Case Studies

High Voltage Switch Gear – Low Volume Producer – Kanban/SMED/Lead Time
NSW based, this medium size business has been manufacturing HV switch gear for over 20 years. Quoting and delivering to a lead time of 12 weeks, however it was struggle to deliver based on centralized scheduling system. They had started lean concepts like one piece flow in their assembly lines but are struggling to link the stand alone processes. Their academic knowledge suggests Kanban might help. Press shop is chosen as pilot project for introduction of Kanban with our involvement at initial stage. A further study of current practices showed, SMED would be the right start, as set up time reduction is vital to low volume Kanban introduction.

First step was the training in set up time reduction (SMED). Five people including hand-on staff were trained in the SMED methodolgy, starting with a three hour class room session. Results- 6 hours set up time is reduced to 15 minutes, with negligible investment. This got the team excited and involved in next stage improvement cycle on hand. Kanban is introduced with assembly line pulling parts from press shop as needed, press shop starts dealing with sub contractors, an outside electro-plater without purchasing/stores getting involved in day to day work progress. All the issues involved with getting parts to assembly start to disappear.This was then extended to other parts such as fasteners and fabricated parts being bought from three different suppliers.

Results: Lead time down to 4W (from 12W), internal relationships improved considerably. Better service level will to lock the customer in for the long haul.

Railway Network – Introducing visual management for $170m business.

This project was taken up by this NSW based network, after the inspiring success of visual management at other rail networks in the country. For example, Melbourne Metro moved from being worst financial performer to the best in the country. A team of lean practitioners, ex-Toyota employees, were involved from UK, I joined in as sub contractor.

Visual management was introduced in four phases, starting from the top and then going down the layers of management. This created firstly ability for the CEO to do standing weekly review with his leadership team in less than half hour. He could quickly make decisions, pick up the weak links and successes to celebrate. Ultimately senior manager chose where to focus his energy rest of the week, based on this review. It created the desired positive tension, which helped to break through bureaucratic public sector legacy issues. Once visual management was introduced through the levels, inefficient staff found it very hard to hide their poor performance, things started to move, senior managers were also exposed, in case they dragging the chain.

Results – 80% plus achievement on KPIs, team starting to work together and some staff member found they could not hold the positions anymore.

 Industrial Valve Manufacturer and Trader– Inventory management for a business trading for 50 years.

This $30m business measured inventory turns as one of the key performance indicators to keep a check on cash flow. Business was buying mainly from low cost countries with a lead time of 10 to 12 weeks and had $6.0m in inventory.  However, measuring of inventory turns at big picture level, by itself, did not lead to any worth while action. Year-on-year results did not improve, in spite of many generic initiatives. However, a key learning of lean, use of PULL rather than PUSH, made all the difference. How? Target Inventory turns was made as input to calculate replenishment order quantity.
Underlying lean philosophy of pull rather than push was adapted successfully.

Results: Inventory dropped by 50% over a three years period, while sales remained relatively stable, thus doubling up inventory turns.

Industrial Textile Business  review of business practices and see if lean could help

This $6.0m business operating out of Sydney’s west, operating in a shrinking market, produces 5000 SKUs, using looms which have lengthy set up times. We were called in to assist, as they were running out of space. They obviously had cash flow issues as well. Production was based on out of date min-max set in the ERP. No shop floor measures, feed back loop or improvement initiatives were in place. Small team was working in silos.
After drawing value stream maps for main products groups, it was obvious to the team that particular product groups were being over-produced, against average demand levels, due to set up time considerations, locked into mix-max.

SMED and Training session in lean awareness helped to kick-start the improvement cycle. Muda – the waste of overproduction – became apparent to the team. This lead to team taking initiatives to revise min-max, twice downwards, over a six months period, using target inventory turns at SKU level, essentially not producing above customer demand. SMED initiatives, 5S, Daily KPIs measures, supported the turn around on the productivity front.

Results: Reduction of staff through cutting back to one shift from two. 11% drop in inventory level over a six month period. Results were dampened by further drop in projected sales. 10% to 30% drop in set up times. Working silos broke down, it brought the team together.

Food Repackaginglow productivity issues, small business dealing with high volume

This business repackaged food and few other supermarket items; process was largely manual, few steps machine assisted. Business was struggling to make money due to poor productivity. We were asked to review key assembly line methods. It was apparent that it lacked basic fundamentals which meant that product was handled and re-handled. One piece flow and economy of flow would help. I trained the key people covering lean, industrial engineering basics and use of videos to identify where motion being wasted. After understanding concepts team changed the layout. Intermediate batching was cut back and where practical one piece flow was implemented.

Economy of flow rather than economy of scale; was the principle used to redefine method of working and avoid double handling.

Results – the productivity improved by 9%, in less than one week’s involvement.