Moving Forward In Order To Stay Put

This job shop’s commitment to lean allows its business to grow while it remains in the facility where it has to stay.

Article From: 7/10/2009 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Well-organized shop

Space is tight enough in the shop that any clutter can quickly become overwhelming. This photo of the tool quality area where Jacob Clifton works illustrates the level of organization the shop has achieved....

wireless DNC

Wireless DNC on the HMCs has eliminated the use of a PC on a cart to transfer programs. Going wireless in this way cost the shop just about as much as it would have spent to string cable to the machines. This approach also preserves the shop’s freedom to keep relocating machines as its cellular strategy evolves.

instructions attached to machine

 QC manager Eric Godwin shows how setup and maintenance instructions with color photos have been attached directly to the machining center.

VMC cell

 This cell is built around of two compact Brother machining centers—one seen here and one outside the photo. The two machines allow the shop’s Ted Williams to run sequential operations on one part number or run two different part numbers at a time. Note the row of drill presses. When this photo was taken, two were in use, one for OD chamfering and one for ID chamfering.

lean cell

Here is an example of a clean and space-efficient cell at Production Machine. The shop’s Steven Goettl can easily reach either of the two CNC machines, as well as the deburring and inspection benches between them. The carts that serve this cell are also narrow.

gaging area from above

Space is tight enough in the shop that any clutter can quickly become overwhelming. This photo of the tool quality area where Jacob Clifton works illustrates the level of organization the shop has achieved....

tool chest parking area

Toolboxes used to be a major impediment to orderliness and maneuverability throughout the shop. Here is the solution the shop found: A dedicated parking lot for toolboxes. Parking spaces are labeled by employee name.

Ball Lock fixturing

 For rapid setup on its horizontals, the shop has equipped all of its HMCs with “Ball Lock” fixturing from Jergens Inc. The Ball Lock tooling enables fixtures to lock into place both repeatably and securely, with very little setup time. Fixtures for repeating jobs are kept in place on nearby shelves.

spaces marked on floor

To keep the shop orderly and keep pallets from intruding into the aisles, spaces are clearly marked for raw stock and finished work.

deburring bench

The deburring bench, including a drill press with chamfer tool, has a plastic surface on the table top. Tables such as this were once covered in cardboard, but the cardboard quickly became unsightly and frequently had to be replaced.

Autocrib tool management

The shop has struggled with how to manage hand tools. Shadowboards were not always successful, because tools belonging to a particular machine would often be borrowed for a different machine and misplaced. Chaining tools to particular machines was an even less workable approach. This is the solution that has seemed to work best: the Autocrib system for dispensing and automatically tracking supplies. Employees now come to this machine to obtain not just hand tools, but also gloves, abrasive pads, and cutting tools. The inventory is held through a consignment relationship, so the shop itself doesn’t pay for any item until an employee actually removes it. Employees key in their individual IDs to retrieve the needed supplies. For night-shift staff, even the keys to the shop’s main “cage” tool crib are dispensed in this way.

inspection bench

 The inspection bench includes good lighting for clear measurement, as well as space underneath for the first article

tool setup area

... as does this photo of the tool setup area

Production Machine & Enterprises could never relocate to a bigger facility without compromising an important commercial advantage. That fact more than any other has defined this shop’s approach to lean manufacturing.

The Madison, Wisconsin shop is a contract machining facility attached to a foundry. The marriage provides for efficient machining of castings because the work can be done without delay between the two processes. Cast parts are simply wheeled through the bay from one business into the other. The only drawback to this arrangement is that it keeps Production Machine pinned into the tight location where it was founded. The property offers no room to expand, so growing the business has forced the shop to become ever more discerning about the ways that it uses its space. One interesting consequence is that “lean” here did not begin with a typical initial step such as 5S. Rather, lean manufacturing at Production Machine began with the more sophisticated lean-manufacturing practice of arranging work into cells.

For this shop, cellular arrangements of machines simply provided the most space-efficient approach, says Tim Hameister, company president. The arrangement is also time- and effort-efficient, because an operator can easily pass work from one machine to the next. However, the shop committed to this mode of organization even before it fully committed to lean. Cells are not dedicated to part numbers, because the shop has no part numbers that repeat more than sporadically, but the shop does have steadily recurring part sizes—so machines were grouped by size ranges. When the shop did formally commit to lean, these cells served as the starting point.

Operations manager Chuck Pitzlin and QC manager Eric Godwin led the lean effort. Both had worked for other manufacturers with mature lean disciplines in place, and both won Mr. Hameister’s support for trying to adopt some of these same disciplines at Production Machine.

Mr. Godwin explains that the waste that used to burden the shop largely fell into two broad, overlapping categories.

One was inventory. On multiple recurring part numbers, the shop kept 100 or more pieces in inventory just to respond to urgent orders. Was so much stock really needed?

The other category was clutter. Tools and resources were scattered throughout the shop. Toolboxes blocked the aisles. The mess was not only unsightly, but also forced the shop to both lose time and carry more inventory of various resources, because needed tools and gages could not be easily obtained.

One morning, Mr. Godwin went through the shop filling a cart with tools, refuse and other items that had been left where they didn’t belong. This full cart was the beginning of the challenge to the teams that were ultimately tasked with the goal of realizing more order in the shop through 5S and other disciplines. The message of the cart was this: We can do much better.

And the shop has done much better. Like a submarine, Production Machine now has each necessary item stowed in its proper place—as the various photographs on the preceding pages illustrate. These snapshots from throughout the shop show various devices and strategies that the shop has used to run both leaner and cleaner.

The two go hand-in-hand. Running cleaner—addressing clutter—helped address operators’ lost time. And addressing lost time has allowed the shop to reduce the inventory of finished parts it has to carry. Part numbers that once required 100 pieces in stock now require just two or three dozen.

The commitment to lean has even helped open up floor space. With the implementation of more efficient processes combined with newer and more productive machines, the shop has been able to meet even growing capacity demands using fewer machine tools—phasing out older machines to free up valuable space.

The result is something refreshing for this shop: more breathing room.

Plus, there is a renewed confidence that this long-established location for the shop can keep on meeting the needs of the business for a long time to come.


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