What Lean Manufacturing Can Teach Us--Part II

Another Lean concept which can directly benefit Decorators is box score reporting for value streams where improvement is desired.   The term “box score” is borrowed from sports, where it shows the achievements for an individual or team.   A “value stream” is the Lean term for the business process for one product.  As an example, let us say we want to improve the speed and quality of the screen printing value stream and we will focus in this example on just the machine operation. 

The traditional approach would be to collect financial data such as cost and sales information on the screen printing department and report it at the end of each month.  Such reports are useless for several reasons.  First, the data would be old when received.  Second, it would not be granular enough to pinpoint problems, and third, the operators do not have any control over sales and costs. 

The mantra of Lean could well be “make it practical”.  The correct approach demands that reporting be 1) timely, 2) relevant to the operation and 3) actionable by the worker.

Operators control the way a job is run on their machine.  Their expertise, diligence and effort determine how the job is set up, how the palettes, screens, inks and products are positioned and how the settings are laid in.   They determine how fast product is placed and removed.  They know their machine and how to get maximum results from it.  So, what are needed are reports and/or tools which tell the operator, the mechanic and the manager how that operator runs that machine runs.  

One simple tool is a flashing light mounted above each machine which the operator can turn on when she has to stop the machine to fix a problem.  The manager can see the light come on and immediately address the issue, bringing resources to bear on getting the machine running again.  Some shops use a flashing light but its utility is limited.

An additional idea is for the operator to use a bar code scanning system connected to the order system.  The operator would scan the start and finish time of each job (Work Order Number, Machine No, Operator ID).  This would provide data for a report showing how every job runs.  It could also show what the calculated run time was for each order and compare actual time versus planned time. 

When interruptions occur, she could also scan the date, time and the type of interruption.  When the problem is determined to be say, due to pinholes or ink buildup, she scans the proper problem code in with the date and time of the restart.  A daily, weekly or monthly report could then highlight patterns which could be traced to bad practices, poor maintenance, or whatever.  

Similar reports could be collected for other processes and machines.  All these reports would be timely, relevant and actionable and lead to improvement throughout the value stream for each process.  In Lean, the screen print machine reports could be shown into box scores which would be easily understood by production operators.  For example, “Units per shift per machine”, “Number of work interruptions per shift”, and “Minutes work interruptions per shift”.

In short, Lean techniques can give the operator daily feedback so they can relate their work to outcomes and take corrective action immediately.  

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