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Critical Steps to Choosing Material Handling Systems

Critical Steps to Choosing Material Handling Systems

Different types of material handling solutions, equipment, and machinery are used within supply chains to move, store, protect, control, and handle materials. The goal is to ensure that materials are readily available and that parts and finished goods are properly protected during transit to and from warehouses. Material handling is a critical component for manufacturers, warehousing, wholesalers/distributors, resellers, and retailers.

 
What is a Material Handling System?
A material handling system includes any equipment, vehicle, standing structure, storage unit, rack, or trolley involved in storing, transporting, and protecting materials, consumables, and finished goods. For manufacturers, a material handling system should be designed with short-range movements in mind. This means that production employees should be able to easily access and move raw materials, consumables, and work-in-process parts.
Why Is Material Handling Important?
Material handling is a critical component of protecting against damage to parts, raw materials, and consumables. This not only saves companies money but also improves final product quality by reducing defects. Material handling solutions should be part of a larger company-wide program to improve a company’s storage and handling practices. Only a proactive storage and handling process can protect against unforeseen and costly part damage.
Material Handling Systems Across a Supply Chain
Material handling solutions should simplify employee access to materials and parts so that the speed of work increases. Ideally, these systems should also be easy to modify and scalable to keep up with changing requirements. Across a given supply chain, material handling solutions are heavily relied upon as a means of meeting delivery requirements with minimal product defects.

1 . Production and Manufacturing
Material handling systems found in manufacturing include carts, flow racks, racks, tuggers, shelving, workbenches, workstations, boards, and other storage solutions. Each of these systems plays a critical role in supporting production employees by supplying them with the necessary tools, instruments, parts, instructions, and consumables to complete work orders.
2. Packaging and Transportation

Manufacturers typically ship their industrial finished goods on strapped pallets of corrugated cardboard containers. Corrugated containers and customized packaging are often used as a means of protecting materials from damage during transportation. They are also the most cost-effective way of transporting industrial finished goods. Strapped corrugated pallets help keep raw materials, consumables, and parts safe during transit.
3. Storage and Warehousing
The most common types of warehouse material handling systems include forklifts, lift trucks, hoisting equipment, shelving, pallets, pallet jacks, automated guided vehicles (AVG), and even robotic handling systems. Forklifts are the all-important vehicle in warehouse management. These are heavily relied upon to move corrugated and strapped pallets, while lift trucks can position pallets on high vertical shelves.
4. Wholesalers and Distributors
Wholesalers, distributors, and bulk resellers rely upon a combination of material handling solutions. Distributors typically use forklifts, lift trucks, and hoisting equipment to handle and store shipments. These are then broken down into smaller shipments which are then sent out to retailers. The focus is to minimize costs so incoming bulk shipments are often used as a means of lowering per-unit freight costs.
5. Retailers
Large retailers with large warehouses typically rely upon forklifts and lift trucks in addition to large shelving and storage units as a means of controlling finished goods. Smaller retailers may simply require pallet jacks, commercial hand trucks, warehouse stock carts, or small utility carts.
Problems with a Fixed Structure Material Handling System
Most portions of the supply chain don’t necessarily require customized modular material handling systems. There are instances where wholesalers, distributors, and large retail chains benefit from modular shelving and storage systems. However, manufacturers and fabricators are more heavily reliant on modular material handling systems if they want to adopt lean manufacturing, improve efficiencies, and control costs.

Unfortunately, for manufacturers, there are several inherent problems associated with a fixed material handling system like utility carts, trolleys, stock carts, or fixed shelving structures. The first issue relates to how several of these material handling solutions have welded joints or are designed and pre-manufactured to specific dimensions.

[caption id="attachment_36625" align="alignnone" width="1080"] This too heavy cart with inadequate wheels was a real source of problem for the team in addition to being a danger to their safety.[/caption]

Making any kind of adjustment to their dimensions or structure is both labor-intensive and time-consuming. This means spending a considerable amount of time having maintenance make changes. These changes often involve cutting, machining, and welding. For companies without these in-house capabilities, it means sending these structures out to third-party subcontractors.

Not only are third-party subcontractors expensive, but they can have drastic consequences on a company’s production throughput. It’s not uncommon for subcontracting to add weeks or even months for modifications to fixed structure material handling systems.

Second, as part of any continuous improvement plan, it’s common for companies to change their warehouse or shop floor layout. They may do this to reduce transit times between workstations and work cells, maximize available space, make room for a new piece of machinery or equipment, or increase their warehouse and production space to keep up with rising demand.

 

Once these changes are made, fixed structure systems that were pre-manufactured to specific dimensions quickly become obsolete. Companies must either cover the high costs of repair and refurbishment or purchase an entirely new material handling system.

Third, fixed structure material handling systems are by their very nature and design incapable of being flexible. They can’t be adjusted without a costly overhaul, repair, and refurbishment. This makes fixed structure material handling systems extremely problematic for manufacturers, especially ones adopting a continuous improvement mindset.
What do Manufacturers Need?
Manufacturers who adopt lean manufacturing principles need to reduce manufacturing cycle times and reduce transit times to increase production throughput. Sometimes that requires the willingness and ability to customize material handling systems for new product lines or new projects. Unfortunately, that’s not possible with fixed structure material handling.

Manufacturers must optimize their material handling systems throughout the entire production process. This means properly handing and storing incoming raw materials, while also improving the accessibility of those materials and consumables in lean work cells. Next, they need to reduce the transit times for semi-finished parts to adjacent work cells. When the entire material handling process is optimized, the company reduces waste, lowers manufacturing cycle times, and encounters fewer production delays.
The Benefit of a Modular Material Handling System
A modular material handling system is one where employees can make immediate changes to the structure’s layout without encountering extensive delays. These solutions typically include modular piping and tube and joint systems that can quickly be cut, extended, and joined in a fraction of the time compared to a fixed/welded material handling structure. Sometimes these changes can take no more than a couple of minutes.

Unfortunately, adjusting fixed material handling systems typically involves a substantial amount of industrial cutting, machining, and welding which can take days and weeks to complete. Modular systems are cost-effective solutions that are easy to assemble and disassemble without having to worry about extended lost time.
Improving Material Handling for Manufacturers

 

There are two essential criteria for optimizing material handling across the entire shop floor. First, a material handling structure inside lean work cells should be designed for minimal worker movement. This means parts, tools, materials, consumables, and semi-finished parts are easily accessible to production employees from within their work cells.

Second, the material handling equipment outside the work cell should be just as functional and easy to use as those inside the work cell. This ensures that transit times to move work-in-process parts to the next lean work cell in the production process are minimized.

When both the inside and outside of all lean work cells have optimized material handling structures and material handling equipment, it has the cascading effect of lowering production cycle times across the entire shop floor. After all, a single delay from a production work cell causes the next cell in the chain to experience delays until eventually, every chain in the process is behind schedule.
What can we build with a Modular Material Handling System?
There is simply no shortage of modular material handling systems that companies can make on their own using pipe and tubing systems. These products are perfect complements to a company’s constantly changing manufacturing environment. Without these modular piping solutions, companies would be faced with the high costs and delays of fixing, repairing, refurbishing, and re-welding older material handling equipment, or worse, having to purchase new ones.
Modular and Scalable Flow Racks
Most often associated with inventory and warehousing, material handling flow racks can also be placed in, or immediately outside of, lean manufacturing work cells. Having materials, parts, and consumables stationed in flow racks adjacent to work cells eliminates wasted transit times for employees from the work cell to the warehouse and back again. In essence, these material handling flow racks can sometimes act as small inventory retainers so that employees don’t waste time walking long distances for the materials they need to finish a work order.

Flow racks have an inclined design which makes it easy for employees to access the materials and parts inside production bins. Modular material handling flow racks empowers manufacturers to make relatively quick adjustments to the flow rack to account for a larger bill of materials. This could involve disassembling a portion of the flow rack to add more levels to handle more bins, or widening the length of each rack.
Modular and Scalable Carts

Carts have a multi-purpose function as material handling equipment. First, they help warehouse employees manage, move and store incoming shipments while also helping to prepare outgoing shipments.

Second, they are often essential for moving semi-finished parts and assemblies to and from separate work cells on the shop floor. Sometimes those semi-finished parts can be quite large, wide, or long. Third, they are ideal solutions for moving multiple production bins, parts, and materials for different work orders to different shop floor locations.

While carts have multiple uses, a modular and scalable cart built with tube and joint systems expands those uses and benefits ten-fold. Manufacturers know that nothing is static or stationary on the shop floor for long. Being able to adjust a cart’s size, height and width isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. Modular piping solutions empower manufacturers to adjust to any change in requirement.
Modular and Scalable WorkStations

Workstations are the all-important building block of any lean manufacturing work cell. A poorly-made or badly-designed workstation leads to endless wasted time as employees search in vain for poorly-placed parts, tools, instructions, bins, materials, or work orders. All this wasted time reduces operational efficiency.

If the workstation isn’t designed or structured around 5S principles (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain) or worse, is not movement-friendly, then it’s no longer a lean workstation.

As important as a clean workstation is, it’s nowhere near as important as being able to adjust the workstation with modular piping solutions. Invariably, the workstation’s design will need to be changed, or modified at some point, and a fixed structure workstation is extremely difficult to adjust without encountering wasted time and high costs.
Modular and Scalable Racks

Racks are critical for holding inventory within warehouses. Not only do racks help to protect inventory, but their loading capacity means they can hold inventory for long periods. A higher loading capacity means each level protects the inventory on that level and each subsequent level beneath it.

It would be great if you only needed one type of rack with perfectly spaced levels that never need to change, but that is rarely the case. This is why a modular and scalable rack is so important.

Tube and joint systems allow you to create a tailor-made rack with individual levels you can adjust. Since inventory costs are typically based on warehouse square footage, a modular rack system allows you to free up valuable warehouse space, thereby reducing warehousing and inventory costs.

There is nothing more costly or time-consuming than having to change a fixed warehouse racking system. Modular racking can be made to fit the exact size and space you need to store materials, parts, and finished goods and are scalable and adaptable to support any change.
Types of Materials used to build a handling system
There are material handling systems that are pre-manufactured to specific dimensions and made with different types of materials. Ultimately, understanding the pros and cons of these materials is needed to better understand if they are viable solutions for your handling needs.

Aluminum Extrusions:

Aluminum is a lightweight, high-strength, and durable material that often has strong corrosion resistance. It is often used in manufacturing material handling equipment provided the aluminum is properly taken care of. Unfortunately, that is often the problem with a material handling structure manufactured from aluminum. Should that aluminum get stretched – which will eventually happen – then the aluminum’s surface layer will oxidize and corrode.

It’s also not uncommon for aluminum to experience water staining with high magnesium-aluminum alloys staining the most. While this doesn’t necessarily degrade the material’s properties, it is an obvious eye-sore that is less than appealing. Just imagine customers seeing water stains on every single aluminum material handling system you have.

Welded structures:

There are plenty of material handling systems that are welded. Unfortunately, these welded structures make the structure’s physical dimensions permanent. Any pre-manufactured or fixed material handling equipment is not easy to adjust or change. In fact, they aren’t designed or supposed to change.

These structures have a role to play for companies like distributors, retailers, or resellers who offer high volumes through a small number of product lines. If these product lines rarely change, then welded structures might work. Unfortunately, business change is commonplace, and welded structures aren’t just expensive to purchase – they’re expensive to fix and replace.

Standard Hardware Store Structures/Shelving:

An argument can be made for hardware store storage and shelving systems. They do play a role in inventory management. However, that role is extremely limited. It’s not uncommon for warehouses to have small shelves that hold small consumables like tape, hammers, nails, scissors, labels, etc. Unfortunately, that’s about it. These systems do not have sufficient load capacity on each shelf which means weight distribution across that shelf is very limited and extremely problematic.

Wooden Structures:

While rarely used, some companies create material handling equipment, workbenches, and workstations out of wood. Unfortunately, this is neither a good material nor a stable material to withstand the heavy loads and repeated use so common in warehouses and production shop floors. Gradually, over time, wood rots, especially when it’s exposed to humidity. As the rot propagates, the wood degrades even further and becomes weaker until eventually, it cracks or breaks. Even in a temperature-controlled warehouse, wood shelving is not a long-term viable solution.
Modular Material Handling Solutions Check all the Boxes
Companies nowadays have multiple concerns. It’s not just about making a good product, building a brand, and keeping customers. While each of these is important, there are other issues today’s companies are starting to take more seriously. Fortunately, a modular material handling system can address all these issues and more.

Ergonomic and Safe Solution

Employee absences due to work injuries are extremely expensive. The typical manufacturer covers $1,000.00 of additional costs every day an employee is injured. When employers adopt ergonomic principles, it immediately has an impact on employee engagement. Their efficiency, productivity, and attendance all improve. In return, companies don’t have to cover as many costs for absences due to injury.

For many industries, a modular material handling system is part of their overall ergonomic strategy. These are the companies that will incorporate anti-fatigue matting solutions inside work cells to provide improved impact resistance for employees. When tube and joint solutions are used alongside anti-fatigue matting solutions, then companies can easily adjust and cut both to accommodate the other.

Modular material handling systems are relied upon because their surfaces, corners and the entire structure is clean, free of burs, and void of any sharp edges. This means modular handling systems are not only ergonomic but safe for use.

Inexpensive Solution Compared to Fixed Structures

Companies faced with modifying fixed structure material handling equipment incur substantial costs and delays. Changing or adjusting fixed material handling systems often involves a tremendous amount of labor-intensive and expensive work.

Simply put, modular piping solutions are easier and faster to assemble, require less expertise, and are nowhere near as expensive or take anywhere near as long as having to send fixed structures to subcontractors. These systems can easily be assembled in-house and adjusted in a fraction of the time compared to a fixed structure material handling system.

Easily Recycled – If needed

Modular handling systems aren’t just easier to work with. While having a system that’s easily customized and adaptable is a definite plus, another benefit includes the ease with which modular systems can be recycled. This is but another way for companies to showcase their environmental stewardship.

The piping and square piping is typically made from steel with a polyethylene coating or a highly-scratch-resistant paint coating. Roller tracks are made from steel or Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. Joints are also made of steel. Finally, the end caps, pipe connectors, and hinge brackets are either made of PVC or other highly-durable plastic. Ultimately, the result is a material handling solution that is scalable, adaptable, affordable, and recyclable.

Designed with Efficiency in Mind

Modular material handling solutions are designed with efficiency and lean concepts in mind. Companies providing these tube and joint systems are well-aware of how businesses need a scalable and modular solution. These structures can be assembled and disassembled in a fraction of the time when compared to other material handling solutions made from other materials. Ultimately, it’s about enabling companies to make their own changes and structures as they see fit.
Choosing the Right Solution
Choosing a material handling system comes down to defining the type of business you run, the customers you serve, and the market or industry you operate in. Manufacturers have an obvious benefit from using modular material handling systems. However, if you are a small retailer, then modular systems aren’t likely to add any benefits or efficiencies. If you’re a business that sells a few product lines and those product lines never change, then fixed structures might be a solution. However, if your business is constantly changing and continuously growing - and if you know first-hand that fixed structure material handling has not worked for you - then modular systems may just be what you need.

Why you should use AGVs on your assembly line

Why you should use AGVs on your assembly line

An automated guided vehicle (AGV) is a computer-controlled vehicle used to carry or tow materials in a manufacturing facility. In this video, Bruce Buscher, vice-president of Daifuku’s AGV group, explains why AGVs are a great solution for your assembly line and how you can integrate them with your material handling system.

Borrowing Lean Manufacturing Concepts from the Automotive Industry

Borrowing Lean Manufacturing Concepts from the Automotive Industry

Jerry Collins – a mechanical engineer with 28 years of experience in the automotive industry – uses the pre-production stage as the critical first step to managing future production costs. It’s during this pre-production stage that Jerry uses modular piping systems as a way to layout his production floor and design material handling systems. This reduces costs and makes it easier to modify those handling systems (if needed) once full-scale production starts.

LISTEN: Audio Interview Jerry Collins
In this interview, Society of Cost Engineers founder Jerry Collins explains to Flexpipe project manager Temie Fessa how modular material handling systems have helped him maximize efficiency and profits.

Your browser does not support the audio element.

Find out how any company in any industry can benefit from using tube and joint systems in the pre-production stage as a way to manage costs.
The Origins of Lean Manufacturing
Lean manufacturing can trace its roots back to Henry Ford’s infamous Model T assembly line and the Toyota Production System (TPS) of the early twentieth century. Sometimes referred to as “lean production” or “just-in-time manufacturing”, lean manufacturing focuses on increasing production throughput while controlling costs and minimizing waste.

With lean manufacturing, companies can increase production throughput without sacrificing their cash position or purchasing excessive inventory. Unfortunately, a large number of companies use some lean concepts while never fully implementing others.
Using Modular Piping for a Mocked Assembly Line
Instead of using lean manufacturing principles during the pre-production stage, several companies only adopt lean concepts long after production has started. Unfortunately, this puts them in a read-and-react position where unforeseen changes in product designs force them to make haphazard and extremely costly adjustments. However, Jerry took an entirely different approach.

[caption id="attachment_38531" align="alignnone" width="1000"] A production line simulation using cardboard boxes. Source: Robert Simonis[/caption]

Jerry and his team used modular piping solutions to create a mockup front axle and rear axle assembly line for General Motors. As stated by Jerry, “long before we purchased any equipment, we created a whole facility with modular piping and decided early on how our material handling systems would be structured.” This included using tube and joint systems to create mock machines and equipment in order to create a visual presentation of both on the shop floor.

 

They also used modular piping to create trolleys to test the transit times between work cells, all the while looking for any possible obstructions. They then created temporary structures in order to simulate how future material handling systems would be positioned beside work cells, equipment, and machinery.
Making Immediate Adjustments within Minutes – Not Days or Weeks
[caption id="attachment_38508" align="alignnone" width="1440"] A dedicated material handling shop will allows you to modify quickly and on spot structures that need adjustments[/caption]

Jerry and his team of engineers chose modular piping solutions during the preproduction stage because of how easily it was to make simple changes. Some of the changes they made to their mock layout took mere minutes, something that is completely impossible to achieve with fixed material handling systems. As Jerry stated, “companies need to plan their material handling systems early on so they can maintain and improve upon their profits margins later.”

Ultimately, the tube and joint solutions replaced all of their larger, fixed-structure material handling frames. According to Jerry, making a single adjustment to their older material handling structures involved sending their heavy-duty racks to “a third party for welding and adjustments which could take weeks and months, whereas if you have a product like Flexpipe, it can be done in an afternoon.”

For Jerry and his team, adopting modular piping systems during the pre-production stage ensured everybody was comfortable with using the solution once production began. So, what are the inherent benefits of using modular piping during the initial pre-production stage?
Adopting Lean Principles in the Pre-Production Stage
Adopting lean concepts in the pre-production stage by using tube and joint systems has three primary benefits. First, it amalgamates the costs associated with laying out the entire production floor for equipment and machinery, while totaling the costs for standing structures, workbenches, shelving, trolleys, flow racks, boards, etc.

This provides companies with a complete picture of their costs. It also allows companies to decide upon how much actual square footage they need for manufacturing. They can avoid the extra costs of leasing/buying too much production space, or conversely, avoid the high costs and delays that come from not having enough production space.

Second, using modular piping solutions in pre-production helps to simplify workflow. Companies have a much easier time choosing which modular piping solutions are needed for all their T-shaped, U-shaped, and S or Z-type work cells. This allows them to maximize the transit times between production work cells, equipment, machinery, and other standing structures. It also helps them choose ideal locations for inventory and part storage.

Third, by adopting tube and joint systems in the pre-production stage, employees are better able to make quick modifications to standing structures and material handling systems once production begins. No more waiting on welding or having to send out heavy-duty racks to third-party suppliers for modifications that may take weeks or months. Instead, with tube and joint systems, the employees can make the changes themselves.

Modular piping is a product designed with lean concepts in mind. Making changes to modular material handling systems is faster, simpler, and far less expensive when compared to fixed-structure systems.
Simple Steps to Using Modular Piping During Pre-production
Again, any company in any industry can use the same approach. It simply comes down to using the following four steps.

1. Use Spaghetti Diagrams to Define Workflow

Spaghetti diagrams allow you to map your workflow so that you have a visual presentation of how physical parts move between part storage, material handling systems, work cells, equipment, and machinery. The goal is to have a sequential process where the parts move naturally and employees aren’t required to walk extremely long distances to move those parts to the next chain in the process.

2. Gather Information About Machinery & Equipment

Defining the physical size of equipment and machinery is an important aspect of maximizing available shop floor space. You’ll need to define the physical dimensions of equipment and machines and visualize how they will be laid out on the shop floor.

3. Define the Number of Material Handling Systems

Once you’ve defined the areas of your shop floor occupied by machinery and equipment, it becomes easy to determine the number of material handling systems you’ll require. To help you in the design of those systems, Flexpipe has created the Flexpipe Creator Extension, an innovative software-based solution that allows you to simplify your designs.

4. Simulate Transit Times

By now, your shop floor should be mocked up with locations for equipment, machinery, standing structures, work cells, and material handling systems. A proactive final step involves simulating transit times between each of these structures to ensure that there is sufficient space for employees to move parts and that the distances they travel aren’t too far.

Flexpipe: Make it Work For You
Flexpipe is an industry leader in tube and joint systems with a strong North American footprint. Long recognized as an innovator, Flexpipe is well-known for its affordable modular piping solutions (30% less expensive) and its customer-centric approach to customer service and after-sales support.

Post-Covid 19 protective structures

Post-Covid 19 protective structures

In the current crisis, companies must quickly adapt their production. Certain security measures will be necessary to ensure the protection of all employees. You will find in this page a panoply of protectives structures that want to be inspiring, simple to realize, and at a low price.

Why buying Flexpipe in the pandemic situation?
The needs linked to Covid-19 being temporary, when the pandemic is over, it is very easy to dismantle the tubes and joints in order to transform them into other workstation designs and find them a second life! You'll find two types of structures below: the ready to assemble kits and inspirations for customized protective structures.
5 READY TO ASSEMBLE KITS
Typically, contagions are passed when individuals are within 6 feet of each other. Coughing and sneezing, which can introduce potentially contaminated droplets into the air, is one of the main ways COVID-19 is being spread. Here are 5 sneeze guards kits to protect your clients and employees.

- 36x72 Sneeze guard assembly kit - 175$
- 48x71 Sneeze wall assembly kit - 205$
- 32x32 Sneeze Screen assembly kit - 99$
- 20x30 1/2 Sneeze side assembly kit - 99$

Take a look at all the kits

Watch the assembly video

 

 

How to recycle your Sneeze guard pipes and joints after the crisis (an example)

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CUSTOMIZED PROTECTION STRUCTURES
Protectives separators between production employees
Here are some customized inspirations. All of these ideas are adaptable. Our strength is tailor-made! Send us the required dimensions and we will assist you in the preparation of your project.

We can design plans quickly.
We can pre-cut and send you kits.
We can pre-assembled structures and deliver turn-key projects.
Mass production can be put into rapid action.

DOWNLOAD ALL COVID-19 PROTECTION STRUCTURE HERE
Line guard: download this plan

Assembly line dividers and protectors
Sneeze guard: download this plan

Sneeze guard: download this plan

Portable sneezeguards on casters with brakes.
Sneeze guard: download this plan

The next picture was sent by one of our favorite people in the Flexpipe Community! Jason Blain from Winpak who shared with us his brand new installation: sneeze guards that allow the workers to keep going in security.

And as he said, it was ''built while they were working and installed while they were on lunch. A fast but an effective build.'' Quick and simple!

Sneeze screen 32x32: download this plan

Sneeze wall: download this plan

Sneeze wall: download this plan

 

Employee / customer protection or for office workers
Sneeze screen 32x32: download this plan

Sneeze screen 32x32: download this plan

 
Cleaning and disinfection station

Handwashing station: download this plan

Hand sanitizer rack: download this plan

 

LET US KNOW IF YOU IF YOU HAVE A SPECIFIC REQUIREMENT - WE WILL GET BACK TO YOU IN 24 HOURS.

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WHAT CAN FLEXPIPE DO TO OPTIMIZE YOUR PLANT EFFICIENCY?

Flexpipe Modular materials handling systems can help you with implementing continuous improvement principles. Your team’s creativity can result in a 10% increase in productivity per year. It has been a proven system for more than 50 years now.

When should I draw with CAD or do a freehand sketch?

When should I draw with CAD or do a freehand sketch?

https://www.flexpipeinc.com/ca_en/structure/cart/Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Is training your staff to use 3D CAD software to design a structure necessary for all your projects? In our opinion, absolutely not! Depending on the complexity of the required structure, a freehand sketch may be faster than a computer drawing with CAD software. Read on to know when to design a structure using CAD software versus only doing a freehand drawing.

At Flexpipe, when we need a structure for internal use, we draw by hand instead of using CAD. When we say this to clients that are using 3D CAD software, they are quite surprised!

First, we carry out some "try-storming" with sketches, and, once tested and approved, we do reverse engineering and create a 3D design. This way, we speed up the process considerably rather than waiting for the design department to model a structure that we're not 100% quite sure will work.

In 90% of cases, you'll want to change and improve the initial concept after just one day of use. A pipe and joint system will allow you to tweak and fine-tune the structure easily. If you make the design process longer, you'll end up wiping out the quick improvement advantage of the product.

In some cases, a CAD design is not what the situation calls for.

With these wise words in mind, "Problem in the morning, solution in the afternoon," we'd rather waste a few pipes and joints on a quick structural test rather than spend a long time thinking of the ideal design in front of a computer. Our motto is "Fail fast – Learn fast – Improve fast!"

 
Benefits of freehand sketching
One of the significant benefits is that freehand sketching is a simple solution that requires only a few types of equipment. There's no need for software or computer or special skills that require you to be in an office setting. You can draw the sketch where the action is taking place and with the people who are most impacted by the structure.

Here are other benefits of doing your project design on paper instead of using computer software:

Lower development costs: a CAD drawing can get expensive as each picture requires an average of 5 hours of staff time.
Reduces wastes, improves efficiency and saves on costs when improvements are implemented within a shorter timeframe.
Stronger employee involvement: a key for better engagement is to act fast, especially when operating with a suggestion system!
Increased employee reach because freehand sketching is easily accessible to everyone. The employee suggesting a new structure or improvements on an existing structure is, logically, the best person to do the sketch.
It's easier to think outside the box because you are making multiple drawing iterations; ideally 7 - see our 7-Ways Idea Template to Avoid Tunnel Vision article. Getting various departments and workers participating in this brainstorming process is invaluable and can reap numerous rewards, such as different perspectives and diversified work techniques.

 

Benefits of making a CAD drawing after a first structure is built
Most of the time, we suggest making a 3D CAD drawing once the prototype phase is over because the final result will be accurate measurements, a bill of material, and a precise cut list.

Here are some other benefits that it's essential to document, using CAD software, a project that will be reproduced:

Avoid the occurrence of mistakes or leaving details up to an assembler's preferences. It's best to stick to a final design, so each structure is identical.
Reduces the time spent cutting pipes and assembling the structure. This is especially true when making multiple copies of an existing and tested structure.
Keeps a detailed record of your structure's components if you need to build additional units in the future. Regardless of who makes the structure, the "recipe" will be the same.
Enables you to share improvements made to structures with other departments or factories to share best practices and standardize work methods.
Helps you order the exact quantity of material needed or calculate the cost of a large project.
Makes requesting quotes from pipe and joint suppliers easier. Though we hope you'll choose Flexpipe!

 
Better to develop a concept with CAD software for these types of structures
For complex structures with over 20 pipes and 50 joints - for example, a flow rack 60" long with five levels and a 40" depth with multiple roller tracks. A CAD design will make it easier to draw up a bill of material, reduce the risk of errors and reduce waste, and save money.

For critical structures with a heavy loading capacity exceeding 1000 lb - for example, a WIP (work-in-progress) cart that will hold parts weighing 1200 lb and is to be moved around the production floor. Calling upon the CAD design team members is a wise move as they are specialized in calculating loading capacities and optimizing work methods.

For projects bringing about resistance to change - for example, replacing workbenches that have been used for the last 15 years by new workstations. Some projects generate more passionate debate than others. In such cases, presenting a 3D CAD drawing with multiple perspectives to the team can provide reassurance, bring about product improvement suggestions, and motivate employee engagement.

Projects that require a significant financial investment - for example, new kitting carts to reduce the use of wood pallets and forklift traffic. These types of projects generally require formal approval as it takes a certain amount of time to recoup the investment. Therefore, a 3D software design will help justify the expense of key decision-makers. They will be able to visualize the project and understand its benefits.

It's essential to evaluate the scope of the structure that you want to create; that is, don't overthink the process. Large projects should be done on CAD once the prototype phase is done. Major projects should be drawn on CAD once the prototype is done. Other than that, we suggest that you encourage people to keep it simple: do a freehand sketch, start assembling the structure, and test it quickly!

A coated pipe is less than a $1 per foot, and you will be able to reuse the casters and joints if the structure does not work or has to be improved upon—but at least you'll be getting closer to a structure offering top-notch efficiency.

Why buy 8-foot pipes instead of 4-meter pipes?

Why buy 8-foot pipes instead of 4-meter pipes?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Are you wondering about which pipe length you should buy to reduce costs? Read on for details about transportation and scrap costs in the comparative study we did on eight different projects built with 4-meter and 8-foot pipes.

True or false #1: buying 8-foot pipes reduces freight costs?
True or false #2: 4-meter pipes generate fewer scrap pieces?

In 2017, we began offering 4-meter pipes to accommodate some of our customers' needs. Recently, we decided to look into the benefits of these 4-meter pipes and did some investigating of our own. Keep reading to learn the reasons why - following our tests - we recommend purchasing 8-foot pipes instead of 4-meter pipes.

We know that the industry norm in pipe and joint systems are most likely 4 m pipes because Japan's Yazaki introduced the product in 4-meter lengths many decades ago. However, when it comes to standard building materials such as plywood or timber, 8-foot lengths are most often used. This is mainly due to housing construction standards, and for reasons regarding health, safety, and freight costs.

The table below compares the cost of purchasing 8-foot versus 4-meter pipes for use in 8 different pipe and joint projects. Since most of our customers obtain 4-meter tubes from our competitors, we've since introduced Creform 4-meter pipe pricing. To round out the table, we also calculated the monetary value of scrap pieces shorter than 12 inches, since they are generally not reusable.

*Prices based on 2022 regular catalogs from Flexpipe and Creform.
 

According to the numbers in the table, it's safe to say that the average piping cost per project is just about the same. While the value of the scraps under 12 inches long is a little less expensive in the "8 feet" column, we can affirm that you'll get better reusable scrap pieces with 4-meter pipes.

Regarding work-related illness and injury, 4-meter pipes need to be handled with greater care than 8-foot pipes. There is an increased risk of self-injury or harm to others, regardless of whether you are handling the pipes manually or using a forklift. For these reasons, and to adhere to ergonomic guidelines, we decided to keep 8-foot pipes as our main product offering.
Drawbacks of 4-meter pipes:

Require extra-long forks to handle 4-meter pallets. This can be a waste of time for the forklift driver.
Require a more considerable amount of floor space to get the pipes out of the truck and to move non-standard pallets throughout the plant.
Require a more significant footprint or specialized racking to store the pipes vertically or horizontally.
Require a larger cutting table, thus take up more space.
Require a wood crate for handling and shipping, which is an additional cost.
May require time or money to get rid of the wood crate.
It cannot be shipped by UPS or FedEx, as the authorized maximum length is 10 feet.
Increase freight costs by 42% (see below).

 

As a side note to the freight costs mentioned above, 8-foot pipes can be shipped with regular carriers, while the 4-meter ones must be sent with LTL carriers.

In the chart below, you will find prices listed on freightcenter.com, which were calculated on October 25, 2018, with an $80 overlength fee. Since summer 2018, most LTL carriers charge an overlength fee on material exceeding 8 feet. We prioritize carriers offering delivery over two business days.

8-foot shipment values ; 24x96x30 500 lb
4-meter shipment values ; 24x157x25 500 lb
 
Drawbacks of 8-foot pipes:

Generate more reusable lengths to manage (exceeding 12 inches long).
Higher in cost if you are a one-time user and do not intend on re-using the scraps.
Require the use of AP-CNNCT or AP-CNNCT2 pipe connectors to build structured over 8 feet long - which is not always recommended!

 

So, to answer the first true-or-false question, which was, "Buying 8-foot pipes reduces freight costs?" The answer is TRUE: you will save on freight costs with 8-foot pipes and avoid the hassle of handling 4-meter units in the plant.

For the second question, "4-meter pipes generate less scrap?" the answer is also TRUE: 4-meter pipes reduce leftovers mostly for long structures. However, if you regularly build structures, you will be able to re-use leftovers quickly since most of them exceed 12 inches.

If you frequently work on continuous improvement projects for the plant, you are better off with 8-foot pipes.

If you use industrial pipe racking systems only occasionally for specific quantity projects, e.g., a contractor who builds new carts or FIFO rack for a client, you are better off with Flexpipe 4-meter pipes. If you use pipe and joint systems for small or in-house projects, opt for 8-foot pipes as they can quickly be shipped via courier.

We hope this comparison test was helpful to you. If you have any questions, please contact your project manager. He will be happy to provide any assistance you might need.

 

Top 5 tools for cutting

Top 5 tools for cutting

The plastic-covered metal tubes used for Flexpipe structures are relatively easy to cut. Throughout the years, we've tested several different tools and gotten feedback from our customers and our team about the ones they most commonly used to cut the tubes.

We highly recommend drawing up a list of all the cuts that need to be made, so you don't waste a considerable amount of time and materials. With that in mind, here's a list of 5 cutting tools we recommend, along with their respective pros and cons. You'll also find a list of tools you should refrain from keeping your workplace safe.

Estimated reading time: 3 min 34 sec.

 

 

 
5 - The Sawzall -$$

The Sawzall is a portable cutting tool as it's cordless. This feature makes the device easier to use on existing structures.

Tip: If the piece needing to be cut is not already assembled, we highly recommend using clamps. Without proper support, you can end up cutting in the wrong place.

You need to know that the Sawzall can be heavy. It can also be challenging to keep stable. Make sure your arms have adequate support to maneuver the device securely. Safety can be an issue due to the sparks flying from the blades. Hence safety glasses are a must. For these reasons, the Sawzall is a tool to be used if you have no other on hand.

 
4 - The Tube Cutter -$

Tube-cutters are available in varying grades of quality and whose execution speed can vary. This tool makes clean, straight cuts and is easy to use. Given that the tube cutter is a manual hand tool, it's less dangerous, and the risk of injury is reduced. This tool is the safest among those listed in this article and you can add it to your order now by clicking here.

Using this tool requires a fair bit of vigor on the employee's part. For this reason, it's best to have established beforehand all the cuts needed before starting the project. Not only will this save you quite a bit of time, but you'll also cut only that which is necessary.

Tip: To avoid applying undue force to the tool, be sure to use a consistent circular movement. To do this, do not overtighten the screw knob when starting. As such, there'll be sufficient flexibility when cutting your tubes.

While the tube-cutter can be handy at times, it's not one of the quickest. We recommend using this tool for small projects.

 
3 - The Portable Bandsaw -$$

The portable bandsaw is an excellent tool to use regularly. We suggest the smaller models as they are lighter. This ergonomic tool is suitable for existing structures. Another plus is that the bandsaw has a moderate noise level. You can add it to your order now by clicking here.

Contrary to the metal cutting bandsaw, the portable model can only cut one tube at a time. Also, the lack of adequate support can result in crooked cuts.

 
2 - The Metal Cutting Bandsaw -$$$

The metal cutting bandsaw is ideal for projects of all sizes. It can cut up to six tubes simultaneously—which makes it one of the most efficient tool of this list. If you are cutting tubes daily, this tool is perfect for the job.

The standard model is more than enough, and no blade lubricant is required when cutting Flexpipe tubes. This bandsaw is very quiet and is the least dangerous electric tool.

Tip: This is the saw we use in the Flexpipe crib, we highly recommend you use it if you buy one.

You'll need to establish a location for a stationary bandsaw. As such, consider using an area that is safe and easily accessible. This bandsaw, as opposed to the portable model, cannot do cuts on structures that have already been built.
1 - The Cold cut saw -$$$$

The Cold cut saw, just like the metal cutting bandsaw is ideal for projects of all sizes. It can also cut up to six tubes simultaneously—which makes it one of the most efficient tool of this list. If you are cutting tubes daily, this tool is the best investment you can make.

Just like the metal band saw you'll need to establish a location for a this saw. As such, consider using an area that is safe and easily accessible. This saw, as opposed to the portable model, cannot do cuts on structures that have already been built.
Cutting tools to avoid
Here's a list of tools you should stay away from as there is a high risk of worker injuries when using them. Besides, these tools will not provide peak performance. Remember that regardless of which one you use, wearing safety is essential.

Table Saw;
Miter Saw;
Handle Lopper;
Hand Saw
Cut-Off Saw

 
Conclusion
You are now more familiar with how Flexpipe tubes are easy to cut with these four tools. Depending on how many cuts you'll need to do to complete your project, you have all the necessary information to choose the tool best suited to cutting your Flexpipe tubes. Remember that fully grasping the scope of your project as well as establishing that needs to be cut before beginning the work will prevent you from wasting precious time and material.

Top 5 tools for assembling

Top 5 tools for assembling

Assembling a Flexpipe structure can be an easy process and can be made even quicker if you use the appropriate tools. All Flexpipe joint sets are assembled with the same nuts and bolts. As such, you’ll just need a 5-mm hex head tool to carry out your project.

Depending on the scope of the project, it’s essential to know which tool can save you the most time and money. Here’s a list of the five tools we recommend, with their respective pros and cons.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

 

 

 
5 - The 5 MM Hex Key (Allen Key)

The hex key, or Allen key, is found in most toolboxes. This inexpensive tool, which is available in many stores, is perfectly adapted to carry out adjustments on existing structures or to build small projects. The hex key’s modest size enables you to work in those hard-to-reach places that other tools are unable to access.

TIP: Did you know that you can cut a long hex key into several pieces? These pieces can subsequently be used as a hex head on your drill. However, this tip does not work for impact drivers.

We don’t recommend using a hex key for assembling larger projects, as this may be painful for your hands and wrists. While the hex key is convenient, it’s not intended to be a time-saver.

 
4 - The Hex Socket (Dynamometric) Wrench

A hex socket wrench is a useful, light tool. One can choose a 5mm (1/4’’) unit with a preset cutting range of 2-100 inches per pound (9.8 Nm). This cutting range is the ideal strength to assemble Flexpipe structures. As such, your bolts will always be correctly tightened.

TIP: You may find it challenging to locate this preset tool, so we’ve done the searching for you! The tool is available for purchase on seekonk.com (US-based, delivery to Canada is possible).

While this tool is faster than the hex key and the T-handle, you’ll find others listed in this article that are quicker to use. You should keep in mind that a preset torque wrench is not a standard tool, and it can be challenging to find; it can be expensive, too.

If the one you are using is not preset, you’ll need to pay close attention to the torque setting. If it’s too tight, the bolt heads may become stripped, and you won’t be able to use the bolts again in future projects.

 
3 - The Cordless Drill

A cordless drill is a highly useful tool for projects that only require short assembly time. Given that most people have already used a drill, little employee training is necessary. Furthermore, you probably have one on hand in your facility!

It’s essential to adjust a drill before using it. You must select the “V1” speed setting: that is, the drill speed will be moderate, but with a high level of power. Failure to adequately set the speed level can lead to a wrist injury.

Also, be ready to compose with the tool’s weight when assembling a large-scale project. Speed is critical here; make sure you have the right torque setting, so you don’t strip the bolt heads and render them unusable for future projects.

 
2 - The T-Handle Hex Key

As a useful complement to the impact driver, the T-handle hex key is handy to tighten bolts, which are hard to reach. Its rubber grip makes it more ergonomic and comfortable than the hex key, and it is also very affordable.

As is the case for the hex key, this tool is not suitable for large-scale projects. If you do choose to use it, nonetheless, it may be painful for your hands and wrists. While it won’t provide the quickest execution time, the T-Handle hex key can prove to be useful in certain situations.

 
1 - The Impact Driver (Impact Gun)

The impact driver, also known as an impact gun, is the tool we recommend most. Why? Because it’s powerful, fast, and quite affordable. It’s best to set it at medium power for top performance.

Be sure to have the proper torque setting to avoid stripping the bolt heads, or else they will be useless for other projects. We also recommend purchasing a replacement battery, so your assembly process is not interrupted by a dead battery.

 
Tip about Flexpipe nuts and bolts:
All Flexpipe joint sets are assembled with M6-N nuts and M6-25B bolts. The term M6 refers to the outer metric diameter of the head, which is 6 mm.

 
Conclusion
Now that you know all the characteristics of these assembling tools, you should be able to determine which is the right tool to assemble your Flexpipe structures. Remember that it’s essential to evaluate the scope of your project correctly, so you purchase the tool that best suits your needs.

6 essential personality traits of the ideal assembler

6 essential personality traits of the ideal assembler

Now that you have determined the people most suited to building your Flexpipe structures, here's a list to help you choose the perfect candidate according to their primary personality traits.

The factor which will most influence the success of your project is the personality of the individual or the team who is assembling the structure. Please note that there's no precise order to this list. The more characteristics the chosen assembler has amongst it, the higher your project's success rate!

Haven't yet chosen the best people to assemble your modular system? First, take a moment to read our article on eight most likely people for an in-house assembly.

Estimated reading time: 3 min 20 sec.

 

 
1 - Be Creative
Customized modular structures; a significant asset for efficiency

Modular systems, such as Flexpipe, mainly need creative assemblers to be fully effective. This attribute is most useful during kaizen events, but also when creating custom-made structures.

Remember that tube and joint systems are used to build all kinds of structures suited to various needs. The goal is to create a structure that you couldn't find in a store.

 
2 - Have a clear and straightforward perspective
The design's simplicity is key!

Flexpipe structures need to be simple, economical, and easy to test before implementation. The best designs can solve complex problems thanks to their simplicity and flexibility. This is one of the modular system's most significant advantages.

We can, therefore, establish a parallel to the KISS principle, which means "Keep it simple, stupid." This principle aims to eliminate any unnecessary complexity whenever possible when designing the structures.

 
3 - Be skillful and resourceful
Think outside the box

Although Flexpipe parts are easy to cut and assemble, complex manipulations can be needed. That said, we recommend using the person with the best skill set for this job. The use of specific tools may be necessary.

We believe that most individuals can assemble the Flexpipe system, with the help of a single training session on which tools to use. To find out more, read our articles Top 4 tools for cutting and Top 5 tools for assembling to determine the most appropriate tool for your project.

 
4 - Be ingenious
Knowing how to push back the limits

The Flexpipe system offers a multitude of accessories to customize your structures and maximize their potential. A skilled assembler will find what he or she needs to complete his project.

You may need more than pipes and joints to complete a project, however. Whether you choose to use a whiteboard, foam protectors, fasteners, or supports of any kind, the possibilities are just about endless!

 
5 - Have a lean mindset
An adapted work environment designed to be effective and ergonomic

You don't need to be a six sigma black belt professional to have a lean mindset! Knowing the basic concepts of lean production will help you optimize the structures of your modular system.

An ideal assembler should have assimilated 5S techniques beforehand.

 

 
6 - Be constant and committed
A stable workforce with high potential for adaptability

The use of tubes and connectors is a gradual process and requires continuous improvement. It's also worth noting that there's a significant learning curve when it comes to designing and assembling various structures of the system. The assembly of each new type of structure is sure to make an assembler proud!

This person should also be able to adapt and improve the initial structures. Keep in mind that assembling structures should not be a temporary assignment that comes to an end when the training session is over nor when the assembler is called back to the production line.

 
The best of the best
Modular systems are simple, customizable, and progressive. The person responsible for the design and assembly should primarily reflect the same characteristics as the product itself. An engaged assembler will be more likely to design the best structures according to your project and improve them over time.

8 most likely people for an in-house assembly

8 most likely people for an in-house assembly

One of the most frequent concerns we hear is  “I don't have the manpower to do it”. The answer to this depends on many factors but there're several options. However, it will vary based on your resources, budget, time, available space, location and how big your project is.

Here's a top 8  of the most likely people to build your structures. Most of them would do it in-house with greater access to the 4M; man, machine, methods, and material. Building the Flexpipe structures in-house allow a much better customization.

8 - The manufacturing contractor

This might be an individual or a small business you already have as a supplier. They already know your business and your facility because they’ve worked for you in the past or do so now.

These people are used to do manual labor. It may be a supplier who has integrated new production lines for you in the past. This is common in big manufacturing businesses like the Automotive industry. These individuals usually have knowledge of fifo rack principles and one-piece flow.

However, even if they have vast experience in manual labor, they are not necessarily experts in industrial pipe racking systems such as Flexpipe, and they may only see this as a one-time contract. If this is the case, your contractor may have to spend time learning the system, and you will lose the know-how they acquired during the project once it is done.

7 - The mechanical or industrial engineering intern

Hiring an engineering intern is an excellent way to bring fresh lean manufacturing knowledge into your business for a defined period. This is a good option if you have a project with a beginning and an end.

Some of these people have the manual skills necessary, especially mechanical engineers and technicians. Most of them will have design and 3D drawing skills, which is important if you want to standardize structures and keep track of the work once the intern leaves. If you are doing it right, they will merge with your business and bring a fresh and different perspective.

The risk of this option is the internship ending before your project is completed. Also, if this person is the only one with lean manufacturing experience in your company, you will lose this knowledge until you hire someone else with the same know-how. This isn’t optimal, since materials handling systems like Flexpipe are constantly evolving and demand continuous improvements to be optimal.

Before you go looking for an intern, make sure your business culture is adequate for this kind of solution. Interns are usually young people with vague ideas and not necessarily mature professionals. They require a little more supervision, so you need to be able to provide them time and a good integration. Depending on the perception of your current experienced employees, this new team member may also create resistance to changes in your organization.

 

6 -The lean manufacturing engineer

This is the experienced engineer with knowledge not only about lean manufacturing but also with experience in this field. These people may already have worked with a system similar to Flexpipe, and if they haven’t, they will usually learn the system quickly. Like the intern, these individuals usually have a manual, design, and technical drawing skills.

Keeping an engineer like this in your organization will improve your productivity dramatically in the long run. They will keep improving the system as your business evolves so that you can benefit from the optimal potential of the Flexpipe system.

The lean manufacturing engineer would have been our first choice if it was to define the best person to manage your modular system. The problems with these people is that they may soon tire of spending half or more of their time building structures. Some engineers prefer to design other improvements, while some like to manage the projects. They usually have limited manual skills.

 

5 - The Flexpipe team

We wouldn’t be experts in material handling systems if we didn’t construct structures ourselves. We have our team of assemblers which builds thousands of structures each year for some of our biggest clients. We also offer help with the designing stage so you can challenge your ideas and improve your concepts. Our team is ideal if you have a big Kaizen blitz coming, and if you lack the resources needed during the assembling stage.

This service is not available for small projects or for facilities too far from our sector. Other businesses who use our assembly team have their structures delivered via freight transporters to their facilities. This is also a less optimal option for facilities far away from Flexpipe since the shipping cost is much higher with complete structures than bulk materials. Furthermore, delays may be longer for our assembly service, plus your team will not have assimilated the knowledge of our assemblers.

 

4 - Pre-retirement worker

If you have a production worker in pre-retirement, it may be one the best options. Choosing someone with manual skills is preferred. This is an ideal situation for companies that don’t have enough assembly needs to hire a full-time employee. In addition, this existing employee already understands how the company operates.

If this is the first time you introduce a materials handling system like Flexpipe to your business, these people are going to be proud of being part of a new project at the end of their career. If these people are also long-time employees, it is even better because they already know every aspect of production practices that are not well designed and can be improved. They have probably already thought of some designs in the past and would be happy finally to build it to provide a better environment for their co-workers.

There are a few disadvantages to this option. First of all, this worker is probably not familiar with lean manufacturing principles. Secondly, this person will quit within a few years, so you will eventually lose the knowledge they had on the system. Lastly, the pre-retirement worker can have some difficulties with the data processing, which can be an issue on their competencies.

 

3 - The maintenance team

As far as we know, this option is the most popular in medium and large businesses. These people have the skills, the tools, and often the space needed to assemble structures. They usually have a good relationship with the production team, and they know their frustrations.

The members of this team know the facility equipment better than anyone and may be the best option for designing structures that support the production line. These teams usually love Flexpipe, because it allows them to build something instead of always fixing something. Some of the best concepts we have seen were built by maintenance workers.

The problem with using a team is usually that their primary goal is to make the maintenance of the facility and the equipment easier. This often means that materials handling systems come in second, which could hurt the productivity of the system. The maintenance team is overused most of the time, so tasking them with the assembly of Flexpipe and informing them about lean manufacturing principles could be the wrong decision.

 

2 - The production team

No one is better suited to building structures than the people who are going to use them. They already know all the little things that could mean improvements for their jobs. There are plenty of case studies out there that talk about how workers have changed even the smallest of steps in the production process and how those changes have saved millions of dollars over time.

A Japanese business allows their production workers to take the time to realize their improvement ideas in a room or place dedicated to building materials handling structures. These employees are supervised by a manager, who may be an engineer to verify that the structures are well built and respect security norms.

There are two major problems when using your production team to assemble Flexpipe structures: First, when they are building structures, they are not producing value at that particular moment. Every improvement they make will eventually pay off in the future, but this could disturb your production flow if not done correctly.

The second problem in making your production team assemble Flexpipe is that they usually don’t have a knowledge of lean manufacturing practices. So as you saw in the example above, you will need to involve an engineer to supervise their work.

 

1 - The dedicated lean manufacturing team (Moonshiners)

This team dedicates all its time to improving your productivity. This is a multidisciplinary team that will use the Lean Six Sigma principle and tools like Flexpipe to make the most out of your production line. These people probably have encountered a materials handling system before, and they are familiar with it.

Most of the time this team is a combination of the other seven types in this list. We call these people Moonshiners, because they will apply a technique known as the Kaizen Moonshine shop. This option is becoming an industry standard in fields such as Aerospace and Automotive manufacturing. We hope to see more of these teams in other industries in the near future.

The dedicated lean manufacturing team can be a significant investment. This investment will pay off with time. However, we don’t recommend this option for small businesses and if that’s you, we think you should begin with one of the other seven options.

 
Bonus for seasonal manufacturing companies
If you are a manufacturer with valleys and peaks in the annual production flow, you can use this trick. When the production decreases in the low season, take this time to have your floor workers and engineers work on Flexpipe projects and improve their work environment.

Ideally, those extra resources would only be used to support existing teams or individuals who work on Flexpipe year-round. This could be the right time to make that happen.