Three Kaizen Events Help Component Supplier Meet Delivery Expectations
Improving Delivery Performance While Reducing Lead Times with Three Kaizen Events
A producer of critical materials for consumer and defense electronics. The company’s laminate products, which comprise a significant portion of its sales, are used in devices for military applications.
Demand had increased significantly for one of the company’s laminate product lines. However, dissatisfaction with long delivery times was causing some customers to migrate to lesser-quality competitors.
The company needed to pinpoint actions that would reduce lead times, ensure deliveries within expected dates, expedite urgent requests and maintain the company’s reputation for quality.
To resolve issues in its inspect-pack-ship operation, in the mixing and processing of feeder materials and in the production of laminate sheets, Daniel Penn Associates led three separate three-day Kaizen events at the company over a nine-month period.
DPA worked with the company’s improvement team to conduct a takt time analysis and create an enterprise-level value stream map. They examined work-in-progress, inventory and costs of scrap.
The rework required for some of the laminates, which have precise thermal tolerances, was approaching 40%. A backlog in the Quality Assurance department was causing inventory to build up. The additional raw material was required to do the rework, requiring the company to more tightly schedule and queue material.
The company’s team also found that material mixes for the laminating process were not level loaded, and that wait times to get product test results were excessive.
Together, a lack of predictability on key processes and inventory were slowing production. Insufficient training and staffing compounded the issue.
Armed with this information, the team set its targets: Reduce lead times to 10-15 days with 90% on-time delivery, reduce the production schedule from a 6-day to a 5-day workweek and reduce the drying time required for one of the product’s feeder materials.
Using strategies that had proved successful for the company’s other laminate lines, the team began work to level-load the mix schedule. They streamlined the press-to-pack process, sought frequent and active feedback from line staff to monitor yields, adjusted batch sizes and implemented a Kanban system. The team developed and tested shorter drying times for one of the product’s feeder materials. They identified test sheet requirements for production, implemented programs and activities to minimize rework and cross-trained production staff to maximize product flow.
The team did production experiments on various processes, verified the accuracy of their measurement system, tested and adjusted tolerances of mix additives, verified the effectiveness of new drying and laminating systems and tightened up visual management of feeder materials. The line’s floor operators and QA team were given more ownership of the process and the flexibility to make changes that would ensure quality and on-time deliveries.
Product inventory was reduced by 66% while lead times were reduced from 15 to 5.1 days. Inventory for the main feeder material has been reduced by 32%. Throughput has been increased by 15%. Rework has dropped from 40% to 14%, a 65% improvement. Cross-training employees to perform a variety of functions has reduced production from a six-day to a five-day week with a 9 percent reduction in employee hours.
As a result of the three Kaizen events, DPA managed, the company was able to significantly improve their delivery performance while reducing lead times, which has helped them retain several important clients.