Limit Manufacturing Chaos With The Right Tooling & ProcessUnderstanding the unexpected before it happens can help minimize the chaos in manufacturing. Follow these simple steps for improved manufacturing processes & systems.
On the manufacturing floor, as in life, unexpected situations can happen. Not all of them are good. Shop floor surprises come in all varieties: unanticipated and unforeseen circumstances, customer change orders, machine tool malfunctions, operator error – the list goes on and on. In almost all cases, the results of unpredicted events are scrap and additional work, and that eats into a shop’s profitability. While impossible to eliminate all surprises, shops have more control than they might think, it simply requires good planning and having the right manufacturing and planning control system in place.
Imagine this scenario: An operator is unable to find a tool for any number of reasons -- it’s lost, the shop doesn’t own one, it’s being used on another machine. Rather than hold up production, the operator freelances and substitutes what might appear to be an acceptable alternative off the shelve or out of a drawer. It’s not. The run produces scrap, and the shop now must schedule overtime to recover.
That situation could have been easily avoided by implementing plans and manufacturing systems that ensure your operators have the right tools at the right time for the job. The process is simple and straightforward.
First, shops need to evaluate their capabilities. Considerations include: What is a realistic production capacity? How many operators are qualified to run specific machines for each particular job? What is the current inventory of components, raw materials and tools? Evaluating the manufacturing environment, manufacturing systems and the overall machining process are essential to find out where weak points exist that open potential gateways to negative events.
An honest operations appraisal helps shops stay competitive with the latest technology, maintain a skilled workforce, remove production bottlenecks and reduce scrap, rework and downtime.
In many cases, production results are a direct reflection of the systems – or lack thereof – used to obtain them. Production should be meticulously planned down to the smallest component and reliable systems should be utilized to support the plan. Consider the following:
- 15% of production jobs are delayed or stopped due to not having correct tooling.
- 60% of current tooling is obsolete, and 80% of production is performed by 20% of tool stock.
- 20% of operator time is spent searching for the right tool.
An Inventory Management System (IMS) ensures operators can locate the right tool when they need it, optimizes inventory, reduces costs and eliminates downtime caused by not having the necessary tool.
For smaller shops or those running primarily high-volume/low-mix production, an IMS might not be essential; however, a system ensuring the shop’s standard tool set is always properly stocked eliminates production delays caused by the lack of the right tool.
Production planning should start before the job is issued to the floor. Setting tooling and process parameters, determining machine availability throughout the run and ensuring the supply of necessary tools, raw materials and components need to be accomplished before switching on the machine. Failure to account for downtime due to preplanned, preventive maintenance, confirming the proper tools are contained in the IMS or lacking a simple screw from the component inventory are avoidable elements that will contribute to chaos if not considered initially.
A properly stocked IMS and a deliberate, detailed production plan will dictate the manufacturing process. Operators can simply scan the traveler to obtain the proper tooling and perform the correct setup on the right machine at the right time.
Carrying a large inventory of redundant or unneeded tools is a common mistake seen in many shops. Excessive tool inventories create a false sense of security that every tooling need is covered, and too many tools provide excessive opportunity for error on the shop floor, creating confusion and increasing inventory-carrying costs. The better practice is for shops to have exactly what they need when they need it. Tool identification technology along with a robust IMS allow shops to track, locate, dispense and monitor tools to decrease human error, idle time and poor tool utilization. Additionally, tool tracking and management systems provide detailed reports on when and how often a tool was used. With this information, shops maintain streamlined inventories, keeping only the tools they need on the shop floor.
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