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FLEXO Magazine : September 2009
58 FLEXO SEPTEMBER 2009 www.flexography.org PLANTS & PROCESSES A "quick and dirty" value stream map---outline all the steps in a given process and highlight in green those that add value and, in red, highlight those that do not. category of support. They should be asking production staff, "What can I do to support you?" PERMISSION & POTENTIAL Giving the above-mentioned permission is another key. Let your employees try out their ideas. This applies at every level. Once in awhile, a secretary with no production experience will walk onto shop floor for a Kaizen event (improvement event) and offer valuable input from fresh eyes. Human potential is one of the biggest wastes in most companies. Because everyone is unique, everyone can offer a unique perspective on things and, as a group, can come up with better solutions than just one or two people on their own. Give people the tools they need to accomplish something. Personnel should also have access to basic hand tools, lifting devices, or perhaps carts for moving items around. Almost every company we have ever been at does not supply enough tools for every employee. These items should be hanging on shadow boards on, or within reach of, the operating stations. We have seen companies where three people are sharing the same pair of channel locks. Each person had to wait for the others to finish before being able to do what he or she needed. Channel locks are not expensive. Do you have any idea how much it costs to not have them? Years ago, we did a brief study at a place that had one broom that had to be shared by 15 people. Our estimates showed it cost $300,000+ per year in lost production because of that broom. Sometimes man- agement will respond to this information by saying that, by making tools readily available, they tend to get lost or stolen. And they are right. That happens sometimes. But lost or stolen tools are exponentially cheaper and easier to replace than lost production time. MATERIALS & RESOURCES Sometimes employees don't use the true capabilities of their equipment. This can include pre-register settings, automatic impression setting and other features. Remember the old VCR's that flash 12:00 perpetually? We often use our machines the same way. Perhaps the operators have never used these features before, or don't quite understand how it works, or think it will jeopardize an existing way of doing something, or otherwise make setups and runs more difficult. We have seen situations like this in flexo pressrooms. Such technol- ogy can cut downtime by about 50 per- cent. If it's designed to make things more efficient, it probably will. You've already spent the money on the equipment---might as well get the most out of it. Keep in mind: There is funding in most states for companies that want to go Lean. The paperwork is a bit of a pain, but there are grants and matching funds that can cut the costs of getting outside help to one-half or one-third of what it could be. Even if you don't tap these resources, remember that Lean is intended to be self-funding. For ex- ample, if you can cut changeover times in half, you have more uptime to make money. That should more than pay for the cost of outside help and material resources. It can also eliminate the need for additional equipment and possible building expansions to handle that equipment. There are also Web sites and videos and other resources out there. Check out Leanblog.org if you get a chance, which has a lot of active discussion on the topic. You can also call a non-competing printer who has been successful with Lean and ask for help. In truth, you can turn to any company in any industry for help. Autoliv, which makes airbags and safety systems for cars, now charges $200 for tours in one of its Utah factories. It's worth every dollar. The big mistake most companies make is waiting too long to pull the trigger. They will talk about getting Lean for months, sometimes years, instead of doing anything. Only through action can you realize results. Ultimately, the bottom-line pay- back is usually greater than 20:1. Creating a Lean culture of continuous improvement where your operators and staff are excited and engaged in improving (their) company is, as they say, priceless. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill Hanover is founder of TPS - ThroughPut Solutions. Regarding implementing Lean, Ha- nover says, "The 'right stuff' is already there in your people; you just need to tap into it, help them get a Lean mindset and skills, then focus them on achieving your goals." You can ask him all your Lean questions and watch videos about Lean manufacturing at www.tpslean.com.