Featured Product
This Week in Quality Digest Live
Lean Features
Del Williams
8-in. cable and disc systems are comparable to belt or bucket systems
Jeremy L. Boerger
To keep your business running, you need visibility into your IT assets
Kevin Ketels
The baby formula industry was primed for disaster long before a key factory closed down
Joe Vernon
The greatest advantage of CV is its ability to count and categorize inventory
James J. Kline
Quality professional organizations need to adjust their body of knowledge to include an understanding of big data

More Features

Lean News
Sept. 28–29, 2022, at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA
Enables system-level modeling with 2D and 3D visualization, reducing engineering effort, risk, and cost
It is a smart way to eliminate waste and maximize value
Simplified process focuses on the fundamentals every new ERP user needs
DigiLEAN software helps companies digitize their lean journey
Partnership embeds quality assurance at every stage of the product life cycle, enables agile product introduction
First trial module of learning tool focuses on ISO 9001 and is available now
Offset-aware programming of spindle transfers and bar pulls helps manufacturers drive multichannel CNC machinery
Freedom platform connects to any industrial asset to provide automated intelligence related to asset availability, utilization, and continuous improvement

More News

Bruce Hamilton

Lean

Too Happy Too Soon

Focus scarce resources to build capability before branching out

Published: Monday, April 4, 2022 - 12:02

The level of excitement was high in our machine shop as we drew closer to our goal of less than 9-minute changeovers on the BNC lathe. (See Part One of this story for how we got there.) Setup improvements had so far reduced changeover time to 20 minutes, cutting the economic order quantity from weeks to days of stock on hand.

Our pull system now more closely resembled a supermarket with several containers on hand for each of the 66 parts in our pilot. After decades of viewing setups as a problem and inventory as a protection from stockouts, this new process was still confounding for many persons. But it was working, which was most apparent to the operators on the BNC and their internal customers in assembly:
• No more expedites and angry demands
• No more breaking down a setup in mid run to run a hot part
• No more juggling jobs between machines
• No more fiddling with tools and programs to get a good part

The BNC improvement team had, as my friend and mentor Steve Spear likes to say, “proven theory through practice.” The concepts from Shigeo Shingo’s books actually worked. All that was required had been was a little coaching from our Toyota System Support Center (TSSC) consultant and a whole lot of brilliant ideas from the operators.

Funny thing about good ideas: They tend to spread. Operators were champing at the bit to take some of what we’d learned from the BNC and spread it to other machines. I don’t recall how it started or if I may have selectively forgotten part of the charter Hajime Oba had given to us for our setup project:

“All of the parts for your model line assembly will be made on this machine, and changeover between any two parts must be less than 9 minutes. Work only on this machine. That is your target.”

We were making so much progress with the BNC that I probably rationalized Oba would be pleased to see us sharing the ideas across other machines. This turned out not to be the case.

On Oba’s next visit to the plant, I enthusiastically greeted him with the news, “Changeovers on the BNC are already down to 20 minutes and we’re now working on improvement at the LE22...” (the machine next to it). Before I could finish this sentence, Oba stopped in his tracks and turned for the door. Incredulous, I followed him outside to the parking lot, apologizing, but for what I wasn’t sure. I asked in desperation, “What did we do?” Oba stopped walking, turned to me and, with a shrug of disappointment, replied, “You’ll never be better than 20 minutes.”

I think he was most disappointed that I hadn’t figured this out for myself. I apologized again, now with understanding. “We’ll work only on the BNC until we hit our target.” As the two of us reentered the plant, I reflected: “Don’t spread mediocre results. The target was single minutes, not double-digits.” Six months later, we hit 9 minutes on the BNC and began to spread best practices to other CNCs.

My lessons: 1) Don’t be too happy too soon; and 2) focus your scarce resources to build capability before branching out.

Discuss

About The Author

Bruce Hamilton’s picture

Bruce Hamilton

Bruce Hamilton, president of the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership (GBMP), brings hands-on experience as a manager, teacher, and change agent. Prior to GBMP, Hamilton led efforts to transform United Electric Controls Co.’s production from a traditional batch factory to a single-piece-flow environment that has become an international showcase. Hamilton has spoken internationally on lean manufacturing, employee involvement, continuous improvement, and implementing change. Also, he has contributed to numerous texts ranging from visual control to variety reduction. Hamilton’s blog, Old Lean Dude, is an ongoing reflection on lean philosophy and practices, with an emphasis on keeping good jobs close to home.