Visual Manufacturing

Dec. 21, 2004
The visual factory. One outcome of detailed working standards on large complicated pieces of machinery is that they can be difficult to remember and hard to access. We learned very quickly that we needed to develop visual aids to make the working standards quickly accessible and easy to reference. Our first attempts at this were slow, flimsy and inconsistent. Signs were sometimes hung by wire ties in sheet protectors which didn't last. Symbols, fonts, and color codes were different in each department. Implementation was on a "when we can get to it" basis. We learned that we needed to make this a priority, set up standards for format and design of the visual standards and make their mounting durable. A team, headed by the plant manager, was assembled to set the standards for the entire plant and coordinated the implementation. The plant manager made the project a priority and within a few months the plant went from zero to complete with professional-looking visual standards that were consistent and durable. We learned that the visual standards are powerful in helping make operators more efficient and ensuring a consistent product. We also learned that how they are implemented can make a big impact in their success as well. -- Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, Aiken County, S.C.Make problems easily visible. We use visual management techniques extensively because they surface problems quickly and allow anyone to know how things are going at all times. We use 5S techniques because they reduce opportunities for various types of waste (defects, material handling, motion) and create a more pleasing environment for our associates. -- General Cable Corp. - Automotive Products, Altoona, Pa.Go visual. If we had it to do over again, we would have accelerated the implementation of our 7S visual factory management system. This system has proven invaluable in establishing order within the facility and providing the visual ability to reconcile reality against the theoretical world of the MRP system. As this plant goes forward, this visual world will continue to be enhanced as a tool to simplify the management of the overall operation. -- Kautex -- A Textron Co., Lavonia, Ga.Learn from others, shamelessly. Early in each step of implementation, we made visits to other businesses that had already had success. For example, during visual-factory implementation, we visited Carrier Corp. and viewed . . . their Carlisle Compressor facility. We saw how operators, working mostly in machining centers, had mastered 6S and vastly improved the cleanliness of their work cells. All tool cabinets were shadowboxed, tools were fixtured for optimum changeover and metrics boards were used to communicate work cell performance data. One thing we learned during that visit was that metrics needed to be presented in large easy-to-read and quick-to-comprehend formats. We adopted a four-foot by eight-foot metrics board with 11-inch by 17-inch charts with a single information message per chart. We also worked toward standardization, using the same theme in the same place on each board across workcells to make the information easy identifiable. The metrics boards are available for team members, other teams, support people, program managers and visitors touring the area. The importance of a visual factory is amplified in our business [because] we are a supplier of large multimillion dollar systems. Customers need to visit our facility, understand how their technical requirements will be met through discussions with our engineers and then come to the factory to see hardware in process. It is important for customers to understand the flow of assemblies on our floor and understand the value we add to our products. -- Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors, Syracuse, N.Y.

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