Letter: NVA time is where manufacturers are losing out

The concept of the Three Day Car (Cover story 21 July) is not new. At a seminar I attended a couple of years ago the American logistics `guru’ Hal Mather quoted the example of Ford producing a car from raw materials starting on Monday morning and finishing by Wednesday evening. This was achieved, sometime in […]

The concept of the Three Day Car (Cover story 21 July) is not new. At a seminar I attended a couple of years ago the American logistics `guru’ Hal Mather quoted the example of Ford producing a car from raw materials starting on Monday morning and finishing by Wednesday evening.

This was achieved, sometime in the 1950s, on a one-off basis by eliminating all the non-value added (NVA) time in the process – time when material is not being worked on, but is held somewhere in the system.

The same principle was demonstrated even more colourfully on 25 June 1811. Sir John Thockmorton bet 1,000 guineas that he could `prove the possibility of wool being manufactured into cloth and made into a coat between sunrise and sunset’ – from the shearing of the two sheep, to the wearing of the coat. He too had recognised the significance of eliminating NVA time.

Typically in those days this whole process might have taken a couple of months.

The shearing commenced at 5am, the wool was spun, the yarn spooled, warped, loomed and woven, the cloth was burred, milled, rowed, dyed, dried, sheared and pressed, by hand in 11 hours. The coat was made in another 2 hours 20 minutes.

In today’s world, non-value-added time is often the result of mass production batch sizes and other inefficiencies. Of course, product design can facilitate faster manufacture and assembly and reduce through-time even more, as can process efficiencies such as reducing set-up times. But these will only achieve marginal reductions unless they are geared to reducing NVA time, which companies are failing to address.

As a result time-to-market and lead times remain excessive in most manufacturing sectors.

Julius Marstrand, Manufacturing manager, Matcon Ltd

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