Shop Greenery Gives New Meaning to “Plant” Floor
Plants assist with the mood of the shop and quality of the air. Here are a few additional innovations at the shop we covered this month for its application of data-driven manufacturing.
L&S Machine in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, has a simple, radical idea for how to use data trends it discovers at the machine tool. Rather than automatically identifying the cause for every trend in on-machine part measurement, rather than creating algorithms for closed-loop process control, this machine shop simply learned to identify which data windows represent a machining process that is on its way toward passing QA inspection. As we describe in an article in MMS’s latest issue, L&S knows which data ranges describe a good day, and just knowing that much is enough. The shop has been able to use this knowledge to successfully prevent machining errors that in the past would have led to scrapped parts.
Touring this shop is fun, because its president Rob DiNardi has put in place other positive innovations as well that are both common-sense and a bit radical at the same time. They include:
Mr. DiNardi says he took this idea from a documentary on Ferrari’s manufacturing operations in Italy. The Ferrari plant has greenery growing in manufacturing. Now, so does L&S—to an extent that is lush and inviting. The plants not only aid visitors’ positive impressions as well as the working environment in the shop, he says, but they are also a functional aid to air quality. Every leaf is slowly drawing in air. Thus, if ever there is too much oil mist in the shop air, one of the early signs is oily leaves.
People who work at desks have space for reminders of home. Machine-shop employees sometimes have toolboxes they can decorate, but the trend in shops is increasingly toward standard toolkits attached to stations instead of people for the control of inventory. So what is left to personalize? One answer L&S has found is the ceiling overhead. Employees are invited to borrow ceiling tiles in order to personalize them before replacing them above.
Even though manufacturing manager Jason Smathers has an office that opens directly onto the machine shop, he also has an array of monitors showing the activity in various parts of the small shop. Of course, he routinely walks the floor to see this same activity directly. But even when his attention is taken with something at his desk, these monitors now make it easy for him to be never from what it happening in the shop, obtaining a comprehensive view with just a glance.
In these tough economic times, it’s difficult to keep your company above water, let alone profitable. When business is booming, many shops focus on job completion and quality.
When it comes to machine shop productivity, continuous improvement depends on efficient employees, equipment and processes.
Classic lean manufacturing principles are practically taken as gospel, but benefits can be elusive for manufacturers that produce a variety of parts in low volumes. This shop took a different approach to lean—one aided by software that helped identify a more efficient machine layout based patterns in part routings.