The very nature of any process driven organization where they are essentially paid on a piece count basis is to want or push for more production. I say piece count, not in the traditional sense where employees were paid per widget they processed, but in a view from an ERP or POS concept. You do not get credit for your process until the product is produced. So, in a manufacturing facility, if you do not make a finished good (or semi-finished / saleable WIP depending on your processing design) there is no credit. Many times it is based on pounds produced or cases produced (which will blow back to lbs. eventually).
In many cases product is given a metric to adhere to, such as OEE. While OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) is important, chasing the number while not taking anything else into context, is a dangerous road to travel. A response to one of my recent posts, If we work together… we can get the job done faster? (SMED single minute exchange of die), asked about the other metrics and that going faster is only a part of the puzzle. Well, I get that, but my post could have been taken one sided. So I decided to take a quick moment, to discuss the impacts around other pieces of production besides the speed at which we produce the cases. I was taught at a very early point in my career that the order of priority is Safety, Food Safety, and then Performance. Since I work with food – you may have another type of priority in its place. We have everyone to be safe, working in a safe way, looking out for each other while producing a product that is safe to eat, enjoyable, and just as the customer expected. While we can lower our COGs (cost of goods) by improving rate or performance, we may inadvertently challenge a related – and more important – metric.
Safety – By running the machine faster than the approved or standard rate (pace, cycle time, takt time) we have put more demand on the resources which can include people as well as machinery. During any process set up (whether in manufacturing or not) ergonomics comes into play. Ergonomics, or “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system (wikipedia),” were created around the standards that assigned rates. By increased actions needing to take place we have compounded a system and may not understand the ramifications. The new speeds could have so much additional movement that another person may need added to the equation. Operators may need to rotate (move to different line positions) more frequently to balance out the muscles used on the job. There could be more instances where employees have to reach to keep up. The machine may need modifications to make the flow happen for the ee’s to continue with the same labor. Not to mention, an injury cost will go against a P/L and could drive up the cost of COG’s. The list could go on and on.
Food Safety – Every food manufacturing process has desire to create food safe product that safe for the consumer. In the event that processes parameters were challenged then we could create a risk to the customer. Also, if we change the speed too much the specification may not be able to be met, and the product will be downgraded to #2 product (not for retail sale, or not for sale under the label originally intended. If you are not in food manufacturing, there will be some other metric that is challenged – but speeding up could create a downfall there. You will need to take a look at your process and determine what the other pieces to the puzzle are.
Performance – Sure we will receive a bump in performance at an interval rate (the time for which the speed was increased) but since it is not sustained or tested – the likelihood that any real long term business goals will be achieved is small. We can test into that, but we will talk about that last. Speeding up could also upset the applecart. If your system is close to a one-piece or just in time (JIT) the product which was sped up may run into delayed processing time since the product was packaged outside of the designed pull flow. The savings for increased speed were lost due to running out of product to keep the pace. At this point the machinery will need to stop, start repeatedly. Frequent events of this nature can start to wear the machinery (will talk about under TPM) as well as create waste in the system as new gaps are presented where would not be in perfect flow as well as the travel time to fill up the system. Remember, value, comes from the customer and what he or she is willing to pay for. By increased the COG’s we are actually charging the customer more, or taking profitability cuts to stay competitive. Spending cuts may mean less marketing, innovation, and general available capital for upkeep. All of that just to speed up a line – well I am over exaggerating a bit – but it is possible depending on the magnitude (duration x frequency).
TPM – Total Productive Maintenance is a program where we maximize the machine, parts, and allow for better utilization of equipment by strategic part replacement and general upkeep in a proactive manner. Now, in TPM, we have MTTF (mean time to failure), and MTTR (mean time to replace). Each machine was designed to run at a certain rate. If the speeds at which we are determined to run exceed the standard (or tested) speed then we are leaving the door wide open for a breakdown. Even if we stay below the maximum machine capacity, but still are above the approved and suggested rates, we run the risk of an unplanned event taking more time than it is worth to save from changing the flow. The maintenace process is built around data showing when the machine or parts are expected to fail and upkeep happens prior to that time. Running the equipment faster only increases the line wear, which will most likely not fall into the line with the current mean (average) times. If you are lost – thing of it like a car. The car is suggested to run normal highway miles, and all of the information about it is based on the average use 65-70mph on the highway and 35-55 inner city (depends where you are). Consider what would happen if you pushed the car to 120 all the time. Would you still wait for 3000 miles to change your oil or roate your ties? What about the breaks – does stopping from 120 to 0 vs. 70 to 0, even at a decellarated rate, create more damage? Most people would not be able to answer.
Now, as mentioned earlier, there is a way to do this correctly. First thing is first, we need to define and understand the current state. (Frankly, this process will work with most anything.) What do we desire to see for the long term, or result? Covey called it “start with the end in mind.” The space inbetween is the gap which we need to work through. To do this, gather people representing each category that could be impacted. For the items above you would want to consider QA, Maintenance, and Safety Manager. Granted the terms may differ from place to place, but we still have people with similar responsibilities; the SMEs or subject matter experts. By getting the group together and discusssing obstacles we are closing the gap. Set up a test against the problem statement and agreed to action items and test. Once all groups have been satisfied we can move the process from test to standard. With this we can go forward and plan against what is actually happening. All of this is good until we need to increase performance, again. The process starts over.