We fix factories, by implementing lean manufacturing. Our
members are all active professionals in the manufacturing field, and are
dedicated to improving the productivity, quality and profitability of our
clients' operations. We adapt automotive manufacturing concepts to industries
with different technologies, breadth of product mix, and production rates. In
addition, we are also frequently asked to help clients make the most of the
computer technology they already have, or to advise them on what they should or
should not acquire.
Lean manufacturing implementation
Lean manufacturing no longer need an introduction: It is the most productive,
most flexible, and highest quality approach to manufacturing in the world
today, proven by bottom-line results over 40 years, first in Japanese factories,
and now in advanced factories in the US and in Europe. Though many engineers
have heard of cells, flow lines, quick setups, the Kanban system, or TPM,
most shop floors still look and perform as they did 15 years ago. Making
the transition from concept to reality is difficult because of both the
integrated nature of the process and the lack of information on the nuts
and bolts of implementation. This is where we come in, providing support
in the following ways:
Training courses. We offer one- and two-day
courses on topics ranging from an overview of lean manufacturing to the details
of implementation, managing in a lean environment, rapid product development,
and new product introduction. The target audiences for the different range from
supervisors and engineers to top management. These courses are offered in public
sessions several times a year and are also available in house, with
team of 2 to 3 consultants analyze the demand, map the flows of materials and
information, and review the existing support structure in order to perform a gap
analysis and lay out a roadmap to lean manufacturing. We recommend specific
improvement projects and establish a performance baseline. Depending on the size
of the factory, this initial assessment may take between 3 and 5 days.
Kaizen events are a powerful implementation tool for short-term improvements. We
help clients get started with Kaizen events, identify targets, and run the
workshops. One facilitator can support one or two projects, depending on the
nature of the technical challengers and on the client teams available to take
Project support consulting. For projects
that require a long-term sustained effort, we provide support through monthly or
bimonthly visits helping client teams both in the content of what is being
undertaken and in project management. Projects that are effectively supported
this way include production preparation, machining cell implementation, setup
time reduction, and improvements in logistics/production planning and
Project engineering. Our engineers are in residence at the client
site, acting as temporary additions to the engineering group and reporting
to the engineering manager. There are several circumstances in which clients
prefer this mode of operation:
When getting the project finished quickly is more important than transferring
know-how, as is the case for example when the plant needs a new production
line in place by a deadline.
When certain vital technical skills needed for the project are not present
within the client organization and cannot be acquired quickly. This may
range from the use of some software tools to exotic process technology.
Study tours and benchmarking. Benchmarking should be done to find
ways to improve performance rather than to assess how the company is doing
with respect to others. The best sources of new ideas may be in different
industries with which performance cannot be compared. Rather than carrying
out classical benchmarking studies that take months and whose results are
not always easy to interpret, we organize short, targeted study tours for
teams including representatives from several levels in the company hierarchy.
We use a format called “learning together” to ensure that knowledge is
collected along the tour and shared afterwards. This service is offered
to established clients only.
Company-specific lean manufacturing handbook. Rather than use the generic
literature on lean production, advanced clients prefer to compile their
own implementation experience into a company-specific handbook, with actual
shop floor projects used as examples and project management guidelines.
Most, however, have neither the time nor the editorial skills to put together
such a book, and rely on our help.
For the past 10 years, the managers, engineers, technicians and operators
of today’s factories have been overwhelmed by an avalanche of computer
technology, but have collectively been unable to realize its heralded
potential for productivity improvement. For better or worse, the computers
are there, controlling production equipment, generating drawings, and running
engineering calculations as well as financial projections, but the manufacturing
managers and engineers don't know how to use them effectively, and the
systems engineers don't understand the shop floor. Our mode of intervention
is this area is either project support consulting or project
engineering, as described above. Following are some of the areas of
application that our clients have led us to focus on:
ERP disaster recovery. In
dollar terms, “MRP,” “MRP-II,” and “ERP” account for the lion’s share of
the manufacturing software market. Failed ERP implementations, however, have
brought some companies near bankruptcy. Some have become our clients; we have
helped them work through the following process:
- "Pulling the plug" on the failed system,
- Implementing a workable alternative, and
- Restoring customer confidence.
asset management. A collection of NC programs is an asset
that can, over time, become more valuable than the machines it drives.
NC programming teams need the apply the same engineering concepts and methods
as other software development organizations to ensure that NC programs
can be upgraded easily and ported to other machines, and that macros can
be reused. Our software engineering experts help clients put in place NC
programming environments that ensure the best return on this asset.
Simulation of manufacturing operations. Several software products
are available for manufacturing engineers to develop discrete-event simulations
of operations. A simulation project, however, can be a time sink unless
it is scoped properly and the answers that are sought are clearly stated.
We help clients select software products that will meet their needs and
develop simulation models quickly and effectively.
Implementation of scheduling systems. Over the past few years,
production scheduling products have appeared on the market that can generate
Gantt charts for every machine, based on a variety of methods and principles,
all aiming to improve responsiveness and equipment utilization while reducing
WIP. We help clients identify when this high-technology approach is appropriate,
understand what it actually does, set reasonable expectations, and achieve
Requirements analysis and database design. The standard suites of
office applications put much more analytical power on engineers' desks
than most are used to and know what to do with. We help them use spreadsheets
and relational databases to do product-quantity (P-Q) analysis, improve
the allocation of products to machines with overlapping capabilities, or
reduce the tooling package of machining centers.
Design and implementation of supervisory control systems. Supervisory
Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) software is available from several
vendors; they can be used to provide real-time displays of machine conditions
and allow the operator to take various actions as needed. The challenge,
however, is to design these displays so that they prompt operators clearly
and without ambiguity on what they need to do, particularly when automatic
controls fail. The solution we have found is to apply to computer-controlled
production machines the same analytical methods that have been developed
to keep pilots from misjudging the conditions of an airplane when they
assume manual control. This analysis then drives the design of the SCADA
In the near future, we also intend to provide an on-line bookstore.
If you are interested in discussing with us the various ways we could help
you, please sign our guest
book. We look forward to being of assistance.