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Next Generation Manufacturing: How Fit Are Your Routings?

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How Fit Are Your Routings?


By Sidney B. Schaaf:

Before I get into the main article, I just want to take a moment to thank the originators of this journal for inviting me to become an active contributor or an Area Editor. I am both excited and honored to be part of a group focusing on implementing LEAN in domains beyond the Toyota Production System, particularly the highvariety low-volume (HVLV) scenarios. I suspect that ome of the unique challenges presented by the different types of jobshops and other HVLV factories which I have visited will certainly keep the ideas and discussions flowing for a very long time. Now onto How FIT are your routings? At first glance, the title for this article seems quite straightforward. However, it was chosen specifically for several reasons. One reason is to point out how different people think differently. What does this title mean to you? Before you answer this question please allow me to provide you with several meanings for the word FIT obtained from the www.answers.com website: 1) To be the proper size and shape for: These shoes fit me. 2) To be appropriate to; suit: music that fits your mood. 3) To be in conformity or agreement with: observations that fit the theory nicely. 4) To make suitable; adapt: fitted the shelves for large books. 5) To make ready; prepare: Specialized training fitted her for the job. 6) To equip; outfit: fit out a ship. 7) To provide a place or time for: You cannot fit any more toys in the box. The doctor can fit you in today. 8) To insert or adjust so as to be properly in place: fit a handle on a door. Ok, I will stop here. But be assured there are other definitions which can also apply to this three letter word. From the numbers above, it looks like I have a one-in-nine chance or (roughly an 11% chance) to match the definition used for this article. Notice that I said I had a 1 in 9 chance, but only listed 8. Good catch, but the reason I mentioned nine is because the possibility exists that you have used a definition other than the one from the list that I supplied. Tip: Do not limit your thoughts to only what has been presented. Many times when analyzing problems, what is not

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Next Generation Manufacturing: How Fit Are Your Routings?

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being said is just as important as what has been said. For this first installment of How FIT are your routings? I will be expounding upon Definition #2. Is your routing appropriate for your shop? In order to help explain the fit or whether your particular routings suit your needs, we need a basic definition that describes in minimum what routings are used for or help to accomplish. Routings serve as a step-by-step method for determining how a part or product is made. In my opinion, in addition to the part number identifying the product, here are 6 basic requirements I believe that all routings need: 1) Process step number simply the sequence and order of making something. 2) Process type mill, turn, move, assemble, kit, inspect, heat treat, package, 3) Process description for each step what is to be done for specific step. 4) Process time (a.k.a. standard process time) for a single piece. 5) Resources to be used (equipment, tools, work center, people,) 6) Setup time for each step, including support materials like fixtures, tooling, and consumables Again at first glance, the requirements seem straightforward. Well, let me ask: If these requirements are straightforward and to the point, why do many jobshops have issues or problems with the concept? I have provided three of the most common answers I hear from jobshop supervisors or workers as to why routings are not kept up-to-date or why there are errors associated with the routings: My workers already know what to do when they get the parts. Why should I take the time to correct something that is one of a kind? And my favorite, If I made the part according to the prints or routing, I know it will not work. I believe many jobshops have grown complacent and are not making sure their routings and related documentation are updated after the job has been completed. This seems more problematic at some companies where the part is considered a one-of-a-kind. This oversight or complacency has the makings of a future disaster. Why do I say this? Because I have discovered that routings and software source code are very similar. I design both the electrical and software components of automation for a variety of fabricating machines used in different factory environments. Once a software routine has been written and debugged, it typically would be placed into a controlled source code library. Programming routines being placed in this library are considered gospel. Programmers accessing

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Next Generation Manufacturing: How Fit Are Your Routings?

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this library rely upon the source code to be 100% accurate and anomaly-free. When used correctly, software developers seldom have to start from ground zero, thus keeping software development costs down. Hopefully everyone can understand the importance of keeping software routines up-to-date. Routings should be treated the same way. But from what I have witnessed at many of my jobshop clients, routings still remain inaccurate in many of the jobshops that I have visited. How many times has a one of-a-kind product come back to be manufactured again as a two-of-a-kind product? Only you can answer this question. However, I can assure you that many jobshops do get repeat business after they ship the one of-a-kind order. If the routing was never updated, building a two-of-a-kind product can be as confusing as the first time, particularly if a different person is making the part or a fair amount of time has passed since the same part was made. Still not convinced? Try this simple test! Go to your files and pull out a seldom used routing with an average number of process steps and give it to your production workers. Ask them how much time they spend trying to figure out what exactly their involvement is during the manufacturing process. I would include the time spent searching for the supporting documentation required to help explain certain processes! I believe you will be surprised at how much actual time is spent in just clarifying the what-to-do portion of the routing. What do you think would happen if a member of your staff is new and this employee is say not at the same skill level as some of your seasoned workers? Or worse, an experienced employee retires or leaves to go and work for your competitor? Earlier, I had mentioned the 6 basic or minimum requirements common for every routing. Here is your chance to see how FIT your routings are: 1) The sequence number is a must. This number is what establishes the correct order for manufacturing. No rocket science here. But have you considered some form of real-time tracking associated with your parts? Part numbers coupled with routing sequence numbers could provide some status information of where the part is in the overall process. Tie this information in with a specific customer order number and you could potentially provide your customer specific information regarding when their parts will be ready or where in the manufacturing process they are. Some ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems already provide this feature usually as an add-on option.

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Next Generation Manufacturing: How Fit Are Your Routings?

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2) Process type, or more commonly operation description, is a must. However, one pitfall to watch out for is simply being too general. Here is what I am referring to: I was at a company which had an operation described as MILL. Within their shop they actually had several different types of mills defined as face, end, and form. I made the suggestion that it would be clearer to assign the following 3 operation descriptions FACE MILL, END MILL, and FORM MILL. You may think this a minor change. However, in reality, by breaking up this general classification into specific functions, it actually helped their material handlers. You see their job shoplayout was divided into areas such that mills of each type were grouped together in a specific (separate) area. Shop Floor Layout is a different subject that I am not going to address. This particular jobshop had a high turnover rate for material handlers where they were promoted or simply moved into other manufacturing areas within the company. 3) Process description for each step printed on the routing is critical. Although I believe this to be a requirement, not everyone does. I have seen process descriptions rely solely upon the resource and work center fields to suffice for what needs to be performed. Although I believe this method appears to be somewhat cryptic in nature, I suppose workers can adapt and handle what has to be done by referring to these fields and remembering through sheer repetition the machine numbers and work stations for various operations. When I see this scenario in a jobshop, I point out that this is an area that can induce confusion particularly with some of the less-than-seasoned workers. However, in order to be fair with my observation regarding this shortcoming of some routings, I do have to admit that most of the travelers that accompany the parts usually give plenty of information to what exactly has to be done to complete the given process at the given time. This is something best analyzed by your production people. 4) Process time (a.k.a. Standard Process Time) for a single piece is where I see problems associated in the smaller to medium jobshops. These fields are typically left blank or do not even show up on the routing itself. When I have talked candidly with the workers at these smaller organizations, I get responses like This time does not mean much because it is generated by someone who has no clue as to what really needs to be done, or We finish the job sometimes sooner or sometimes later depending upon the number of problems or emergencies that come up. Unfortunately, this component of the routing does have a big effect throughout the jobshop but seems to be ignored by many. Why is this? I will simple respond by using Larry the Cable Guys line -- GIT ER DONE. 5) Most routings that I have looked at do a reasonably good job in

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Next Generation Manufacturing: How Fit Are Your Routings?

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identifying the resources to be used. They usually tie a machine number or work center number to the step number which in turns defines the actual resource used. What most shop floor people do not know is how this resource has been chosen. I would suggest periodic review of how and why resources get assigned to which process and the steps involved. Data mining in this area would be extremely helpful for both the Operators and the Industrial Engineers. 6) When it comes to setup time, I have seen many routings simply report a time. For example, consider an actual routing describing a setup operation: Operation 180, Dept 55, W/C 1330, Mach 221, Qty 1, UM each, OPER. DESC. Setup, Crew 1, Pcs/Hr NA, Tot-Hours 0.4, User NA, Cnt NA, Reference 1/11/2004. Although there was a value supplied, how accurate is this time? Even if we examine additional information from other operation steps, which does not always, help to define what the operator has to do before they can make parts. In this example, the crew of 1 has been given 24 minutes to setup his machine to perform the next operation on the routing. Do these 24 minutes include the time required to build up a specific tool being called out on a part program listing? Does it include the time required for the operator to have a material handling system (or person) deliver the material or required tooling? Does the time also include labor required to build a fixture? I think you may be getting the idea of how important it is to not only provide the time to complete the setup but also to provide a description to the crew, which describes exactly what is to be done for the setup step. The above discussion highlighted is what I believe to be some of the common pitfalls the small to medium sized jobshops have with their process routings. Hopefully, it will inspire some of you to take a closer look at your routings and provide you with enough information to get you thinking and enable you to answer the question How FIT are your routings? Part 2 and subsequent columns on this topic will emphasize the importance of accuracy and times of your routings particularly when routings are used or tied into the following: 1) How do product costs tie to your routings? 2) How do process costs tie to your routings? 3) Do your Process Steps or Process Types) take into account every possible resource that can perform those steps? 4) What other uses can your routings provide?

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7/24/2012