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November 14, 2013

Six Sigma : Successful Cellular Projects

Filed under: Professional Development,Six Sigma — Alec @ 10:18 pm

I love the cellular projects because if you focus on the right product, or family of products, the cost savings is tremendous. In this instance, the problem statement was that the customer was unhappy with lead times and price. The customer said if lead times and price could be lowered, they would give them incremental business. The goal of the project was to reduce full formula, fully burdened cost by 20% and reduce lead times by 50%.

A team of four was formed to tackle the project and write the charter. The first steps include a detailed Value Stream Map of all machines and all processes within each machine. The Map also include each operator’s special quality requirements and surface finish specifications. Several iterations of the planned cell were simulated and the results were estimated to include cycle time, capacity and costs. The final proposal was developed after totally reprocessing the parts using new fixtures, different cutting tools, different finishing process, etc.

A two-piece flow was selected due to the CNC cycle time and the two-piece process in the tumble finisher. The goal was to run the cell with one employee, who would be responsible for the two CNC’s, the finisher, polish stand, and inspection bench. Many process maps during the evolution identified little pockets of waste in the process and within the machine. In order to balance all the machines cycle times and the operator load, unload, walk and inspect for all the machines, it was necessary to have a three position fixture. Special chuck jaws were designed and built to eliminate a dove tail operation.

A skilled CNC operator was used to run the cell and trained to run the polisher, washer and inspection operations.  A great deal of time was spent developing process sheets with pictures for each operator to use as a visual aid.

The newly established procedures were able to reduce direct process time from 70+ minutes to less than 35 minutes, which in turn reduced the full cost far beyond the original goal of a 20% reduction. Lead times were reduced from 30+ days for delivery to less than 5 days – including the out-vend for anodize. There was even a 55% reduction in walk time for the operator, meaning the operator worked less with the new process!

The key to cellular manufacturing is picking the right product or family of products. The reward is great – but there are often many small obstacles, including attitudes, that must be overcome.

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