Anything that is out of balance will break or cause something else to break. In this “Lean Tip of The Week” video, Polaris MEP lean manufacturing expert Nathan Bonds highlights the importance of bringing into balance a process and the relationships within a process.
Nathan explains how a balance chart can help manufacturers breakdown tasks so that work is distributed more efficiently across workers. Improving balance can improve both productivity and morale.
Rhode Island manufacturers can use balance charts to equalize the steps in their process both in terms of total time and in the number of steps utilized.
A Rhode Island Manufacturer Strives for Balance
Balancing a process can be tricky when determining where to begin and what to rearrange.
Nathan recalls that client National Marker Company faced this difficulty when manufacturing acrylic ear plug boxes.
The Polaris MEP team helped them to rebalance their process by understanding
- what were all the steps required to make an acrylic box,
- how many people were actually “doing” the process,
- where did the product flow, and
- where did the product stop and just WAIT.
The longest application was heating the acrylic panels and then mating them. Workers were too far apart. They would build inventory and then walk it over to the next process. Therefore, three people were essentially each making one “side” rather than the same product from start to finish.
In the end, by understanding each step as one product — not three separate products –, National Marker and Nathan understood how to divide the task at each operation. We then divided the steps based upon the manufacturing time, and condensed the physical space required. Workers could now move the product along in single-piece flow.
All while adding the next value-added step and a specific quality “check-point” step into each specific operator’s station.
Once restructured and in balance, National Marker wondered how they never noticed such inefficiencies before. The employees really liked it too!
By understanding a balance chart and then implementing changes, the company can enjoy higher productivity, quicker changeover, better communication and less needed inventory.
Do you want help balancing your manufacturing process? Contact us at (401)270-8896 or email [email protected].