DIS-TRAN Steel Blog

How to Apply Theory of Constraint in Manufacturing

Posted by Brooke Barone on Dec 11, 2013 9:30:00 AM

You’re only as fast as your slowest process…or Herbie.

the goal  If you have read “The Goal” by Dr. Eli Goldraft then you know who I’m referring to when I say Herbie. For those of you who haven’t read it, Herbie is the slowest kid on a hike with his boy scout troop, and they must stay together, but also get to their campground before nightfall.  The only problem is that the entire troop can only go as fast as Herbie can hike. So what do they do to solve this problem? Distribute his load among the fastest hikers.

The idea behind The Goal Theory of Constraint is strengthening your weakest link. And when that weakest link is stronger, another one appears, and it becomes a cycle. The Theory of Constraint (TOC) involves the bottleneck theory, or problem areas in your processes so that you can improve them. It points out that every system has constraints, whether it’s people, equipment, policies, procedures, supplies-internally or externally. This theory can be used to identify the constraint in a particular process, and then discover different methods or ways to carry it out, in order to improve or maximize time, production, employees, etc. TOC relates to Lean Manufacturing concepts that have been around for decades. 

There are several different methods to help analyze and find bottleneck areas, but one of the most efficient ways is to conduct time studies. Yes, this can be very tedious, but the data that you will collect will be reliable and accurate.  You at least want to track a 48 hour time period, but naturally the longer you can do the time study, the more accurate your data will be. Reliable data always gives you a good basis for moving forward.

When conducting time studies, it’s a good idea to dedicate one person to follow an employee to watch, observe and track everything that they do during their shift and when they change tasks. If it’s at least one minute, capture what the operator is doing, whether it’s hooking up chains, unloading, loading, welding, etc. You can have multiple time studies going on at once, but just make sure to keep one person allocated to tracking so the data is accurate.  An easy way to keep up with this data is to create a time study spreadsheet in excel and plug in what time the shift started, what time it ended, tasks, total time of each task and reasons. Once you have collected all your data, the next step is to summarize and analyze.

Summarize your data so that you can step back and look at it and ask yourself “what can we do to improve?” You’ll come up with a whole list of “what if’s,” but just tackle them one at a time based on which ones have the biggest impact. This might lead to hiring more employees, installing new equipment or even something as simple as moving equipment around to make the process smoother. It’s just reevaluating and looking closer at current conditions to find the bottleneck areas, and then coming up with action plans to improve the process.  

 5 Step Process

1.Determine that a process is a bottleneck

2. Conduct a time study of every minute of every shift for a prescribed amount of time-no less than 48 hours

3. Summarize and analyze data to see what issues you can address

4. Develop action plans to address the most significant issues

5. Put together the right team to carry it out

After a few months, you need to reevaluate again to see if your changes did indeed give you the results you were looking for. Eventually you could get to a point where you exhaust your resources for only a small gain. That’s when the analysis is really important: you’re not exactly where you want to be, but you can’t figure out a cost-effective way to go much further, so that’s when reevaluating and time studies come back into play. Yes, you’ll start the cycle again, but you will also move up a level each time.

Once you complete that next time study, you’ll come up with another list of improvements, so you’ll need to make sure to do a cost-analysis to make sure that you are getting a return on your investment. You’ll need to decide if the time saved covers the cost.

3 Benefits:

1. Actually know how the time is being spent.

2. The analysis tells you where you need to apply your resources

3. Follow up to make sure you’re resource allocation was successful/profitable

We would love to here your thoughts.  Use the comment section to let us know what you think and how TOC has worked in your organization.

Tags: Lean principles in manufacturing, lean manufacturing, bottleneck theory, time study spreadsheet, lean manufacturing concepts, The Goal Theory of Constraint, how to apply theory of constraint in manufacturing

Why Most Companies Don't Sustain Lean Principles in Manufacturing

Posted by Brooke Barone on Sep 19, 2013 2:38:00 PM

Today’s companies freely state Lean principles are practiced within their organizations and relay that the application has proven to have significant impact and provided improved results. However, if you really take an honest look there are only very few companies that would be considered “Lean”: Toyota, Honda and Danaher. In my opinion, most companies only seem to utilize a few Lean principles to fire fight, and only as a last resort. Even then, these efforts tend to fade away over time. Lean is much more than just using the principles and tools like 5S, Pull Kanban, Cell Flow, TPM, etc.

So what is missing in the Lean efforts at most companies?

Lean is not simply doing the same things, the same way, with fewer people. Lean is a systematic approach to attain Sustainable Results by identifying and eliminating waste by flowing the product at the pull of the customer in pursuit of perfection. What is missing at most companies is the ability to understand and accept what must happen to achieve a Lean Enterprise Transformation focused on Sustainable Results. In my opinion, Sustainable Results is a function of three interrelated and interdependent parts working together:

  1. Tools and Processes
  2. Accountability
  3. Culture

                                    Sustainable Results = T  x  C  x  A

Tools and Processes refer to the body of technical methods used to accomplish the desired metrics. Accountability refers to decisions that define expectations, grant power, verify performance, and consist of specific management and leadership processes. Culture refers to the sum of daily habits. Sustainable Results can best be represented by the Lean Business Model below.

 Lean Business Model

Guest Blogger: Roger Caldwell, Program Manager – Manufacturing Assistance Program at Texas A&M Engineering


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Tags: Lean principles in manufacturing, lean manufacturing 5s principles, kanban pull, lean business model, product flow chart, lean manufacturing, sustainable results

A Fool-Proof Formula For Value Stream Mapping

Posted by Brooke Barone on May 1, 2013 1:30:00 PM

Around now for over 10 years, Lean Manufacturing has proven to be an essential tool. The concept is black and white: eliminate waste to improve the overall value.

Makes sense, right? So, how does one go about doing this? The answer: Value Stream Mapping.

A Value Stream Map identifies waste within and between processes, and then determines a plan for finding the bottleneck areas to eliminate them. It also can help to control inputs and monitor outputs.

So what is Value Stream Mapping?

Instead of just “guestimating” what areas are not working, a Value Stream Map lets you see the process from a bird’s eye view. It visually shows each step in each process and then how it is communicated. It allows you to prioritize which key areas or initiatives need to be addressed first, and also lets you set goals to reach. Once you do this, you find where waste is created.

Value Stream Mapping looks at the material and information flow within that value stream. It also looks at the steps within the scope of the operations. Once that initial stream is created, data is then gathered for each process step.  Data such as:

  • Value Added Time
  • Downtime
  • Right the First Time
  • Cycle Time, etc. 

This data is then evaluated for waste reduction/elimination opportunities. Once those opportunities are recognized and prioritized, the process of developing a Future State Map needs to be created. 

The future state should be a working document, something that is easily reviewed, improved and used on a regular basis (perhaps weekly). During this review process, the Future State is always changing-creating more opportunities. This is not a document that you file away.

Value Stream Mapping

How to Implement a Value Stream Map:

  • Identify the product
  • Construct a value stream map of what’s happening currently on the shop floor- procedures, delays, production flow, etc.
  • Assess the current state value stream map
  • Draw a future state map
  • Work towards future map

Understanding Value Stream Map:

  • Create a list of products
  • Group them into families
  • Determine each product to be considered primary
  • Document the steps of the process

Lean isn’t just a hunt to find where waste is occurring, but it’s also used to prevent waste before it ever arises by implementing the principles and adding value to your process.

5 Main Principles of Lean Manufacturing:

1.)    Define values perceived by the customer

2.)    Identify the value stream

3.)    Make the Value Stream Flow

4.)    Flow at the pull of the customer

5.)    Strive for perfection

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Tags: lean manufacturing, Value Stream Map, Lean culture, Future State Map

LEAN: How to Achieve Success Using 6S

Posted by Brooke Barone on Jan 8, 2013 3:45:00 PM

Every manufacturer wants their product to be at the world-class level, but the question is “Can you compete at that level?”

Lean Manufacturing has been around for some time now, and has become an essential tool, especially for production facilities. Introducing Lean Manufacturing can significantly reduce waste and enhance quality and delivery.

So how can you bring the best value to your customers?

From our experience, the 6S System has been the foundation for all other Lean activities. Once the problems have been identified and a solution has been formulated, then the next step is to create Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in order to sustain an organized and functional area.

*An operation must develop an organized work place with standard operating procedures in order to feed its continuous improvement culture. 

6s model

The 6S System:

1.)    Safety - Develop and implement JSAs for all of the processes involved in operation

2.)    Sort - Keep what is needed and systematically  remove what is not

3.)    Set to order – a place for everything and everything kept in its place when not in use

4.)    Shine -  clean the equipment or area to keep in “new” condition, and inspect the equipment for repairs during the process

5.)    Standardize- Develop processes that maintain the first 4 S 

6.)    Sustain – Develop processes that motivates employees to maintain the procedures.  Also involves creating audits, SOPs and other tools to check for progress and maintenance of the standards.

Implementing the 6S system can be difficult because many companies are set in their ways, but if you keep up with the process, over time the culture will progressively evolve.

Follow these seven steps to discover the problem areas and solutions. 

First, identify the areas that need attention and improvement and then outline the concerns and the solutions.

Second, form a diverse core team. You’ll want someone who is familiar with the machines, someone from outside who can look on with fresh eyes and someone who can facilitate and make decisions.

Third, choose a strategic location. If this is the first time, choose a location with obvious problems that you know you can have success with.

Fourth, identify the problem and describe it in a problem statement.

Fifth, conduct an audit or scan of the selected area.

Sixth, photograph or video major problem areas.

Seventh, assign action to team members.

Once the area is organized and running efficiently, this is where developing an SOP comes into play, as well as work instructions. Work instructions are typically one page and are a supplement document to SOPs. They explain several steps such as how to start up the machine, operate it properly and what to do if there are problems.

The benefit of developing an SOP is that, regardless who the operator is, the product is still being produced the same way each time. This not only finds the areas that are insufficient, but adds value and quality to the final product.

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Tags: lean manufacturing, quality, Lean culture, 6S System, reduce waste, Standard Operating Procedures, SOP, Lean, 6S

How to Use Lean Manufacturing to Increase Production

Posted by Brooke Barone on Nov 6, 2012 8:21:00 AM

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could eliminate all of our problems so that life would be much easier?

Well, I’m sorry to say that probably won’t happen…but there are ways to help solve some of the glaring issues so that life, or businesses, could run more efficiently.

Although the concept of Lean Manufacturing seems easy, eliminate waste to improve the overall value, implementing it takes focus, teamwork and diligence. The idea behind Lean Manufacturing is to streamline your production by reducing defects throughout the process. It’s a production practice that focuses on continuous improvement to achieve the highest throughput using the least amount of inventory. Ultimately by doing this, the quality and value will increase.

Lean is a set of philosophies, tools or techniques that improve production flow.

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Reducing defects can be eliminating redundant processes, wasted time or improving bottleneck areas. The main goal behind Lean Manufacturing is to maximize customer value by minimizing waste. This can be the quality of the product, but also the quality of employees and working environments.

There are four components that make up the Lean framework:

1.) Lean Culture          2.) Lean Concepts

3.) Lean Planning         4.) Lean Tools

One of the tremendous benefits of developing a Lean Culture is the level of communication that opens up within a company. By communicating issues or concerns, and putting them all out on the table, everyone is on the same page. It also helps to take some of the friction out between groups. Everyone focuses as a team.

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Lean Manufacturing is designed to empower the workers since they are the ones who work day-in and day-out on the equipment and have a better understanding of what might work better.

Lean Process Improvement Meetings are also beneficial because employees can discuss which methods were successful verses those that were not. By including employees in this problem-solving process, they become invested in the outcome because it’s their ideas. Information and data should be organized and can be placed in graph, chart or paragraph form to visibly show progress or areas that need improvement.

Benefits of implementing a Lean Culture:

  • Employee Development
  • Identify leaders that might not have stuck out before
  • Employees/Leaders rally their teams around the objective
  • Employees take ownership
  • Employees know their roles
  • Daily accountability
  • Initiates positive changes in the working environment

Here’s a little advice to get employees energized and ready for the day!

Start each morning off by...

  • Employees form a circle
  • Manager/leader walks around to shake each person’s hand and engage with them
  • Warm-up by stretching
  • Discuss safety issues
  • Open the floor for discussion

Employees should be encouraged to bring up any issues or concerns they might have in order to solve them as a group. Open-floor means they are free to voice their thoughts without being penalized.

During these meetings, employees can discover ways to work smarter, how to improve safety measures during production or even which snacks they prefer in the vending machines. All of these issues, big or small, matter.

One thing to understand about the Lean process is that it is continuous; there is always room for improvement. 

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Tags: lean manufacturing, Lean culture, lean process, employees, lean tools

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