Improve, standardise and automate without cost - that is, to create flow!

We return to the flow in production issue, now regarding the need to introduce the second step in the KAIZEN™ methodology, which encompasses the application of standard work and low-cost automation.

 

Standard work is an approach focused on the observation and simplification of tasks, enabling the reduction of execution times through the measurement and improvement of the working methods used. Consequently, it is possible to align every organisation to work according to the best practice known so far, assuring the maximum operational efficiency. This method, consisting of a set of specific tools, can be applied to any organisation in any sector.

 

Following this logic, it is necessary, in the first instance, to define the desired improvement objectives, increasing team awareness towards their goals and increasing their focus on the results. The objectives selected should have SMART characteristics; in other words, be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound, according to the requirements.

 

Implementing standard work involves closely observing employees executing the tasks that have been defined in the scope in the definition of the KPIs. This should not be performed via distance training, but through a conscious observation in the Gemba (the Japanese term meaning “the real place”). It is at this stage that the execution times must be analysed, the difficulties associated with the task identified, employee movements described and Muda (the Japanese term meaning “waste”) characterised. These wastes are often related to large displacements, high search and waiting times, uncontrolled tasks, quality defects and rework.

 

At a later stage, after collecting all the necessary information, potential solutions must be proposed; this is most effective when all employees have a good knowledge of the process. Common examples of implemented improvements are task elimination, initial sequence changes, machine adaptations, and concentration of materials needed in the added value area of the employee.

At this point, a need arises to test the solutions drawn and to verify their results, which, if positive, should generate the normalisation of the new method. Once the standard is established, enough conditions exist to trigger the training process for the teams.

 

The goal is always to maximise the density of the added value transfer to the flow unit, whether it be products, information, people or solutions. The flow unit must collect maximum value throughout the entire process.

KAIZEN™ argues that processes always have a potential for improvement easily achieved through simple changes adapted to the reality of the organisation. It is in this sequence that we introduce the low-cost automation, a concept that defends the automation of some operations, through solutions of low cost and high return. It includes the reuse of old components, adaptation of systems, modification of used machines, application of dimensions, reduced weights and the introduction of KARAKURI mechanisms; in other words, take advantage of the use of gravity, natural forces of balancing and flow.

 

This application should only take place after all the previous steps have been followed through, which guarantees a process without waste. A common mistake in organisations is to automate before simplifying, which generates an automation waste with a negative impact on results.

 

In an increasingly competitive world, efficiency is a cross-cutting goal for any industry, company or work area. Observing, collecting data, and simplifying tasks in each process creates organised and streamlined environments.

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