Simple Lean and Quality Tools Yield Great Results

Posted by on Mar 12, 2012 in Lean, Lean Six Sigma | 0 comments

Last fall, I had the opportunity to work with a client in Youngstown, Ohio that was having productivity and quality problems with a weld cell process.  The cell produced a product in which a forging was automatically welded to a steel hub.  The client was having problems making enough good products to satisfy the customer demand.  Total pieces produced per shift was averaging a dismal 200 units. Overtime was high sometimes requiring Saturday and Sunday shifts.

The improvement team consisted of the production manager, the quality manager, and five hourly production workers.  After reviewing lean principles and the 7 forms of waste, the team put together a value stream map and started collecting data to identify the reasons for down time, quality problems, etc.  One problem identified was the fact that no one operator worked on the process on a daily basis.  In fact, different operators were assigned almost daily.  This resulted in training issues and excessive downtime, because of the different experience level of the operators.

The team decided to make the process a “bid job” thus stabilizing the number of process operators.  Training and routine maintenance procedures were updated and all operators were trained.  Within a month, productivity increased to 350 units per shift or a 75% improvement.  Overtime was eliminated and the company was able to easily meet customer demand.

The team has since started to look at their other processes to identify opportunities to eliminate waste and improve productivity using the same methodology.  Using simple quality tools and techniques such as pareto charts, value stream maps, and cause and effect diagrams can yield great results in any process.

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