AeroFit’s Factory Improvement Team

By Steve Kane

FITChris Ferrier, Manufacturing Engineer with AeroFit, was challenged to increase production on a manufacturing line by one part per hour.  While this might sound easy, making it happen isn’t.

AeroFit makes fluid fittings for aerospace and other high tech applications.  Increasing production by even a small amount without adding resources would be a considerable improvement that would immediately add to the bottom line.

Build a Team

Chris assembled a team of workers.  They were called FIT: factory improvement team.  Their goal was simple: one more part per hour without adding resources or increasing burden on the machine operators.  Although they were about to launch a kaizen event, none of Chris’s team members knew anything about lean.  In fact, they had never even heard the term (in this context) before.  This is when Chris contacted Gemba Academy.

There was much for FIT to learn before making improvements.  They needed to understand the current state and what obstacles were between them and their desired future state.

Learn

Chris contacted Gemba Academy and signed up for a free three day trial.  During the free trial period he used Gemba Academy’s School of Lean videos, quizzes and templates to teach the team about the seven deadly wastes, standing in the Ohno circle, and conducting kaizen events.

Chris followed Gemba Academy’s traditional classroom learning model, which entails:

  • Playing videos for the team in a training room
  • Reviewing key points from written overviews
  • Utilizing interactive quizzes to measure comprehension
  • Facilitating discussion to reinforce and deepen understanding of the material

Go and See With Your Own Eyes

Team members, armed with new knowledge, went to the gemba.  Each of the four team members stood in the Ohno circle for 30 minutes and made 30 observations on the Stand in the Circle template.

Next, the team completed a cycle time analysis, resulting in the identification of both value added work and waste.  The total value added time per part was 443 seconds.  The total non-value added time was 53,681 seconds.

Understand the Problem

The team reviewed their observations, the cycle time analysis, and the seven deadly wastes.  They determined that the waste of motion had the greatest impact on productivity.  It turns out operators were moving 481 miles per year while manufacturing this part.  They could improve, or reduce, the non-value added time by reducing the distance traveled in the process.

Show Respect

FIT shared their findings with the operators.  They listened to the operators to understand perspectives, concerns and opinions.  FIT, together with the operators, identified small improvements that would make the work easier and faster.  

PDCA

The gemba was 5S’d.  Equipment was rearranged to reduce distances traveled.  New fixtures were built to reduce reach.  The team was focused their goal of eliminating the waste of motion.  They were also careful not to get distracted by trying to make improvements outside their plan.

After four weeks of PDCA, FIT had exceeded their goal.  They had increased production by 1.1 parts per hour.

Keys To Success

  • A single, clearly defined and measurable goal (desired state): 1 more part per hour
  • A team dedicated to reaching the goal
  • A complete understanding of current state
  • Simple, yet thorough, training on how to bridge the gap between current state and desired state
  • Cooperation from process owners through demonstrated respect

Chris and his team didn’t try to boil the ocean.  They chose one attainable goal and focused on it.  They not only made the desired improvement in only four weeks, they also began a gradual culture transformation through continuous improvement.

Congratulations, Chris and FIT.  Nicely done!

1 Comment

  1. Robert

    August 30, 2015 - 11:25 pm

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.