Brainstorm breakthrough

A typical exercise in Leap’s first mapping phase found opportunities for one of the main operations of a company producing sub-assemblies for most of the big vehicle manufacturers. The company had high inventory levels and a throughput time of 600 hours from receipt of raw materials to despatch of the finished assembly. The value stream […]

A typical exercise in Leap’s first mapping phase found opportunities for one of the main operations of a company producing sub-assemblies for most of the big vehicle manufacturers.

The company had high inventory levels and a throughput time of 600 hours from receipt of raw materials to despatch of the finished assembly. The value stream maps showed poor links between the processes, and excessive transportation of both materials and part-finished components.

Discussions between the company’s management and the Leap co-ordinating group led to the creation of a multifunctional team to undertake a breakthrough exercise, focused on cutting inventory and throughput time. It took place over two days and was preceded by the mapping exercise to find areas which offered the quickest and easiest returns, to be tackled first.

By the end of the first day a brainstorming session had spotted savings including 15 improvements capable of immediate implementation. Several were put into action that afternoon, ranging from sorting and clearing workspaces to changing packaging instructions to standardise processes.

On day two, a controlled space was created next to the assembly line for storing painted parts awaiting final assembly. Before the exercise these had been stored in four or five different locations. Waiting for delivery of parts had contributed greatly to downtime in the assembly area.

There was also a large reduction in the number of fork-lift truck movements.

The team calculated the maximum inventory required for each part and marked out a specific area on the floor and at eye level on the rear wall, as a means of controlling overproduction.

Layout of work benches in the assembly area was reorganised to fit two extra assembly benches in the same space. The area was reorganised to improve flow of material to and from the despatch area.

Overall the exercise resulted in a 60% reduction in assembly area downtime; a 40m2 increase in space in the assembly line area, allowing improved flow of operations; a 50% cut in transportation, releasing more than five hours of fork-lift truck time a week; and a potential 30% reduction in inventory because improved visibility of stock made it easier to manage.

Follow-up studies confirmed that the potential 30% cut in inventory had turned out to be more than 40%, and productivity rose to the extent that overtime was no longer required.