Six Sigma | 0 comments

“How does Lean Six Sigma apply in a job shop?”  The simple answer is “very well.”
In a job shop, the typical production quantities are one, two, or possibly three pieces or units.  The question always becomes “how can I get a good representation or sample of the process with such a limited number of pieces or units?”  In this case you really can’t unless you can accumulate a number of pieces of the same job over a period of time.  Yes, there are some short-run SPC techniques that can be used to look at variable data.  But instead of focusing on the number of pieces, the focus can be on the process, i.e., eliminating waste and reducing the variation in each individual process step.
I am currently working with a company in the Youngstown area that designs and builds equipment.  Typical quantities are one to five units.  They cut steel, fit, weld, machine, and assemble the equipment.  Their focus has been on eliminating waste, reducing variation and making it easier for the operator to do their job in each of the different areas, i.e., cutting, fitting, welding, machining, and assembly.  They look at downtime associated with each job and determine if it is due to lack of material, lack of tools, etc.  They also are looking at reducing the number of defects associated with each area and have several projects focused on them.
In addition, they have found that some of the procedures they use to handle non-conforming material, how they assign tooling and material to jobs, etc. are lacking and they are in the process of making them better.  It’s been interesting to watch and listen to the new language that has emerged within the group.  They now talk about inputs and outputs of process, the 7 forms of waste and the 6M’s.  They are getting away from hearsay and opinion and are now basing their decisions on data and facts.

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