A leaner factory with a pull system

70–80% of activities in factories are a loss or at least only assisting work. Even in bigger places the work starts to feel more like tinkering when you start to examine what really happens on the floor. The cause for this is clear: the large intermediate warehouses and the continuous production order re-arrangements cover up the problems. A good and efficient cure for this is a pull system. It is a demanding but efficient way to put things in order.

20–30% of working time is productive and 70–80% is a loss or only assisting work. Which should you develop in order to achieve greater results? However, the focus has largely been on the development of productive work. An exaggerated way to put it would be to say that often we think about how a bolt could be fastened quicker, but we do not pay attention to whether the bolt is at the assembler’s work station. The problem does not often catch the eye, because usually the refining and the assisting work are both done by the same people. When the material needs to be fetched, the machinist or assembler is happy to go for a ride with their forklift. In such cases, the production really is not efficient or flexible. At every turn, there are buffers, unnecessary materials transports and other re-arrangements, which is all loss. Additionally, the production times are long and the ERP balances are only indicative at best.

In a flexible factory, a product can be manufactured efficiently and with a short lead time. The distinctive feature of a flexible factory is its ability to hold the production line. Flexibility does not mean having to fiddle at every stage. The pull system is an efficient tool in both production management and production quality improvement. The pull system quickly reveals all challenges, after which they can be developed. If the organization has gotten used to fiddling and big buffers, the pull system can often be a scary solution.

What about you? What is your reason for a large warehouse, high KET and fiddling? When is the right time to lean up a factory?

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