|The directional traffic indicators on a Vancouver bridge|
|Directional traffic indicators – Close up|
Does demand change in a manufacturing environment? Of course it does! Mix and volume fluctuate on a monthly, daily, and sometimes ever hourly basis in most factories. Creating flexible manufacturing cells that can react to those fluctuations is critical. Dedicating equipment and people is a great idea as long as you have demand to support that dedication.
Here’s an example from my factory. We have a mixed model value stream that builds three parts at high but erratic volumes. For the purposes of this example, we’ll call them Items A, B, and C. A couple of years ago, someone thought it would be a good idea to create dedicated cells to all three items. Items A, B, and C all had dedicated operators and equipment. That was fine and dandy until the demand started varying. Let’s say initially the demand was 2000 A, 2000 B and 1000 C. What do you think happened when the demand went to 500 A, 4000 B and 500 C? Exact same quantity but totally different mix. Well, the B operators and equipment had already been at their maximum and overtime could only get them so far. They had the free manpower and facilities from cells A and C but they weren’t trained or equipped to build Bs.
Well “what did they do?” you might be wondering. The team created 3 ABC cells that could make all three of their runner parts. They duplicated all the tools required to make all three variants and also cross-trained all the personnel. Now when demand fluctuates, they are flexible enough to react to the variation… just like those Vancouver freeways.