LEAN MANUFACTURING HELPS AN AEROSPACE SUPPLIER IMPROVE FLEXIBILITY
Due to the complex nature of the process and the large number of variants a major supplier of aerospace engine components looked to Lean Manufacturing to solve its lead time and on time delivery issues.
Over time the supplier had seen its product range grow, driven mainly by customer demands, but had failed to fully grasp how this had impacted on its manufacturing operation, adding increasing amounts of ‘waste’ into the process.
Following a full assessment of the current state run in conjunction with the senior management team, a plan was developed that focused initially on the main product group which accounted for about 40% of production. Although the product group consisted of around 200 variants, each product had a good level of commonality and was manufactured using a similar process.
A multi skilled team was assembled and trained in the basics of Lean Manufacturing. The team, then under the guidance of a consultant produced a Value Stream Map to highlight the main issues in the existing process.
The Value Stream Map highlighted a high degree of imbalance in the existing process as well as a number of issues including high, low, missing and incorrect stock within the process areas. A number of safety issues were also uncovered that needed immediate attention.
From this point an action plan was made and a series of six Kaizen workshops were held over a four month period. Each workshop focused on specific targets and objectives that had been devised as part of the Value Stream Mapping exercise.
Flow was improved and in most parts of the process, one piece flow was adopted. Many end of line quality checks were moved within the process to increase built in quality. Line side part supermarkets were put in place controlled by Kanban, with dedicated Materials Handling to resolve any stock issues.
Production planning was then introduced to ensure that orders were sequenced correctly. Also, small changes allowed similar components to be assembled on common tooling, thus increasing flexibility.
Improving one ‘model’ area initially, served as an example of what could be achieved using Lean Manufacturing and helped the workforce understand what to expect as other production areas adopted Lean manufacturing principles.
Within the initial six months the supplier saw On Time Delivery improve from 67% to 95% and manufacturing Lead Time reduce by 40%. Equipment downtime improved by 20% and quality defects were reduced by over 50%.
Following the adoption of similar methods in other production areas, similar results were seen as well as space being freed up for future use.
This hands-on approach is typical in the initial stages of a consulting engagement as an organisation and its people are learning to see what Lean Manufacturing is all about.