Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Palm Harbor & Principle #1

I just saw an article from Forbes.com that lists Palm Harbor Homes, Inc. as #8 in a study of the most trustworthy companies in terms of "accounting transparency and fair dealing to stake-holders during 2006." (click here to read the full article). As usual, I can see this in Lean terms.

Specifically, this exemplifies Principle #1 of The Toyota Way: "base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals." Corporate credibility and reputation are long-term assets that trump any short-term gains that could be conjured by "cookin' the books." As an advocate of Lean principles and an employee of Palm Harbor, I am excited to see things being done the right way around here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Book Club: "The Toyota Way" Chapter 14

Summary: Chapter 14 of The Toyota Way discusses principle #8: use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes. Toyota views technology as a tool to support their people. Before acquiring any sort of technology, careful consideration is given to the effect that it will have on their processes. If a machine does not support flow, in-station quality, safety, or any of the other ideals of Lean, then it is not purchased.

1) Before adopting new technology, Toyota will go to what lengths to analyze the impact it may have on existing processes (pg. 160)?

2) Is Toyota totally independent of modern technology (pg. 161)?

3) Describe Mikio Kitano's viewpoint on information technology's place in a manufacturing environment (pg. 162).

4) Recount Toyota's problems with technology at the Chicago Parts Distribution Center (pg. 163).

5) Discuss Toyota's use of technology in their product development system (pg. 165). Specifically, how did they utilize jidoka and standardization wthin this system (pg. 165)?

6) Recount Toyota's technological breakthrough called the "blue sky system" (pg. 166-167). How did this system improve flow (pg. 167)?

7) How much time per day does the VP of Manufacturing spend on the shop floor (pg. 167)? What benefits are there from spending so much time on the shop floor (pg. 167)?

8) How much cost analysis did Toyota do before implementing the "blue sky system" (pg. 168)?

Please feel free to add any additional topics for discussion.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

6S in the Frame Shop (Part 5)

Here are some additional improvements that we made to our Frame Shop since we performed the 6S event:

We created new labels for our materials that are much more visual than the previous ones. They include lots of information about the material, such as the common name, the inventory name, the inventory number, and a photo of the item:

We also posted a visual control board in the Frame Shop close to the tool locker. The associates will be responsible for checking the first 4S's (Sort, Safety, Set-In-Order, and Shine), the supervisor will check the fourth S (Standardize) to ensure that the first 4 are being systematically maintained, and the production manager will check the 6th S (Sustain) to ensure that the entire system is working correctly. This visual control board will allow us to see at a glance whether the 6S's are being properly maintained.
Additionally, we posted a "6S Success" display board in our break area. It has general information concerning the 6S's, a schedule of 6S events, and highlights from our Frame Shop event.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

6S in Rough Plumbing (Part 1)

We are in the process of making improvements in our Rough Plumbing area, where we pre-build water lines assemblies and drain-lines that the Floor Department installs in the floor cavity. This area is located on a second level mezzanine adjacent to the Floor Department. When we first assessed this area, we saw some obvious issues:

1) There was no good way to stock long material (i.e. 20' water lines) due to the lack of forklift access. The installer had to carry the unwieldy material upstairs by hand and lay it on the ground haphazardly.

2) Due to all of this material laying around and a large work table sitting in a poor spot, the large space felt cramped.

3) The stairway location was a safety hazard because visibility was always blocked at the bottom of the stairs by material being used by the Floor Department.

4) Material was disorganized and poorly labeled, and there was a lot of overstock.

5) The tables, walls, and flooring needed refurbishing.

Before we could do a typical 6S event, we needed to make some changes to the layout of the area:

1) We tore out the two old work tables and rebuilt them. This time, the table that had been in an inconvenient location was located against the wall (like the other table) instead of in the middle of the floor. This created a lot of space for working, walking, and delivering finished plumbing sub-assemblies to the Floor Department.

2) We repaired a damaged and uneven area of the floor.

3) We relocated the stairway to a safer location. As a side-effect, this freed up a lot of room for the Floor Department below to store material underneath the stairs. Also, by moving the stairs we were able to create an access for pulling long-stock material out of a rack (see #4 below).

4) We fabricated a storage rack for the long-stock material. Its location is forklift accessible, which means that the installer no longer has to spend time and energy moving this awkward material upstairs. The end of the rack is butted against an access window leading to the Rough Plumbing area, so the installer can easily pull the material from the end and take it to his work tables.

Now that we have made the necessary changes to the layout of the area, we are ready to do a 6S event. As with all 6S projects, our goal will be to stabilize the process and make waste visible. I will provide details in upcoming posts.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Book Club: "The Toyota Way" Chapter 13

Summary: Chapter 13 of The Toyota Way discusses principle #7, "use visual control so no problems are hidden." A basic characteristic of a Lean process is the use of visuals that allow communication to occur immediately and constantly. Whether they be helpful pieces of information needed to perform a task, or progress boards showing the status of different projects, visuals are simple, yet intelligent ways of managing processes. Here are the discussion topics:

1) Talk about the traditional mentality of "firefighting" that exists in the manufacturing world (pg. 149).

2) Go into detail on each of the 5S's (pg. 150). What role does a 5S program serve in Lean (pg. 151-152)?

3) What is a visual control (pg. 152)? Give some examples (pg. 153).

4) Describe the "process control board" that Toyota uses in its Hebron parts warehouse (pg. 153-155).

5) Recount the example of how Toyota demands 5S attributes in an office environment (pg. 156).

6) Describe an "obeya" (pg. 156).

7) Typically, what does an "A3" report include (pg. 157)? What size are these reports (pg. 157)?

8) Discuss Toyota's hesitancy to adopt technology at the expense of visual control (pg. 157-158).

Pleae feel free to add any additional topics for discussion in next week's training session.