NovAtel's Annual Journal of GNSS Technology Solutions and Innovation

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Lean Manufacturing " The one-day work-in-progress model, used in conjunction with the kanban system, means that products are built to specific orders from the start, and customers get what they ordered faster " 44 velocity 2013 riences little manufacturing line downtime despite rapidly changing orders. Forecasts are done product by product, and the company is able to absorb a 50 percent downturn or a 100 percent upturn in demand for any given item in the normal course of business. Although most orders are built in small batches, the firm has the ability to add a third daily shift or flex into the weekend to accommodate large purchases. "When you look over an entire month, month by month, we need about the same amount of work hours," says McAloney. "So, what we have is a very well trained and flexible workforce that can do almost any of the jobs on the manufacturing floor. They just flex into whichever work cell or whichever kind of work activities we need in order to do the work [required for] that particular shift." Quality Stakeholder Relationships The partnerships NovAtel has with its customers and suppliers extend to the way it handles quality control. The company works closely with customers to understand how its products are actually being used and reconfigures its testing to reflect that—adding a Bluetooth test, for example, or one for a different type of communications link. NovAtel will even lend out test equipment to help clients track down the source of glitches. One of NovAtel's key partners in the supply chain is Electronics Manufacturing Services provider Dynamic Source Manufacturing Inc. (DSM). "Our manufacturing relationship with NovAtel goes back 13 years," says Duane Macauley, President of DSM. "The cornerstone of this partnership has been the implementation of Lean/6Sigma initiatives, such as Kanban pull systems, Continuous Improvement Teams and cost reduction programs. Through mutual cooperation and collaboration we have created the necessary conditions for both our companies to achieve long term growth and enhanced economic competitiveness, with metrics that always focus on customer benefit." When there is a problem, defective parts are returned to NovAtel for repair/replacement, trig- gering a formal process to diagnose the problem and find a permanent fix. "Quite often when you are servicing a commercial type electronic, you are looking to resolve the immediate problem—to fix the units or devices you are working on currently in order to maintain service," said Bryan Heric, the company's senior supply chain manager. "In our 'lean' culture here at NovAtel," Heric continues, "when a single problem happens—maybe something [of which] we buy 1,000 a month and one particular unit has a problem—we don't just try to fix that problem on that unit, we actually try to understand what the cause of that problem is and go back into the process at the suppliers and actually change the process to remove that potential quality issue on all future production." With the repair department co-located with the engineering and design staff, the feedback is nearly instantaneous. In one case, recalls Jeff Orvis, NovAtel's repair manager, a manufacturing team noticed an intermittent failure in a product. They worked with their supplier to trace the issue back to cracks in a solder joint that showed up depending on how the board was used and tested. NovAtel worked with the supplier to change the heating and cooling process for the solder and the accompanying physical testing—not only for the product in question but for five other products and for all new designs supplied by that vendor. Lean manufacturing requires a certain amount of trust and a lot of open communication. NovAtel has opened up its data sharing across the company so that everyone is aware of what others are doing. "There's a lot more open communication between everybody," says Sherry Scott, data management team lead at NovAtel. "So, everyone kind of knows what everyone's working on— we're all aligned" And that includes the suppliers, she adds, "The vendors know what the levels of stock should be so that they know to send more. It is very open communication right through the supply chain." For more Solutions visit http:/ /

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