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A Standardized Approach to Job Shop Lean

A software toolkit used by one job shop to successfully implement lean manufacturing practices is now more widely available. A few other resources are also worth a look.

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The cover of our November 2010 issue played on the idea that part routings represent a job shop’s DNA. Using PFAST to optimize routings was critical to lean implementation at G&G Manufacturing, the subject of that month’s cover story.   
 
Although lean manufacturing for the job shop has become a hot topic in recent years, actual approaches to applying lean principles can vary almost as much as the shops themselves. After all, dedicated cellular layouts, Kanban systems, value-stream mapping and other such tools don’t always drop perfectly into place in environments where design changes are common, demand can fluctuate, and delivery dates, lot sizes and other such factors are all highly variable. For these types of operations, a standardized methodology for “going lean” can prove elusive.
 
Dr. Shahrukh Irani, an associate professor at The Ohio State University’s Department of Integrated Systems Engineering, has been working on this problem for years. One of the fruits of his labor was the development of the Production Flow Analysis and Simplification Toolkit (PFAST). This library of software programs is designed to evaluate and simplify what one shop owner has referred to as the “DNA” of any job shop—material flows.
 
That owner is Jeff Gleich of G&G Manufacturing, a job shop in Cincinnati, Ohio. Although this article detailing the shop’s experience with PFAST ran in our November 2010 print issue, recent developments make G&G’s story worth revisiting. Namely, PFAST is now widely available online for use by shops anywhere in the United States.  Additionally, Dr. Irani now offers a five-CD “learning package” of video-taped lectures that describe his approach to implementing lean in job shops. He also moderates an online discussion group that could be a good resource for learning from others about job shop lean. Finally, interested parties might want to consider attending one of OSU’s annual workshops on job shop lean, which Dr. Irani moderates (details about the 2012 event are still pending). 
 
Learn more about PFAST here. Companies interested in using the learning package to train their employees or management can get more information by emailing ProductionSystemsAnalysts@gmail.com. Also, be sure to visit Dr. Irani’s job shop lean discussion group.