Thank you for tuning in to catch the exciting conclusion of Tuesday’s blog post. This is a story of looking beyond the bottleneck to find the real source of a problem. After examining the pacing step and discovering that parts were missing, here is what we did.
We identified the missing parts, which were supposed to come from the paint booth, where they were waiting on parts from the welding cell. Of course! The welding cell was the recognized bottleneck. But to our surprise, when we went to the welding cell, they hadn’t received the parts either. We headed upstream to the press brakes and cutting tables to look for the parts, and learned that the necessary nesting program was missing.
Next we visited the engineering department where the nesting programs were made, where we learned that the engineer who does the nesting programs didn’t have any programs to nest. He was assigned to a different project. Shortly afterward the nest came in, but he was told to finish his side project before he did the nests. That decision to change priorities had shut down the entire line and made orders late.
To solve the problem we turned to the company’s vision and their goal of on-time quality. We traced the process from where the order comes in, which in this case was Customer Service. It turned out that Customer Service could do the nesting themselves if they had the right computer program, so we moved the nesting task out of the engineering department and into Customer Service. We’ve never had a nesting problem since.
More Than a Band-Aid
If we had gone straight to the bottleneck, we wouldn’t have found the real problem. A simple Lean approach to engineering would have changed priorities and altered the engineer’s work-around when he didn’t have anything to nest, but that would have been a band-aid on the problem, not a solution. By looking at the condition we wanted to achieve and the vision we were trying to accomplish, which in this case included shipped on time, reduced cycle time and high quality, we eliminated a repeating issue, raised the shipped on time rate, and lowered inventory levels.
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