Information & Training. | Lean Manufacturing. Just In Time Processing.
Process Optimization.All organizations want to improve. The question is how can genuine process optimization be realized? A starting point is to have a very clear vision and objectives of what is seen as an optimized process..
With a clear vision and objectives agreed, the method of optimization needs to be determined.With a clear picture of what constitutes “process optimization”, then the question moves onto what is the optimum methodology to achieve the improvement objectives. Here again there are many options. Is the organization seeking breakthrough or continuous improvement? Is the requirement for improvement being forced by an increasingly competitive operating environment? Has the organization suffered from lack of investment over the previous period and now seeks to make substantial investment in order to drive operational efficiency or to expand into new markets? Alternatively, is the improvement objective driven by a desire to optimize current assets and processes.
Ensuring the foundations for optimization are in place.A first step may be to ensure the existence of a comprehensive, effective quality management system. Are there comprehensive feedback reports getting provided to senior management regarding the performance of the quality system? Do these reports detail customer experience and satisfaction? Are customer experiences benchmarked against competitor performance? Are internal failure rates detailed? Are they improving? Are supplier performances measured, again are there clear improvement trends? The quality management system needs to be continually challenged, in order to act as a force for continuous process improvement.
An effective Quality System is a foundation of process improvement, but needs defined process optimization methodologies to drive competitive advantage.Building on the quality system what other improvement methodologies can be added. Should the organization progress along a lean, just in time path? Lean and just in time will drive down costs, for example via inventory reductions, will force quality improvement as failures will become immediately visible and customer satisfaction will improve, via the overall improved product offering. A decision to implement lean and just in time needs to be carefully planned out to ensure a clear understanding and active buy-in from all employees. While lean and just in time have clear benefits in terms of operating cost reductions and efficiency improvements, the most significant improvement may be an understanding on current and future customer expectations.
Another approach may be to implement statistical process control (SPC). The objective of SPC is to eliminate process variation and thereby ensure a consistent process and product flow. SPC also encourages line employee involvement as well as creating a statistical data bank for technical process analysis by engineers and managers. The introduction of SPC can be via a targeted approach at specific process points, where the process personnel, technical support staff and line supervisors are receptive and supportive of a statistical analytical approach to improvement. Then based on learning and positive success from the initial SPC points, a wider program can be rolled-out.
In capital intensive processes, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) can be a very effective yet simple approach to driving process improvement. An item of process equipment is only effective if it is continually in use, outputting “in specification” product. A relatively easy approach to driving process improvement, can be for a business to measure the OEE across all equipment and set targets for improvement. The drive to increase the OEE measure will demand increased levels of product and process stability, higher maintenance standards, consistently high quality and reliability levels etc., across the organization.
Process capability analysis can be applied across any process as an improvement methodology. First identify the processes to be measured, then determine the process capability “Cpk” number. Where less than “2”, then there is an opportunity to set targets for process improvement, via projects to drive the Cpk measure towards “2”. A program to drive the Cpk towards the “2” level will demand employees competent in capability analysis and process variability reduction techniques. This will require the identification of such employees and the implementation of a competence assessment and development program. However, once the competence exists within the organization and management actively drive the requirement of capability analysis and improvement, benefits in terms of process stability, reduction in failure rates, improved consistency in product output quality will all be seen.
Process validation which covers process installation and performance is applied across many industries as a means of ensuring the consistent achievement of design and performance specifications. An effective validation program can be applied to drive improvement, via setting and increasing the validation acceptance criteria. As acceptance criteria are revisited with customer needs continually in mind, then the demands on process performance continually increase. Similar to other approaches to process improvement, the increasing performance demands, drive higher process quality and reliability levels, higher levels of equipment performance, and improved understanding of customer expectations, etc..
The above are just some of the improvement methodologies which should be considered when seeking to drive process improvement. Other methodologies include the performance of cycle time analysis and cycle time reduction, gage repeatability and reproducibility analysis, the introduction of total productive maintenance (TPM), etc..
“Lean” & “Just-In-Time”.
The tools and techniques of Lean & JIT:
– Basic working practices
– Total Productive Maintenance
– Design for manufacture
– Set-up reduction
– Operations focus
– Total staff involvement
– Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)
– Visual management
– Flow layout
– Just-In-Time Supply
– Pull scheduling & Push systems of control
– Kanban control
– 5S method of control
– Levelled scheduling
– Etc. Etc..