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FLEXO Magazine : September 2009
56 FLEXO SEPTEMBER 2009 www.flexography.org PLANTS & PROCESSES psychiatrists-does-it-take-to-change-a-light-bulb joke. Just one, but the light bulb has to want to change (cue rim shot). STEP 2. ASSESS AND PLAN The next step is to do an assessment of your situation: What are the opportunities? What are your biggest issues? This step can be done internally---most everyone from senior man- agers to operators on the shop floor knows what their biggest problems are. The machine breaks down half the time, or we never have enough substrate on hand, we can't get our inks just right, etc. This is one step where empowering employees really matters. Very often, the personnel on the shop floor know what's going on better than the bosses upstairs. They may not see the big picture, but they understand the day-to- day issues that are holding production back. We recommend both an internal (do it yourself) and external (hire a consultant or two) approach to sizing your Lean opportunities. The con- sultants (if worth their salt) should give you so much value that you'll wish you had hired them long ago. That's not a pitch--- that's just what they do. From the assessment, you make a plan and execute. But remember that plans are never set in stone. As soon as you fix one thing, it has an effect on something else. For example, you can make your presses run so well and increase uptime to the point that you bury the slitting department. So improv- ing productivity there to keep pace with printing would then be your next priority, even if your original assessment had it as the last item. We have never seen a plan used for even as much as six months without being changed. A current client has changed its plan numerous times and it's only been three months. If you're not sure which item to start with, safety issues are often a great place to begin; if any exist. Those have the most buy-in power from employees. Besides, you need to keep people safe. For a flexo operation, downtime due to changeovers is typically a heavy hitter. So that is more likely to be a prime candidate for Lean efforts and quick wins. Oftentimes, while the press is running, there are a lot of things that could be happening that operators are neglecting to do. This would include: preparing for the next job by mixing inks, staging paper and rolls, staging aniloxes, cleaning everything up that you can, etc. If most operations did this, they would save at least 50 percent of their downtime right off the bat. It sounds like a no-brainer, but 90 percent of the shops we have worked with fail to take these basic steps. Wherever you start, make sure it is something that is pretty much a guaranteed success. It doesn't necessarily have to be an easy task, but you want to focus on an issue that is correctable within a week's time. If that's a SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die) event, and you know that the team is not preparing materials for subsequent jobs while the press is running, just take this step and it's pretty much a slam-dunk guaran- teed success. Of course a good improvement team can go way beyond that. Keep in mind that some operators will enjoy sitting around and watching the machine run. But they will understand that, in order for the company to make money, the machine has to be running. It is usually pretty easy to buy into the idea that if the company makes more money, then it improves job secu- rity and so forth. Profit sharing plans have been implemented in many companies and help further foster the belief that we all make or lose money together. STEP 3. There is no Step 3. Lean is all about Step 1 and Step 2, re- peated periodically and revised over time. Of course, in real- world applications there are many steps that support your efforts along the way; but now you have the basics. The rest of this article is dedicated to things that can further ensure your success. VALUE STREAM MAPPING VSM helps people get a sense of what the system looks like. I can't tell you how many companies we've worked with where one department has no idea what other departments do. A coaxial cable company client from years passed had a department that would put this fancy gold-plated end on a cable. The process was difficult and expensive. The employ- ees would make a huge bucket full of these, wheel it to the next department, then walk away. The first step in the next department's process was to cut that thing off the end of the cable and throw it away! They had been doing it like this for many years. The truth is that most employees of a given department don't generally realize when they are making things difficult for the next person or department down the line. Each depart- ment must treat the subsequent department like a customer. Find out what they want and need. If you are printing labels and stacking them in opposite directions, and the slitting de- partment needs them stacked in the same direction, you are creating extra work. That can't be good. A value stream map helps illustrate what takes place from the time an order is taken to the time finished product ships to the customer. If the process takes four weeks, a value stream map illustrates what macro steps go on during that time. In a flexo label shop, it may look like this: • A customer orders a product (label) via phone call (1 hour) • The order is discussed with the art department (1 week) • Design is approved (1 week) • Plates are made (5 days) • Job is run on press (4 hours) etc. Traditional value stream maps can be complicated, using lots of symbols and graphics. A sim- pler approach might be to get a few process savvy people in a room and ask them to list out the processes from order to shipping. Everyone writes their own thing down without speaking to each other. Some people are done in under a minute, and others take If there is only one thing you change as a boss at your company today, let it be that you walk around, notice and recognize who is doing a good job, and say, "Thank You."