As we look toward making 2017 a brighter year for manufacturers, today, we'll cover the importance of connecting and tracking your inventory and upgrading components to stay current with the times and increase efficiency. If you haven't been following along so far, check out part one, part two, part three, and part four.
Tip 8: Don't Lose That Jet Engine
As one of the largest producers of jet engines, GE’s production plants are the sizes of several football fields located in many buildings. As crazy as it sounds, there have been times when an entire jet engine assembly has been lost somewhere in the plant, and nobody can find it. (Don’t worry, we found it).
In other MRO shops, we hear of situations where parts have waited years in inventory before coming out because no one could track inventory aging.
People were employed to do nothing but run around and catalog the location of parts and equipment within the production process so that calculations can be done as to when orders will be delivered. Many times, the production plant supervisors can't even predict when a new unit is available for shipment until the day of actual departure from the plant.
Still, another aspect is the loading dock of an MRO or depot-level maintenance shop. Too often they don’t know what's going to show up for them to work on, but they know it's going to be important, and management will want to quickly get it through the shop.
One thing you can do to make your manufacturing brilliant in 2017 is get a handle on your WIP. GE created and uses a module called Work in Process Manager, or WIP Manager for short. This was specifically built for heavy industrial plants by heavy industrial plants at GE. Now supervisors immediately know where any parts or components are in the plant.
They can also now predict based on the number of steps remaining and the routes that products must take in the plant when a work order will clear production. The solution also allows them to balance their workload and make sure that stalled orders get the attention they deserve, and customers continue to be happy with the performance they're getting from us.
Make 2017 the year you WIP your manufacturing into shape.
Tip 9: New Guys Get the Hard Jobs
The new year brings an opportunity to reflect. There is a premium many cultures place on time, and is often an area of reflection as the calendar turns. Did we use our time well to benefit others? Did we spend enough time with the family? Have I invested in my own personal development? Things happen in a certain sequence. Sometimes in life, things that we did earlier have a profound effect on our lives later on. Sometimes we wish we could go back and change things, but that’s not possible. The best we can do is teach others not to make the same mistakes we did in the past.
The same rings true in the manufacturing process.
Sometimes things that happen early in the production process have an incredible effect at the end of the process.
Such was the case with one manufacturing organization that produces large-scale power capacitors that help stabilize the electric grid. It found that it was having increasingly high failure rates for a specific type of capacitor. Fortunately, they had leveraged analytic software that married machine data to RFID tags that provided the ability to deliver genealogy data of the different steps and activities that happened during the production process.
The problem was that the components were only failing at the very last step of testing in the production process and showed no signs of any issues up to that point. The reason for failure was that the windings of the dielectric material were too tight, and during the final testing at high-voltage they would fail. Looking back over the process led to one of the first steps in the production process. The next step was to go to the department and understand what was going on.
The data showed that a specific machine was the culprit, but why? While interviewing the operators in the department, they all stated that they “stayed away from that machine” because it was always a problem, and nobody liked to work on it. To compound the problem, because the older operators had more seniority, it was usually the case that a junior operator who had just come into his or her job was placed on the machine.
This is sometimes the case as all of us know that the new person in the shop will sometimes not get the best jobs until they have seniority. This only added to the complexity of the situation and the ability for things to go wrong. The corrective action was to replace the “hard-to-work-on” machine with one that was like the others that was much easier to use.
Thus, the number of failures in the last process step was greatly reduced. Another example of using digitization combined with a strong methodology and lean process improvement and the concept of “go see what is happening” in the process to make the improvement.