Velocity

2013

NovAtel's Annual Journal of GNSS Technology Solutions and Innovation

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Lean Manufacturing " With lean, we improved the process fow, meaning our product cycle time was reduced " significantly. —Dennis Ho, NovAtel manufacturing manager 42 velocity 2013 Keeping materials and essential tools close at hand is one of the most important elements in streamlining manufacturing. In fact, a formal lean process prescribes how to organize manufacturing workspaces. "We had a very, very small work area when we started implementing lean manufacturing," says Ho. So, NovAtel introduced 5S, which stands for Sort, Set things in order, Shine (clean things up), Standardize what you have done, and work out ways to Sustain it, Ho explains. "By doing that, we actually created some space for [ourselves.]" Logistical Chain & Inventory Control With more room to maneuver, NovAtel started changing the way work moved through the production process to make it more efficient. Instead of having one person build a complete product on their own, teams work together, each person completing a step and then passing the product on to the next step in its manufacture. "With lean, we improved the process flow, meaning our product cycle time was reduced significantly," said Ho. With 5S, point-of-use materials handling, and other lean methods, the company has been able to shrink the production lines in some cases down into compact U-shaped cells. "We've managed to reduce it down to three to four people per cell," says Ho. Meanwhile, the total time to build a product has also gotten tighter as the process has improved. "We use spaghetti diagrams, where you kind of map where people are moving throughout the day," said McAloney. "And then you look at that and say, 'Well, that's silly. We should move stuff that people use very, very often close to where they needed it to be. And we should change the flow so it all goes one direction.'" Consequently, NovAtel has reconfigured its manufacturing floor to eliminate the waste of motion and transportation. Organizing the space effectively and getting rid of steps has enabled NovAtel to speed its production to the point that most jobs are started and completed in one day. Visitors to the manufacturing space often comment on this quiet aspect, which McAloney explains is due to "the velocity of what is being manufactured." NovAtel has a one-day workin-progress (WIP) model. "We will not start to manufacture anything until we are 100 percent material clear," McAloney says. "And when we [build product], our goal is to start that build and get it off the floor and received into finished goods the same day." The production floor has moveable, modular furniture to enable it to be reconfigured as needed to make different products. That happens over and over again because the firm shifts production from day to day, depending on demand. In fact, NovAtel does not know what it will be building more than a few days in advance. "It used to be that people would do hard scheduling," says McAloney. Production managers would forecast what they thought might happen—what customers might want throughout the course a month—and then they would plan when they would build all of these things, typically in large batches. "We don't do that anymore," he says. "We haven't done that for many, many years. Now, if you went out and talked to someone doing scheduling on the production floor, they would tell you, since we're having this conversation on a Tuesday, that they know what they're going to do tomorrow. They know what they're going to build on Wednesday. They do not know what they are going to manufacture Thursday. Because what they're going to manufacture on Thursday depends on what sells between now and then." The result of all this lean planning is that NovAtel builds what its customers are buying in real-time rather than building what the company thought customers might want a month ago. "It's a really different paradigm in terms of material velocity and being able to react to actual consumption," he says. Not only does the company not build a product until they have an order, that is until there is For more Solutions visit http:/ /www.novatel.com

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