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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Guest Post: Lean Out Your Equipment

Lean manufacturing often focuses on the processes and employees. True lean manufacturing takes the entire facility into consideration. You cannot achieve your goal without looking at the equipment you are using. Here are some tips for optimizing your plant and leaning out your store of equipment.

Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED)

The principle behind SMED, developed by Dr. Shigeo Shingo, is eliminating all wasteful procedures when changing equipment over from one process to another. Without a quick-change ability, manufacturers would run all batches of one unit before changing tooling over to the next stage of the production process. While this does save time, it can create an inventory excess that detracts from lean operation.

With SMED, the external and internal tooling processes are separated into two sections. While many tooling changes, the ones included in the internal category, can only be performed while the equipment is idle, external changes can be ready and waiting. Everything needed for a changeover will be ready and in place.

Implementation may involve having a second employee ready the tools while the operator is finishing the batch in process. Having additional sets of tooling, that account for a size or tolerance difference, will improve the changeover speed. Standardizing both the equipment and the tooling improves the ability to simply remove and replace components as the work procedure changes.

Maintenance procedures to limit failures

Regular maintenance is critical to keep equipment operational. How you go about the maintenance will depend on your production choices, but the work must be performed. Some facilities will schedule set out-of-service times; others will shut down production for up to a week every few months.

In addition to following your set maintenance schedule, have all equipment inspected on a daily or shift basis. At the first sign of a problem, take the equipment out of service and have it repaired. Continuing to operate a piece of machinery showing signs of failure can lead to more damage and higher repair costs. You may also sacrifice the quality of your product, leading to a higher cost in waste.

Purchasing the right equipment

When you purchase equipment and replacement products, take the time to make sure that you are buying the quality you need. For example, replace worn wires and cables with ones designed to withstand harsh operating conditions.

If you can expect a 50 percent longer life span from a cable designed with a high-flex life and superior resistance to abrasion and chemicals, you are not only saving on the cost of the cable, but also on the labor involved in replacement.

Simply put, any breakdown of your equipment is costly. Consider the cost of the labor needed for repairs, the cost of the parts and the loss of production. When you look at it this way, the equipment you are using becomes a larger part of your lean manufacturing goal.

About the author:

Scott McNeill is the Director of Operations at TPC Wire & Cable Corp. in Macedonia, OH. TPC Wire & Cable is a leading supplier of wire, cable and connectors used in manufacturing. TPC’s products are designed and engineered to withstand harsh conditions including extreme temperatures, constant flexing and abrasion.

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