Step 1: stabilization of processes (it takes up to 2 years)
The goal of this first step is to achieve consistency in production, and to show everybody in the factory that changes are not threatening.
These two conditions are necessary before reducing inventory levels and before re-organizing the material flow in depth.
How to achieve consistency?
1. Standardized work instructions
Each operator should be given a standard, and be trained to follow it. Be very clear about the right way to perform each operation on each machine.
What are the components of jidoka (a coined word in Japanese that is often translated by “automation with a human touch”, by opposition to automation)?
Stop assigning 1 human operator in front of each machine. Make sure each machine doesn’t need constant supervision, and free humans to perform value-adding work;
Operators should tend to a machine only when needed. This way, they can supervise several machines;
Right-size the tooling;
Reduce setup time;
Use several small machines, rather than one large machine.
3. Product-oriented production flow
Chinese factories are often specialized in one product line only. When this is not the case, it is best to specialize the machines by product line.
Machines that are used for making the same product should be placed in an adjacent manner.
4. Preventive maintenance
Make sure machines don’t stop unexpectedly. You will need them to run without a fault when they are needed.
5. Mistake proofing
Certain causes of problems can easily be eliminated thanks to simple “poka yoke” devices. Sometimes, the best solutions are the simplest and the least expensive.
After you have reorganized the production flow, you can make sure all is in order (“sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain”). No more mess! And the managers should be exemplary.