Cincinnati Machine—A UNOVA Company, Beverly Hills, California, is one of the world's largest manufacturers of machine tools. To improve its manufacturing operation, Cincinnati Machine has embraced cellular manufacturing. I recently interviewed William G. Howard Jr., HMC & Cincron Sales Manager - World Wide Sales and Service, to learn about Cincinnati Machine's experience with manufacturing cells.
Q. What prompted Cincinnati Machine to adopt cellular manufacturing for its machine tool fabrication?
A. "The challenges facing our manufacturing operation are similar to those of a large job shop. Cincinnati Machine manufactures a broad range of component parts, varying in size and complexity, that must be produced in relatively small volumes. The actual part mix produced varies from day to day, depending upon the specific machine components required on the assembly floor. Producing parts in large batches, to amortize setup costs, was not an acceptable option due to the effects on product leadtime and the costs of carrying the inventory."
Q. Many companies struggle with the question of where to begin cell implementation. Where did you begin?
A. "The Cincinnati Machine parts manufacturing organization was facing a number of problems—long leadtimes, underutilized equipment, repetition of costly setup time, expensive work-in-process inventories, the need to outsource components, quality issues and so on. As the investigation progressed, it became obvious that cellular manufacturing was the right solution for the job.
"Small and medium size, prismatic, cube-type parts—typical horizontal machining center type of work—are the ideal candidates for cellular manufacturing."
Q. What were some of the problems you encountered during the implementation of your cells?
A. "There are the obvious problems of developing a schedule for the project, finding space in the facility for the physical installation, coordinating all of the site preparation efforts, maintaining part manufacturing capability, and dealing with the real people issues associated with changing the manufacturing environment. Fortunately, as a major supplier of cellular manufacturing technology, with more than 150 cells installed worldwide, we were very familiar with these issues and actually benefited from dealing with companies that have had the same problems."
Q. On the other hand, were there some unexpected benefits that occurred during implementation?
A. "The introduction of cellular manufacturing has produced an environment where people work more as members of a team, rather than as individuals. In the past, an individual operator was responsible only for the operation of an individual machine. The tendency was for decisions to be made locally with little regard for how that decision may impact other members of the organization. However, just as grouping the machines together in a cell blurs the part output contribution of an individual machine, the operational staff is also interdependent.
"Self-determination, initiative and synergy are also unexpected benefits of the move to cellular manufacturing. The operational staff has taken ownership of the manufacturing cells and implemented a number of changes to improve productivity and reduce costs."
Q. What improvements have you noted?
"Our three cells have been extremely successful. For example, the two-machine MAXIM 500 Cell replaced four stand-alone machines, the four-machine MAXIM 630 Cell replaced eight stand-alone machines, and the four-machine T-30/MAGNUM 800 Cell replaced eight stand-alone machines."
Specific improvements include:
- Spindle utilization of 90 percent,
- 50 percent reduction in leadtimes,
- 50 percent less floor space,
- 50 percent reduction in part travel time,
- 20 percent reduction in scrap costs, and
- Elimination of outsourcing requirements.
Q. What advice would you have for others who are contemplating cellular manufacturing?
A. "If you spend more time setting up a job than you do running it, or if your parts spend more time moving about in your facility than actually adding value, then cellular manufacturing may be the answer."