Category: Lean Manufacturing

One Piece Flow

One Piece Flow vs. Batch Work- Getting Our Heads Around Which Is Better!

The issue of whether one piece flow or batch work is best has been an issue much debated here at Stokes & Rowe!  When we first set up our assembly department we instinctively started assembling our products using batch work.  It made sense to us and seemed like the obvious way to do things.  And funnily enough, every new member of staff who has started has automatically veered towards doing batch work too!  The reasoning was that we’d be more efficient completing all of one process before moving onto the next.   For example, putting all the o rings in all the filter housings, then moving onto all the collets, then putting in all the springs… you get my drift.  And we did this for quite a while.  But then we started seeing it’s flaws…

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Red Tag

Setting up a Red Tag System

As a company manufacturing a wide range of components, we have lots of different types of tooling in our factory.  But we don’t want unnecessary tooling crowding our work space as this just leads to waste.  The same goes for the components we make.  Like all companies, we occasionally get parts that are not quite right and are rejected during our quality control processes.  A lot of these can be reworked so we don’t want to throw them away.  But how do we manage this so that we don’t have rejected parts piling up over time and tooling that ‘might get used for something in the future’ taking over?  That is where setting up a red tag system will help.

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Lean ordering system

Setting up a Lean ordering system

Something that has always been a bit of a pain for us is ordering material.  The responsibility for looking at the technical drawings and working out what was required has always fallen solely on Rob’s shoulders.  But this  just added to his already-bursting-at-the-seams workload!  We knew there had to be an easier way to work out our material requirements based on our orders.  And it also had to be done in a way that anyone could take charge of it, not just Rob.  But we also didn’t want to have to start spending out on computer software.  So we set out to come up with a really simple, free, Lean ordering system.

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Process Improvements

Process Improvements in the Machine Shop

With all the Lean improvements to the factory we’ve been making so far, it has left us in a great position to start having a look at our every day jobs and processes.  We can make improvements by recognising and then eliminating any waste within every job we do.  Process improvements can allow us to

  1. make jobs easier and more enjoyable for staff
  2. increase our efficiency

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Getting the whole team to embrace Lean working

It’s been a theme that’s popped up in most of my posts so far, so I wanted to elaborate on it.  We have quickly come to realise that the most important part of any Lean environment is The Team.  As business owners, we could spend a lot of time researching and implementing various Lean techniques, but if our staff aren’t on board, we’d constantly be hitting a brick wall.  For any of these Lean techniques to make a difference in our factory, we know it is imperative that everyone is 100% on board and invested in the journey.

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Using a Kanban board to help us get Lean

To manage our work load, we have been using scheduling software.  Whilst it is a fantastic tool for showing us our capacity, we do find that it had its limitations.  For one, it doesn’t allow for any external factors which might affect the run time of a job.  No job is ever that cut and dry so it’s a case of constantly going back into the system and updating it.  We also found, as many of us do, that technology can sometimes be unreliable.  I wasted many hours trying to get through to the right person to regain access to my account after it had decided to reset itself over the New Year!  So, in the interests of our Lean journey and keeping things as simple as possible, we decided that a Kanban board might be worth looking at as a way to help us manage our workflow. 

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8 Wastes

The 8 Wastes of Lean- what does that mean?

We’ve finished our big 3S sort out but we’re very conscious that having super organised shelving is only one part of the bigger Lean picture.  So we can’t just stop here!  3s has helped us set the foundations in the assembly department but now it’s time to start building on them.  It’s put us in a good position to start evaluating our processes but before that, we need to be really aware of what factors might be affecting our ability to operate at our full potential.  And that is where recognising The 8 Wastes of Lean can help us.

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