Friday, October 30, 2015

Recognize the Signs & Power of Kanban

Lean is a powerful, effective and simple to understand business improvement activity. Kanban, a lean information and material flow control tool, is a great example of this simplicity. Initiated by Toyota, Kanban is a concept that relates to obtaining materials or required items 'just in time' for their introduction into the assembly or process.

A Brief History
In the late 1940's, Toyota began studying supermarkets with the idea to apply shelf-stocking techniques to the factory floor. What they found was that supermarkets stock just enough product to meet consumer demand, a practice which optimizes the flow between the supermarket and the consumer. The grocers’ just-in-time delivery process sparked Toyota engineers to reconsider their methods and pioneer a new approach—a Kanban system—that would match inventory with demand and achieve higher levels of quality and throughput.

Literally, ‘Kanban’ is Japanese for ‘visual signal’ or ‘card’. In 1953, Toyota applied this logic in their main plant machine shop where line-workers used an actual card Kanban to signal steps in their manufacturing process.

How Kanban Works
Kanban works in multiple ways. The main goal of this process is to be able to quickly and appropriately respond to the demand of a customer. Whenever a component is purchased or consumed by a customer, another component is then produced to replace it.

By working with the direct supply need of your customer, you can more accurately control inventory, improve materials handling and your manufacturing process overall. The systems are fairly easy to incorporate into your business. When followed properly and with appropriate guidance, it sends a clear signal that it’s time to produce more stock.

Benefits of Implementation
Reduced Inventory. With a properly implemented Kanban, inventory tends to be reduced to less than 30% of the initial level while maintaining the same level of order fill, shorter lead time for customer orders, and same service level for customers.

Employee Performance. With Kanban, workers tend to be self-paced, more in-control of their job, and less frustrated.

Commitment to Ongoing Improvements. Once the system is operating well and stable, Kanban can be used as a simple, powerful tool for forcing ongoing improvements in the manufacturing process. By removing one of the Kanban cards after the system is stabilized, supervision can de-stabilize the system in a controlled manner, forcing it to find a way of regaining stability through further process improvements.

As a lean manufacturer, Kanban can be a key component to the success of your company. MMTC can assess your operation and determine the potential benefits of adopting this system into your business. Call 888.414.6682 or visit mmtc.org for more information.


Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Innovation By Problem Solving

It’s easy to make the innovation process out to be something far more complicated than it needs to be. Case in point:  Almon Strowger, who patented the automatic telephone exchange in 1891. His idea came about in order to solve a problem:  he was losing business due to his small-town telephone operator.

During its infancy, telephone calls were routed to an operator, a live person who after asking callers who they wanted to talk with, connected the caller’s line physically to the line of the person to whom they wished to speak. Here’s where Strowger’s rub came to play. He was an undertaker. It turns out the operator was the wife of his town’s other undertaker. Strowger was convinced that she was sending callers asking for “the undertaker” to her husband, Strowger’s competitor.

He enlisted the help of his brother and others with a background in electrical products to develop an automated phone connection switch. They formed the Strowger Automatic Telephone Exchange Company in 1892. Eventually Strowger’s company became part of GTE, the switch forming the basis for GTE’s long-time successful competition with the much larger AT&T.

If an undertaker can innovate, so can you and your company. Innovations can be groundbreaking like Strowger’s switch, or they can be smaller steps that give real meaning to the words continuous improvement. Ask yourself, “What is keeping me or my company from doing better?”

Take the First Step
The first step towards innovation is identifying potential problems and challenges. Don’t worry if you can’t solve the problem yourself; in most cases if you could, someone would have already done it! Solving the problem is almost always better done with a team than by yourself. Most companies are born to solve a particular problem.

Chances are, no matter how hard Almon Strowger worked he couldn’t have developed an automated telephone switch on his own. But, he was smart enough to build a team of experts who could. The important thing is Strowger was the champion, cheerleader and motivator to executing his idea because he wasn’t going to allow his competitor to win. The single innovation they created was enough to form a company.

Creativity and innovation are crucial to the national and Michigan manufacturing economy. If you want to jump start innovation at your company, contact MMTC today at 888.414.6682 or visit www.mmtc.org. We’ll help you build a team, knock down the hurdles and rocket your company to the next level.


Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) 101

overall equipment effectiveness 101 OEE

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is a ratio that demonstrates the number of parts produced by a machine versus its theoretical or optimal capacity.

Why OEE is Important
Every manufacturer needs to know how effectively their equipment is working. The ability to compare actual versus possible output provides valuable feedback regarding the equipment’s operating condition. Managing a workflow process and seeing when problems arise based on this ratio makes it easier to detect issues before they become bigger problems. Production variances are investigated before creating a remediation plan.

Two key pieces of data are needed for OEE. The first is the theoretical capacity of the equipment. This often is different than the practical capacity of the machine.  For instance, a machine operating around the clock for seven days a week could produce “x” widgets. However, the practical capacity is much lower, as repairs and maintenance will bring the capacity time down to a more realistic level. The second piece of data needed is what management deems an acceptable ratio to be. This will of course vary from industry to industry, and indeed from machine to machine.

An OEE Example in Action
For example, a machine producing 80 parts per hour when it has the capacity to produce 100 parts per hour needs management assessment and action. The manager needs to investigate why the actual numbers are below the target. This could be the result of several factors: insufficient training of the person operating the machine, poor overall production planning, lack of regular maintenance and other such problems. OEE provides an objective metric of availability, performance and quality for the actual operation of the equipment. It provides clues to improve processes, quality, consistency and productivity.

How to Calculate OEE
The OEE accounts for availability, quality and performance:
  • Availability=Operating Time/Planned Production Time
    • Accounts for down time loss such as maintenance, breakdowns and changeovers
  • Quality=Good Pieces/Total Pieces
    • Accounts for quality loss such as scrapped pieces, imperfections and reworked pieces.
  • Performance=Ideal Cycle Time/(Operating Time/Total Pieces)
    • Accounts for speed loss such as wear and tear and slower settings than intended.
Overall OEE = Availability x Performance x Quality


Six Types of Production Losses
After the ratios are computed and compared to their norms, the investigative process begins. Each possibility needs to be investigated in order to determine the cause of the problem. Normally, there are six main types of production losses that affect time, speed or quality. They are:

  1. Breakdowns
  2. Set-ups and Adjustments
  3. Small Stops
  4. Reduced speed
  5. Startup rejects
  6. Production rejects 
OEE does have its limitations. It can only be used to gauge equipment productivity for discrete processes that make individual parts. OEE should only be used when improvements will be made once all the numbers are calculated, otherwise working through the process is fruitless. For more information, contact MMTC at 888.414.6682, visit www.mmtc.org or email inquiry@mmtc.org.


Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.

Friday, October 9, 2015

National Network for Manufacturing Innovation Brings Technology to Michigan

Where do you go for help regarding new, lightweight materials? Who is really working on the
materials and processes to create future vehicles and products which are lightweight, sustainable, and affordable?  How can I position my company for growth as the lightweight trend goes from being a gentle wave to a tsunami?

Two new Detroit-based organizations are preparing to become leaders in developing and implementing lightweight technologies. Their focus will be on Tier Two and Tier Three companies to deliver the parts and services to accomplish the aggressive lightweighting goals set by the auto industry.

Meet the Lightweighting Players
The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) will impact Michigan manufacturing technology in the next 10 years.  Currently, eight Innovation Centers are found around the country, with the majority located in the Great Lakes Region.  Michigan is fortunate to have two centers in Detroit:

1.) LIGHTWEIGHT INNOVATIONS FOR TOMORROW (LIFT)
LIFT focuses on materials including steel, aluminum, iron, magnesium, and titanium, as well as processes such as casting, stamping, powder metal forming, welding and bonding. These initiatives are critical to meeting industry and consumers needs for lightweight, efficient and sustainable vehicles, transportation, and products.

LIFT was founded by Ohio-based manufacturing technology non-profit Edison Welding Institute, the University of Michigan, and Ohio State University. These three founding partners with their track record of successful technology development and collaboration have joined together to power the LIFT consortium. These founding entities have enlisted the support of others including Purdue University, University of Kentucky, Colorado School of Mines, and University of Tennessee. LIFT, already a recipient of $70 million in Federal funds, also has developed more than $80 million in support from corporate partners like Alcoa, Boeing, GE, Eaton, Lockheed Martin, Grede, Johnson Controls, and ITW.

2.) INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED COMPOSITES MANUFACTURING INNOVATION (IACMI) 
With $70M in Federal funds and about double in corporate funding, IACMI will soon be a juggernaut in the race to develop low cost/high productivity advanced composite materials and processes. Major universities supporting IACMI, led by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, include the University of Tennessee, Michigan State University, Purdue University, University of Kentucky, and University of Dayton Research Institute. Corporate sponsors include DowAksa, Ford, Dassault Systemes, Lockheed Martin, BASF, GE, Honda, Huntsman and many others. Michigan State University’s effort will focus on low cost materials and processes producing high volume components for the automotive industry.  IACMI’s facility will feature large scale composite parts production equipment.

Both of the Michigan-based Innovation Centers will have full scale manufacturing capability in a shared building on Rosa Parks Blvd in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.

Benefits of IACMI & LIFT Memberships
What can a membership in IACMI or LIFT do for your company? Benefits include:

  • An opportunity to propose or participate in significant technical projects.
  • Regular briefings on technical topics and project updates.
  • Ability to present or exhibit to major OEM’s at annual meetings at low or no cost.
  • An invitation to attend all member conferences.
  • A help desk for access to process and materials experts at LIFT.
  • Access to professional and skilled labor talent through workforce initiatives.
  • Significant online resources available to members only.
  • Networking opportunities with small manufacturing enterprises, equipment manufacturers, and OEM decision makers.
  • Marketing your company’s capabilities.
  • Knowledge of current supply chain and industry trends.

Make the Connection
Memberships for small manufacturing enterprises (less than 500 employees) are in the $2000 to $4000 range, the equivalent of what a company will spend to exhibit at an out of town trade show. A great investment in our opinion.

Although major corporations are the primary funding sources, smaller companies will find the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC) playing a key role in connecting these new, national organizations to the medium and small sized manufacturers. An MMTC representative can help you learn more about these beneficial, market resources. For more information, contact MMTC at 888.414.6682, visit www.mmtc.org or email inquiry@mmtc.org.

Both organizations are about a year into their start-up phase and have just begun soliciting project proposals. You can learn more about them on their websites, www.lift.technology  and www.iacmi.org.


Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Importance of Enhancing Your Plant Layout


importance of enhancing your plant layout
The end goal of every manufacturer is to build a superior product which brings value to the customer at a reasonable cost. But, how this is accomplished relies on having an efficient and effective workflow within the plant. The process of taking in raw materials and transforming them into finished goods can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be!

Optimizing Your Layout
The optimal layout for manufacturing space is determined by a combination of location, logistics, and product specifications. Consider the following:

·       Companies either own their plant or have a long-term lease. Picking up and leaving for a “better space” is not always a viable option. This situation becomes the classic business problem of how to maximize profit under constraints. Your facility is a constraint, but profit can be maximized even with constraints.
·       Logistics impact the efficiency of the production space. For instance, when a company needs a rail spur to move products into the marketplace, it usually places the shipping and receiving departments as close as possible to the rail spur for maximum efficiency.  
·       When product uniformity is required, using a linear or straight-line layout is best because of its simplicity. Goods are received then inventoried in the raw material warehouse. They are moved into work-in-process and upon completion moved into the finished goods warehouse or to shipping. With this set up, management can easily see where the product is in the process.

Information is Key
One overlooked aspect of production space layout relates to information system requirements. The modern business world requires real-time and accurate information. Companies dealing with major retailers and/or organizations within their supply chain are often under pressure to provide real-time order placements and inventory information. At a minimum, the ability to provide this service to a customer can be a major competitive advantage. The inability to provide it can be a death sentence.

Production space should be laid out so information gathering is simple. For example, companies that have an efficient linear floor layout can provide barcoding equipment and readers at natural “choke points” in the production process. The inventory is accounted for as it leaves one space and moves to another in a way that minimizes the amount of time spent on recording the data.

Efficiency Equals Profitability
An efficient production floor layout contributes to profitability since time spent in the production process is minimized. Frustration is reduced for staff because they spend less time searching for inventory and production mistakes and waste are minimized. With physical inventory taking less time, audit and accounting fees are reduced because of better record keeping and warehouse organization.

What Next?
Optimization of floor space utilization can be a complex and seemingly daunting problem. It is a mixture of technical knowledge and experience as the unique needs of the location, logistics and the product are determined. Many tools are available to help determine floor space maximization. To find out more about reducing waste, improving margins, streamlining processes or other business improvements, contact an MMTC business specialist today by calling 888.414.6682 or emailing inquiry@mmtc.org.

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.