Friday, October 13, 2017

Thursday was another day in production

We ran even better this week than last week. and I thought we ran well last week.

As reported in that post, the spectacular failure mode is to pack the down-line operation with parts.  Parts go bouncing on the floor when the machine is full.  The other failure mode, starving, is not self declaring.  Consequently, the more typical failure mode is to starve that operation.

I had some conversations with one of the old timers and it started him to thinking.

I suggested that we change a chain sprocket so we could slow down the belt that stripped parts out of the bin.  My thinking was that the operator could then let small parts free-flow out of the bin and only need to throttle flow for the biggest parts.  Operators are lazy.  They will free-flow if they can.  But if they start throttling they will over-throttle.

The old timer went in a different direction.  He looked at the down-line operation and saw no physical reason why he could not change a chain sprocket on that machine to speed it up.  They had been running with the sprocket the machine builder had shipped it with and they had never considered "tuning it in."  At the start of the shift he was hovering over the machine checking quality parameters and such.

Later, he told me that he only sped it up by 10% but it made a huge difference.  The first time I worked on this line we had almost one overfill fault an hour.  Yesterday we ran five hours and did not have a single fault...and I was pushing.

Two weeks ago we processed about 225 units an hour.  Last week we ran about 270 units an hour. This week, in the five hours I was there we processed 340 units an hour.  Some of that was due to not having faults that needed to be cleared.  Some of it was due to the increased speed.

I am really impressed by the old timer.  He took a random comment from a newbie (me) and changed it so to the immense advantage of the business owner.


  1. It's ALWAYS the little things, and a fresh viewpoint can sometimes be that one catalyst that fixes things!

  2. Reminds me of the intern, Joe:

    The Intern

    A toothpaste factory had a problem. They sometimes mistakenly shipped empty boxes without the tube inside. This challenged their perceived quality with the buyers and distributors.

    Understanding how important the relationship with them was, the CEO of the company assembled his top people. They decided to hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem. The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, and third-parties selected.

    Six months (and $3 million) later they had a fantastic solution - on time, on budget, and high quality. Everyone in the project was pleased.

    They solved the problem by using a high-tech precision scale that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box weighed less than it should. The line would stop, someone would remove the defective box, and then press another button to re-start the line. As a result of the new package monitoring process, no empty boxes were being shipped out of the factory.

    With no more customer complaints, the CEO felt the $3 million was well spent. He then reviewed the line statistics report and discovered the number of empty boxes picked up by the scale in the first week was consistent with projections, however, the next three weeks were zero! The estimated rate should have been at least a dozen boxes a day. He had the engineers check the equipment, they verified the report as accurate.

    Puzzled, the CEO traveled down to the factory, viewed the part of the line where the precision scale was installed, and observed just ahead of the new $3 million dollar solution sat a $20 desk fan blowing the empty boxes off the belt and into a bin. He asked the line supervisor what that was about.

    "Oh, that," the supervisor replied, "Jack, the summer intern from maintenance, put it there because he was tired of walking over every time the bell rang."


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