Is ‘Standard Work’ Really Necessary for Manufacturing & Manufacturing Engineering?
First, let’s try to agree on what standard work is. “Standardized work is one of the most powerful but least used lean tools.” (Reference: Lean Enterprise Institute.) It is a method to document best practices and should keep updating as the process is improved. It is primarily driven and used in the rated manufacturing process for a product. But what about the set-up and change-over activities that are not part of the production or rated time sequence?
This is where the potential opportunities for improvement/standardization of best practices may be hiding. If your company molds products, machines devices, or stamps parts, who does the setups for the processes? The operator that runs the job, or a set-up person? Is it always the same person setting up the job in the exact same way, or do they get to do whatever ‘gets the job done’ for each order? How comfortable are you as the company President, Manager, or Supervisor that the process will run the same way each order and there will be no variation or drop in quality from part to part or order to order?
There should be a document to show the best practice in setting up a job that can be used for a family of products or one part number at a time, to ensure the same process is being run no matter who does the setup. What temperatures are molds set at, injection pressures, hold times, etc. that could introduce variation into the product? What type of cutters are being used, cutting speeds, feed rates, etc. for machined products. Are the stamping dies in proper position as quickly each setup, who determines the material feed rated for strip roll stock, and how many parts are going to be run until the tool is sent in for maintenance?
Standardizing processes both pre and post production run is important to reduce variation in the process, maintain the validation parameters, initiate familiarity of the process for the operator, and allow for post-production inspection of the tooling before it is required to run again. Based upon years of work in continuous improvement projects for many different types of product lines using a variety of materials, I would make the following recommendations to tighten up processes, help reduce variation in the products, and increase the production throughput:
- Manufacturing Engineering should work with the production set-up technicians to ensure the best practice process is created and the process meets validation(s), quality and customer needs. The document should be a part of the Quality System and owned by Mfg. Engineering for process oversite as they are responsible for these activities.
- Post production for molds, dies, etc. for removable tools: they should be inspected for wear, damage, lose or missing components, etc. so the tooling can be sent out and repaired before the next run to eliminate production delays. The checklist should be created with the set-up technicians, manufacturing engineering, and a tool room technician if appropriate. Again, the document should be in the Quality System and owned by Mfg. Engineering. It could be paper or electronic based as your business needs allow.
- For OEM companies quoting new products, the “Contract” process should be a SOP, but the actual tool quoting method used by Mfg. Engineering should also be standardized. An Excel or Word document built as a user friendly checklist form to allow the engineer to check the appropriate type of tooling needed and identify the mold machine’s needs to run a mold, surface finish, cavity count, etc. Manufacturing Engineering should create this master document with their Marketing counterpart to provide for consistent and comparable quotes from approved suppliers.
I am sure there are other areas we can cover in future blogs, but for those companies that have not caught up to their competitors, they have enough to work on for now!