Learn more about the Flexpipe system and its applications with Continous improvement, Kaizen Blitz, Lean Six Sigma, 5S and more.
Standard and Non-Standard Surfaces at Flexpipe
There are several steps to designing a Flexpipe modular structure. One of them includes choosing the material you’ll use. You’ll need this information to determine how many pipes you’ll need, how many connectors and accessories you’ll use, and most importantly, whether you want your structure to have surfaces.
This article will outline the four types of surfaces that Flexpipe offers, and some others used by our customers.
The Flexpipe Standard
Despite the unprecedented number of existing surfaces, at Flexpipe, we have defined a standard of three surfaces. These three surfaces meet most of our customers' needs. The following list includes these four and other surfaces our customers use.
Due to its flexibility, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is the most commonly used surface in Flexpipe structures. Used to make workstation tops, it’s also a great material to make drawers, shelves, or even footrests. HDPE comes in several colors and formats. Flexpipe offers 48” x 96” sheets of ½ or ¼-inch thick in white or black. Long considered the surface of choice when making modular systems, HDPE is highly resistant and solid. It’s important to note that black HDPE is less expensive because it’s recycled.
2. The Aluminum Composite
Aluminum Composite is a 1/16-inch thin sheet of HDPE pressed between two 1/32-inch aluminum sheets. Because it’s so thin, Aluminum Composite can easily be damaged. This means it is better used as a shelving solution or to close off the sides of a structure – instead of using it for the top of a workstation. This surface has two different finishes: a matte side and a shiny side. It comes in a 48” x 96” and 1/8” thick sheet.
Used to complement structures, the pegboard hangs objects using small hooks inserted directly into the pegboard. It is more often used with workstations or shadow boards. The pegboard is made fro ma HDPE sheets with 3/16'' hole with 1'' center-to center distance between them. Incorporate it into any workstation's design to make tools easily accessible. Save space and increase productivity. It comes in a 48” x 96” and 1/4” thick sheet.
The following surfaces are not part of the Flexpipe standard. However, they have been used by Flexpipe in some manufacturing projects at the request of our customers.
UHMW stands for ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene. This type of HDPE has electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection. This surface protects against electrostatic shocks between people and the structure or between people and the product. UHMW is mainly used by Flexpipe customers who manufacture electronic products.
A less popular material but less expensive option is wood or plywood. While plywood is easily accessible and has some positives, such as its price and protective ESD properties, it also has some negatives. Among them includes the fact that plywood can be easily damaged. It’s also more challenging to work with when compared to plastic. Finally, it’s susceptible to liquids and moisture.
Although many people design their structures and then plan their surfaces, some prefer to build their structures from a surface. For example, they find a surface they would use for a workstation or a desk and then work to create a structure that will adapt perfectly to that surface.
Regardless of the type of surface you choose, your choice must be ideal for your job. If you still doubt your choice, you can quickly contact us through the chat at the bottom right of this page or contact the project manager in your area. To find the nearest project manager, visit the contact page.
How to Establish and Sustain a Continuous Improvement Culture
To many of those who have studied supply chain and the concepts pertaining to lean methodology, you probably view the layout of a warehouse or manufacturing center through a different set of lenses. You are able to visualize how inefficient processes are reducing output, ultimately leading to an uptick in money and time. This only hinders a facility’s ability to further expand and grow up on itself, but as operation and project managers are aware of - sometimes getting everyone on board with the “no waste” mindset, it is easier said than done!
[caption id="attachment_38004" align="alignnone" width="1195"] A hole has been made in the HDPE of this modular table to facilitate the accessibility of small frequently used parts.[/caption]
This is a common question that operations will ask themselves. How can I communicate, establish, and sustain a continuous improvement culture? How do I incorporate lean thinking into the mindset of all of my team’s daily tasks? This is where there is a difference between those on the floor and those in the office. While those in the office are familiar with the terminology and lean concepts, those on the floor do not always look at everyday tasks in the same manner. It is more or less viewed as “get the job done” as opposed to “how can we make this better?”.
[caption id="attachment_37603" align="alignnone" width="1440"] This multi-storage structure was designed from scratch by Chris in collaboration with the production team[/caption]
The question of “how can we make this better?” is not one that many associates on the floor will ask themselves as they believe management will handle problem-solving or, more often than not, they are not asked for input or ideas. This is the mindset that we seek to eradicate. Whenever there is an inefficient process, it should become obvious to everyone within the facility as to what aspects of the process are taking the most time and ultimately leading to wasteful activities. This is where management can be a bit blind as they think this task is rather difficult to achieve, but there is a saving grace and a middle man between management and associates - the continuous improvement technician.
How the Continuous Improvement Technician Can be a Vital Asset to Continuous Improvement
No one can communicate or fix a problem like the continuous improvement technician, considering that all day long he deals with one thing - maintenance. While those in management often look at problems from an analytical and theoretical perspective, the continuous improvement technician has key insight as to whether a goal is actually obtainable in order to make it a reality.
[caption id="attachment_37575" align="alignnone" width="1440"] This structure has been optimized to make room for an easily accessible wheelie bin[/caption]
More often than not the continuous improvement technician also has not gone to school or studied lean concepts and doesn’t look at it through the same lens, but rather through his own experience of working with machinery and equipment. The continuous improvement technician focuses on fixing things and making them better solely for the purposes of making things easier on himself and those on the floor as well as mitigating the risk of a future failure. Who wants to fix something over and over again when you could do it correctly the first time, right?
In an interview with President Container’s continuous improvement technician, Chris Pryce, we asked him to provide some key insight on how he goes about continuous improvement and instilling it among those who participate in the daily activities and work.
He started off by mentioning the first step in getting everyone on board is simply asking for their input. Whenever a team member has an idea, they have “kaizen suggestion sheets” available for the employees to fill out. This can be with any idea that they may have on making a process more efficient or better, considering much like the continuous improvement technician, they are the ones working with the equipment on a daily basis. These “kaizen suggestion sheets” are essentially the doorway into allowing associates on the floor to begin the process of eliminating the mindset of “just get the job done” to “how can I make this better?”. Ideas are then passed onto management to see if they are able to be theoretically conducted.
[caption id="attachment_37460" align="alignnone" width="1440"] The continuous improvement suggestion box.[/caption]
Communicating these needs are important but usually needs to be proven in a statistical manner. One of the most prominent questions that arise are ones such as “how will this cut cycle time?” or “how can this reduce waste while also increasing output?”. Usually, a continuous improvement team will run an analysis on the processes at hand and can aid in helping get an overall view of the statistical data needed to persuade management. Once this process is complete, it can then be passed onto maintenance to make it a reality.
[caption id="attachment_37595" align="alignnone" width="1440"] Chris Pryce, the continuous improvement technician with his colleague from the continuous improvement team Mana Sanchez[/caption]
Chris will then use his experience to transform the idea into an actual process on the floor, in which continuous improvement teams will then observe the results and document how the process either improved or what drawbacks may still be remaining. To simplify things, here is a breakdown of the process at hand in which was conducted in six easy steps:
1. Identify a problem or opportunity - This is where the kaizen suggestion sheets come into play. Utilizing these can be advantageous in the sense that they aid with the development of continuous improvement ideas. Allowing associates and employees to brainstorm and come up with concepts that can help the company is the first step in moving toward a lean culture.
2. Analyze the process - Once the sheets are passed onto management, this is where the continuous improvement team and management analyze the processes at hand along with the potential idea. This is conducted in a variety of ways, in which the gauge of what needs to be improved depends on the hindrance at hand.
3. Develop an optimal solution - This is where the brainstorming comes into play as to how to potentially implement the solution. Tools, equipment, materials, and manpower are roped into the equation of feasibility. Once all boxes are checked, it’s time to implement the solution.
4. Implement the solution - The continuous improvement technician, Chris, will then implement the solution with the tools and equipment at hand. He will redesign a process, implement a new piece of equipment, or any other idea that was presented.
5. Study the results and adjust - The trial period after implementation will be analyzed and studied by the continuous improvement team and management. This is key because it allows for statistical data to be presented to further demonstrate how well the idea is working.
6. Standardize the solution - If the idea works appropriately and is a success, the idea will then be implemented to all processes that require it and become a standardized practice of the company.
Without the collaboration between associates, maintenance, and management, none of this could have become a reality. This is where instilling continuous improvement culture is by far one of the most important attributes to iterate within any setting. Not all brilliant ideas need to come from the top. In fact, a lot of them come from the individuals working with the process or equipment the most. To put this into perspective, think about your daily tasks. How many times a day do you think of how you could make a task easier, simpler, or much more efficient? Being involved in a process can provide key insight on how to make it better.
Getting Everyone On Board with a Continuous Improvement Culture
As mentioned previously, some things are easier said than done - but it never hurts to try. There are a lot of companies that incorporate lean methodology and continuous improvement into their culture, and one of the most important advantages that they have instilled within their operations is that every idea matters/counts. It gets everyone thinking about how to further better operations as opposed to having an inner circle at the top trickling down every idea. To begin the process of implementing a continuous improvement culture, start out with something simple such as asking employees for recommendations on processes. Issue out sheets like Chris does and seek feedback on making aspects of the company better. Valuing the input of your associates as well as hearing feedback will allow you to start your operation’s journey from “get it done” to “let’s make it better”.
More often than not, companies are seeking “workarounds” and low-cost continuous improvement projects that present results. This is where utilizing Flexpipe can be a vital asset to your continuous improvement projects, as Flexpipe is able to construct low-cost solutions. Flexpipe allows you to model a pipe and joint modular structure and visualize how it would look and work even before being implemented. Utilizing Flexpipe can open doors to solutions that maybe did not seem possible without a substantial amount of capital to invest, but constructing these devices are both low cost and innovative, thus further driving your continuous improvement culture.
Why you should use AGVs on your assembly line
LISTEN: Audio Interview with Bruce Buscher
In this interview, Bruce Buscher, VP of Daifuku’s AGV group answers all the questions you may have about all the benefits of having an AGV in your facilities.
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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.
Why use AGVs on your assembly line?
[caption id="attachment_38318" align="alignnone" width="801"] Credit: Daifuku.com[/caption]
The biggest advantage of using automated guided vehicles on your assembly line is flexibility. Traditional assembly lines are made up of structures such as towline conveyors and overhead conveyors that are permanently attached to the floor, making it difficult to change the configuration of the line after installation. By contrast, on an assembly line made up of AGVs, the vehicles carry the materials from station to station, and the path they follow can be modified at any time to suit different production requirements. This opens up a world of possibilities for your workflow, enabling you to maximize efficiency and reduce waste.
For instance, you’re no longer restricted to following a straight line. According to the rules of circular manufacturing, straight-line processes create waste by forcing workers to travel from one end of the warehouse to the other at the end of each cycle. With an AGV assembly line, you can organize your workflow in whatever shape makes the most sense for a particular process, whether that’s a U shape or a Christmas-tree pattern with deviations for additional tasks such as quality checks and customizations.
Using AGVs also eliminates the need for a human to deliver parts to the assembly line, which means operators are more likely to receive parts at the precise moment they need them. This can help you achieve more consistent cycle times and adjust takt times as needed to meet customer demand.
How can you integrate AGVs with other material handling equipment?
[caption id="attachment_38480" align="alignnone" width="900"] Credit: Assembly Magazine[/caption]
For maximum flexibility in your workflow, it’s best to pair AGVs with a tube and joint system. Load handling frames built from tubes and joints are relatively inexpensive and can be easily configured to carry parts of varying shapes and sizes, which makes them a popular choice in many manufacturing environments. According to Bruce, the use of AGVs with tube and joint products is especially common in supermarkets and line of sight delivery systems. It’s easy to see why: to fully take advantage of the flexibility offered by AGVs, you’ll need material handling equipment that’s equally adaptable. For example, you might decide to consolidate your workflow and reduce the number of stations on your assembly line. If your load handling frames are made of welded steel, it’s going to be time-consuming and costly to replace them, whereas tube and joint frames are designed to be reconfigured at will.
Is it possible to start small and add more AGVs later on?
[caption id="attachment_38485" align="alignnone" width="835"] Credit: Daifuku[/caption]
There’s no need to overhaul your entire assembly line in one go. If you’re not sure where AGVs would best fit into your workflow, you could start by identifying areas of waste or reduced productivity (creating a value stream map is a great way to do this) and assess whether an automated guided vehicle could solve the problem. For instance, you might notice that one of your operators always has to wait for parts to arrive at their workstation before they can begin their task, which creates a bottleneck in your production chain. The solution might be to program an AGV to deliver the required parts precisely when the operator needs them. Alternatively, you could search for a way to reduce the time your workers spend moving pallets through the warehouse. AGVs can help with that, too.
In short, whether you’re looking to streamline your entire operation or make a few small adjustments to achieve a leaner workflow, AGVs are an excellent tool to have at your disposal.
About our Lean expert - Bruce Buscher
Mr. Buscher has been leading the charge to automate manufacturing and assembly processes for more than 40 years. He first started as an engineer on the plant floor and has been the VP of Daifuku’s AGV group for the last fifteen years. Bruce and his team developed a full line of standard AGV Products and Navigation Technologies to solve Assembly Line challenges and drive out costs. They have deployed AGV’s in assembly lines across all industries.
Daifuku uses AGV’s to solve basic issues such as Ergonomics, Safety, Workforce Turnover, and Cost Reductions. As the oldest AGV manufacturer in North America, Daifuku has continuously led the way in automating assembly lines over the last 100 years and doing it with AGV’s since 1962.
Best tools to cut deckings
Assembling any Flexpipe structure invariably means cutting deckings. Your goal is to have deckings that is clean, safe, and free of sharp edges. So, what type of equipment do you need to cut your deckings? Fortunately, there are multiple solutions you can use.
We’ve put together a list of the most common tools Flexpipe and our customers use when cutting deckings.
*To provide the best possible cut for every surface, Flexpipe uses blades for woods with 60 carbon teeth. Most of the equipment we’ll cover is likely equipment you already have.*
Performing the First Cuts
1. Panel Saw / Vertical Saw
This often-used and universal tool can be found in any hardware store or construction site. The panel saws allow you to cut multiple surfaces with minimal interference or problems. We use it to cut large surfaces such as 48” x 48”, 48” x 72”, and 32” x 96” etc.
2. Table Saw
Table saws allow us to cut small or large surfaces. It is an extremely versatile and relatively inexpensive solution that most manufacturers either have already or can afford. You can cut surfaces measuring 2” x 10” or as large as 48” x 72”.
3. Circular Saw
The circular saw provides a simple and immediate solution when making Flexpipe deckings. It allows us to cut tight corners and angles on both large and small surfaces. We can also perform vertical cuts on wide surfaces . However, special attention is required when using hand tools so be sure to be extremely careful.
4. Miter / Bevel Saw
Flexpipe doesn’t typically use miter or bevel saws but there are a few instances where we need them to cut small surfaces and corners. It’s not a high-use tool but it can help in some circumstances.
5. Band Saw
While Flexpipe doesn’t often use Band Saws, they are still useful when it comes to cutting specific shapes – other than just square or rectangular cuts. We also use it at times to make precision cuts on small surfaces or to make rounded corners.
While some may claim that band saws and jigsaws can perform the same type of cut, for Flexpipe, the jigsaw provides an advantage that Band Saws don’t. First, as a hand-held tool, you have greater control and can make more precise cuts. However, again, it’s important to be careful when using hand-held tools.
7. Hole Saws
Hole saws are most often associated with hand-held drills. They aren’t used for cutting straight lines but are used to cut out circular rings in materials. This means you can use them to remove material within the circular cut to install connectors or to pass tubes. It can also be used to make edges round but doing this means you’ll need the circular saw to finish the job.
Finitions of the surface
Now that we’ve taken care of the cutting, we need to move on to finishing. Regardless of whether you want to make a shelving unit, drawer, or workstation, you’ll ultimately need to make sure the surface is free of debris, is smooth, and doesn’t have any burs.
Flexpipe relies upon two tools for finishing. We use them to ensure our decking does not have any sharp edges or protruding parts. The goal with any final Flexpipe structure is to ensure that it is finished properly and safe for use by our customers and their employees.
1. Right Angle Die Grinder
This is another hand-held too so be careful during use. This tool is ideal for sanding down uneven connections between two surfaces and providing a smooth finish. This is especially useful if you’ve used a saw that doesn’t leaves a smooth surface or leave cut marks.
2. Hand-Held Deburrer
A deburrer is another handheld tool that helps remove sharp edges. It’s also ideal for working on corners that are considered too square for other tools. For sharp edges and round corners, using anything else but a deburrer could cause problems or even injuries to employees.
Always be sure to draw an outline or generate a schematic of your decking long before you start any cutting. This will help you choose the right tool for the right job.
Each of these tools has either been used in-house at Flexpipe or by our customers. They are the most common tools used and will help you manufacture your Flexpipe solution from A to Z with minimal problems. If you want to learn more about how to work with the Flexpipe modular system, we invite you to read our articles on the best tools for pipe cutting and the best tools for assembly.
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.
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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.
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_38507" 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 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.
Four Benefits of Karakuri in Lean Operations
The term Karakuri -or Karakuri Kaizen- is derived from the Japanese word meaning machinery or mechanical device used to assist a process with limited (or no) automated resources. Its origins come from the mechanical dolls in Japan that essentially helped lay the foundations of robotics.
Instead of being controlled by software or a computer, the basis of its functionality lies entirely in the overall design of the device. This can range from the simple use of gravity to the use of springs, weights, pendulums, etc.
Many facilities and operations are coming to the conclusion that mechanical automation is the only way to go, as Karakuri Kaizen can provide advantageous and relatively inexpensive solutions that can improve operational processes. This can be achieved by using the "Kaizen" approach, which is based on the idea that the "Kaizen" approach is the only way to improve productivity and reduce costs.
Example of the use of Karakuri in Lean Manufacturing
Karakuri is one of the many tools associated with Lean concepts and methodology. Using its fundamentals allows you to dive deeper into business process improvement, but from a cost reduction perspective - it will ultimately allow you to find innovative solutions with a smaller budget. This is why Karakuri Kaizen is commonly used in Lean Manufacturing. Consider this example:
Toyota had identified an inefficient process within its automotive assembly line in which operators were pushing their material/tool carts by hand. This was resulting in lost productivity and an overall extended production cycle time. So Toyota developed a Karakuri-style cart that can be mounted on the car's engine. Once a car is finished, a weight is released that allows the cart to move to the next vehicle. Toyota also incorporated a tray with parts placed on the fender that allows operators much easier access to materials and tools. Removing non-value-added steps as Toyota has done will progressively reduce process times and allow your operation to produce more, in less time.
Four benefits of Karakuri in Lean Manufacturing
Taking an approach like Toyota, one of the world's largest automakers, can provide substantial benefits to a facility attempting to move to a more Lean approach. Using Karakuri Kaizen can provide you with the elements necessary to maintain a competitive edge within your industry.
• Cost reduction - As mentioned throughout this article, Karakuri Kaizen enables significant cost reduction in a variety of ways. By reducing production cycle time and lowering automation and overall material costs as processes are optimized, operations will be able to reinvest in themselves more, as their bottom line will be positively impacted.
• Process improvement – In synergy with other Lean concepts, Karakuri reduces the overall cycle time by "automating" the process with a device, instead of relying on manual movement. Like the Toyota example, breaking down the process and locating non-value added steps will help determine which elements would benefit from innovative Karakuri solutions and structures.
• Quality improvement – Process improvement has a direct impact on product improvement. An inefficient production process increases the chances of manufacturing defects and potential errors, so process planning and establishing the most efficient route can only further improve product quality.
• The simplicity of maintenance – Automated systems lead to increased maintenance costs, especially for operations that are almost entirely dependent on their automation. This will usually result in the need for a 24/7 maintenance team in case the system fails - which it inevitably will. Karakuri devices are easy to maintain because of their simplicity and the materials they are made of, so managers don't have to spend a fortune on a new department and team to keep everything running well.
Karakuri Kaizen provides a beneficial foundation and framework that ensures your production system continues to optimize processes and operational flow. If you are looking to improve operational efficiency, Karakuri is an indispensable tool that will improve performance and enhance the bottom line.
The mechanisms used to make a karakuri
[caption id="attachment_37825" align="aligncenter" width="871"] Le système de levier est un mécanisme couramment utilisée.[/caption]
1- The lever is one of the most important inventions of karakuri style
The lever system is a commonly used structure, especially in simple devices. It allows for easy lifting of heavy objects, as it involves a bar moving on a fixed point (the fulcrum) when a force is applied to it.
2- Inclined planes
Inclines are everywhere - they are almost impossible to avoid. Sloping roads, hills and ramps are examples of inclines we encounter every day. The incline is a simple but effective way to transport an object on an elevated surface or to use gravity to your advantage to send an object down.
3- The winch
A winch is a device that creates or releases tension on a rope or wire to adjust its length, usually by means of a crank. Winches are commonly used in tugboats, fishing boats, cranes and even rescue helicopters.
4- The spring
The spring is another element frequently used in everyday life by many people. It can be found in a mattress, an enclosure and even in a mouse trap. Springs are made of steel and are available in a variety of designs, including the coil spring. Springs store mechanical energy and release it when a restraining force is removed. One can easily picture a spring when thinking of a retractable pen.
5- Magnetic energy
It is said that opposites attract - at least that is the case with magnets. Magnets allow for attraction or repulsion and are another commonly used karakuri-style structure, especially in refrigerators and freezers.
6- The pulley system
Like the other simple systems on this list, the pulley system was a revolutionary idea used in all types of industries. The pulley involves the use of a rope or cord around a rim, which allows for the transmission of energy and motion. It is especially useful when lifting heavy objects; in this regard, the more pulleys added to the system, the more weight is distributed among them, making it easier for the user.
7- Pascal's principle
In the visual below, Pascal's principle demonstrates that a force applied at one point to a liquid in a container is accompanied by equal pressure in all directions. F1 pushes down on A1 in a smaller, more condensed area, but this equal force and pressure will be exerted in A2 and up to F2, thus illustrating the principle.
This principle is widely used in many pieces of equipment such as hydraulic systems, car brakes, barber chairs and a variety of equipment.
The first steps with the Karakuri
Like many other facilities, you may be wondering where to start. Flexpipe offers innovative solutions to your process constraints and understands the importance of having the best equipment available for maximum production efficiency. Our project managers can help you generate ideas and assemblies for your Karakuri structure to take productivity and operational efficiency to the next level. Flexpipe offers innovative solutions to your process constraints and understands the importance of having the best equipment available for maximum production efficiency.Our project managers are able to help you generate ideas and assemblies for your Karakuri structure, to push productivity and operational efficiency to the next level.
You don't have to spend a small fortune to be operationally efficient. Karakuri structures are simple, innovative solutions that are a must for any team looking for cost-saving solutions. Reduce cycle time, improve processes and production quality by contacting Flexpipe for assistance in designing and building a Karakuri structure for your facility.
Material Flow : A Key Element in Circular Manufacturing
Circular manufacturing is a system for maximizing system flow and productivity while reducing waste in a manufacturing or logistics site.
In this video, Robert Simonis, principal consultant at KCE Consulting, explains how material flow is a key element in circular manufacturing.
Waterspider, or mizusumashi, is a term that refers to a specific person whose main job is to take care of tasks such as supplying material at workstations, cells, or the point of use. The material handlers allow the other workers to carry out their value-added tasks without distraction, thus enhancing the productivity of the chain and the accomplishment of standardized work in standard time.
Implementing a waterspider system takes time, it’s a process of continuous improvement that needs constant observation, testing and adapting to create the standardized work that ensures the right material at the right time and right place.
How Material Flow Enhances Productivity
Once the rhythm of the waterspider’s activities has been established and mastered, the benefits come into play: it brings a steady pace to the production process, regulating the workflow and avoiding the vicious cycle of sprints and rest. The workers benefit from steady work, less stress and are therefore able to keep their level of energy higher.
[caption id="attachment_27360" align="alignnone" width="2260"] Water Spider is the go-to person in a well-organized area[/caption]
Typically, keeping 2 hours or less of material in the cell and resupplying every hour is optimal. It gives the production process a buffer of an hour, which makes it possible to compensate when a production cycle is a few minutes early or late because of unexpected problems. Steady resupply also standardizes and minimizes the space needed for material in the workspace, and helps minimize the operator cycle time.
The buffer makes it possible to cover for variation caused by the material delivery, scrap, quality, and other sources. The operator never has to wait for material or take time to signal for material resupply and is able to optimize productivity.
Controlling How Much Material is in the Cell Helps Reduce How Much Space is Needed
[caption id="attachment_27374" align="alignnone" width="2560"] The traditional three-bin kanban system[/caption]
To control how much material is in the cell, a steady resupply cycle has to be established.
The traditional three-bin kanban system is a good way to optimize circular manufacturing. In this system, there is:
One bin the operator is working out of;
One bin that’s spare;
One bin that’s in the process of being refilled.
Often linked to the manufacturing processes, this system helps to control inventory at the point of use and ensure steady material flow, both into and out of the different steps of the production chain.
Working in Batch Mode
Going back to batch mode is often a reflex when implementing a circular manufacturing system because workers tend to worry they’ll have to deal with interruptions caused by a lack of material or parts.
What many operators don’t realize is that in batch mode, if the material handling system is not optimized, they’ll end up with even more downtime. The challenge will then be to fix the handling system at the same time as the cell.
Either way, material and material handling have to be synchronized with the change in the cell.
Prototyping the Production Line to Optimize Material Flow
Depending on the technology available and the context, 3 levels of prototyping can be established:
First, drawing a layout of the factory on paper, cutting the different parts of the layout and moving things around to determine and see the options to consider.
Then, creating a 2 dimensional model using chairs, tables or boxes will allow the operator to see it and analyze the options more seriously.
The final phase of the prototyping process would be to use a full 3D model that covers both height and depth to allow practice with the material handler, maintenance, management, and others.
Either way, to facilitate the prototyping process, the best case scenario is when the equipment is mobile and relatively small so the real pieces can be moved around easily.
Mr. Simonis relates he once visited a manufacturer that had 1800 sewing machines. Because each machine was independent, they were able to move them around easily. They physically changed, tested and adapted the layout with the actual equipment -thanks to the mobile quality of the machines-, which made the process flow a lot easier.
A Common Fear When Bringing Waterspider to a Production Line
[caption id="attachment_27354" align="alignnone" width="2260"] The water Spider must be intimate with the process or work cell they support[/caption]
Typically, management fears that implementing the water spider system is going to require a lot more labor -they usually expect that they’ll need twice as many guys!
The best way to prove to them that it won’t be the case is to show them.
Quoting Benjamin Franklin’s vastly imputed saying “Tell Me and I Forget, Teach Me and I May Remember, Involve Me and I Learn”, Mr. Simonis mentions that no matter what the fears are, if you get people to actually try out material handling solutions and options, it solves a lot of problems and answers a lot of questions.
Brainstorming is a good way to start, but trystorming has to follow quickly. Testing out ideas and trying options is the most effective way to determine the best solution for process optimization.
Trystorming to Improve the Production Process
There’s nothing like concrete experience to enhance people’s perspective and creativity. Trystorming can start with dividing the production process into smaller steps, then desiccating the main stages, and finally trying different options and layouts.
Trying out the system and seeing what works and what doesn’t will allow operators to learn more from the designing phase and assimilate the new processes more easily. At a facility level, creating one cell and getting people used to doing it will ensure that they learn from the testing phase.
These steps will allow for the best practice to be put in place, improving the material handling flow and making the circular manufacturing process as efficient as it can be!
About our Lean expert - Robert Simonis
Robert H. Simonis is the senior consultant at KCE Consulting LLC. A recognized lean enterprise expert and sought-after speaker and writer, he has over 25 years of experience in automotive, electronics, machining, logistics, and complex assembly operations.
WHAT CAN FLEXPIPE DO TO OPTIMIZE YOUR PLANT EFFICIENCY?
Flexpipe Modular industrial pipe racking system 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.
See how the modular system improve operational efficiency while saving time in manufacturing processes at Waterax.
How continuous flow helps reduce waste
Continuous flow is one of the five principles of lean management, which aims to eliminate waste in production lines. By eliminating wasted time, it helps employees work more efficiently on a daily basis.
Engineer David Nobert is an expert on this subject. As a long-time Service Manager in Createch’s Operational Performance Improvement team, he has supported companies wishing to optimize their operational processes. In this video, he introduces you to the concept.
What is continuous flow?
Continuous flow is the process of creating an uninterrupted sequence of activities in the production line, which helps reduce downtime and waiting, which are both major sources of waste.
Essentially, this principle aims to set up manufacturing cells comprised of machines or workstations that produce one part at a time, step by step.
To be effective, continuous flow must take each of the three types of flow into consideration:
1– The flow of materials
2– The flow of information
3– The flow of human resources
Interruptions or slowdowns in any of these flows, such as an employee having to wait unnecessarily for parts, can hinder the entire production line.
Take a look at this video in which Paul Akers explains to us what is flow, what it does when it is not continuous and give us some tricks on give us some tricks on how to find solutions to bottlenecks.
How to improve performance with continuous flow
Continuous flow has several advantages. By eliminating downtime, it enables you to get goods to customers faster. This reduces your warehousing costs because you’ll require less space to store your products.
In addition, you can detect defects in the produced parts in advance. In fact, your employees can practically spot problems at the source before they become too significant and affect the entire production line, which improves your overall productivity and lowers your production costs.
Continuous flow is also known to increase versatility of your resources. As they will be capable of performing a large number of different tasks, they can deal with incidents more effectively.
How to ensure continuous flow is efficient
Since overhandling are the enemies of continuous flow, you must eliminate them from your process at all costs. Ideally, materials should circulate properly in your factory in order to prevent workstation supply delays.
When designing the continuous flow, also take employee feedback into account. Your employees are in the best position to put the theoretical principles of lean management into practice.
When designing work cells, give preference to U-cells. In addition to facilitating the supply of parts, this configuration provides notable space-saving and improves communication and teamwork between workers.
For a noticeable improvement in productivity, also make sure that your resources have all of their tools at their fingertips, and not stored away in drawers or chests.
Lastly, do not hesitate to assign an experienced employee or a team leader to each work unit. They will help their colleagues develop new skills, while giving them the desired pace of production.
Continuous flow will obviously help you reduce your waste. However, to completely eliminate the non-value-added activities of your production processes, you’ll need to apply each of the five fundamental principles of lean:
Define the value.
Map the value stream.
Create and maintain a continuous flow.
Establish pull (which means that the production of the product or service is triggered by a customer need).
Seek perfection by constantly improving.
Lean is much more than a work methodology. It will generate a real change of mindset within your facilities. You’ll evolve from an individualistic culture to a collaborative culture for the greater good of your organization!
About our Lean expert - David Nobert
David Nobert is Manager of Services on Createch's Operational Performance Improvement Team. With more than 15 years of professional experience, he specializes in continuous improvement and lean manufacturing, among other things. He holds a Master's degree in Industrial Engineering with a thesis from Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and a Bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering from Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières.
WHAT CAN FLEXPIPE DO TO OPTIMIZE YOUR PLANT EFFICIENCY?
Flexpipe Modular industrial pipe racking system 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.
10 tips to reduce change resistance when introducing lean manufacturing
If you're thinking of introducing lean manufacturing on the shop floor, you may have noticed that some production employees are hesitant to shift their habits. For example, they may say that their way of doing things has always generated good results or that the proposed modifications don't apply to their current situation. Rest assured, your predicament is common. Most businesses in the manufacturing sector have faced this problem at one time or another. Thankfully, there are many methods to overcome resistance to change.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
1 – Explain the reasons behind the change
Begin by stating the motive(s) for the transition to your team. Some ideas could be to be more competitive, to face growing demand, or to serve your customers better. However, avoid basing your explanations solely on profitability. If the proposed changes are purely for financial reasons, you risk not getting everyone on board.
2 – Call upon an external training facilitator
Before beginning the Lean training process, plan to have the appropriate resources. Smaller businesses often retain the services of an external instructor. In the eyes of the staff, he can lend credibility to the process thanks to his professional expertise.
If you do use an external consultant, be sure the person overseeing the Lean process within your organization (the Lean sensei) works with the trainer to provide insight into the company's situation. The sensei can also guide the consultant's presentation and play a part in the discussions.
3 – Provide Basic Lean training to all personnel
[caption id="attachment_17846" align="alignnone" width="814"] Flexpipe assists in training while visiting an Adidas Plant in Vietnam.[/caption]
Before engaging in Lean practices, your employees will need to receive basic training on the Lean culture to understand it and speak its unique language. At the end of the process, they should be familiar with founding principles such as 5S and various types of wastes, and knowing what added value does and doesn't consist of.
To win over those who are most reticent, trainers can show testimonials, pictures, and videos of companies who have gone through Lean improvements. Doing so is a lighter and more user-friendly means of convincing instead of text-heavy presentations that don't always engage those in attendance.
4 – Visit other plants and speak with their employees
[caption id="attachment_17840" align="alignnone" width="814"] Flexpipe visited Lumenpulse in Quebec, Canada.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_17843" align="alignnone" width="814"] Flexpipe visited Lumenpulse in Quebec, Canada.[/caption]
To convince employees of the benefits of the upcoming changes, suggest that they visit non-competitive plants, which recently undertook the same process as yours. If there is no one you can contact, search on LinkedIn or call organizations that do tours in Lean facilities, such as the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, the Gemba Academy, the Lean Enterprise Institute, or the Mouvement Québécois de la qualité.
While it may be challenging to get employees on-site, those who do go will become your most valued spokespeople. Why? Because they will have seen the transformation for themselves and, most importantly, talked with employees who carry out similar tasks. The latter will be able to explain how they experienced the change and the advantages of working in a Lean environment. Such discussions can reassure those who are particularly hesitant regarding the proposed adjustments.
Our team at Flexpipe recently toured the BRP snowmobile plant. After the visit, our five production team leaders exclaimed, "Wow, the production floor is open, airy, and clean. We would love to work in an environment like this."
5 – Start with small, simple changes
[caption id="attachment_17858" align="alignnone" width="814"] Employees are showing their simple and resourceful self-constructed Shadow Board[/caption]
To display the physical benefits of the ongoing change, choose a high-visibility work cell which will serve as a model. This space will be the designated location to implement your first projects.
Avoid beginning with lengthy, costly, and complicated undertakings. Instead, make small tweaks with a big payoff, such as improving a substandard workstation. Once you've finished your first project, ask your employees to examine the issue that has been solved—they'll have the proof right before their eyes.
Starting small means, you'll be able to show the results to your team quickly and reduce the risk of failure.
6 – Ask employees to pitch ideas
[caption id="attachment_17834" align="alignnone" width="814"] Improvement Submission Board at Flexpipe.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_18007" align="alignnone" width="814"] Improvement Submissions with a visual explanation.[/caption]
Getting employees involved is the surest way to overcome resistance to change—even if you provide Lean training. You will need to make them understand that the ownership of the transformations doesn't solely rely on 1 or 2 people; instead, it's company-wide ownership. That way, a Lean culture will permeate all echelons of the business.
One of the best ways to have team members participate in the transition is to gather their ideas by using a suggestion box or board. Your supervisors and those spearheading the improvement process can also help employees make recommendations on an ongoing basis.
Responding to all suggestions quickly is a reliable approach to show that you open to change and innovation.
7 – Encourage employees to plan the entire project
While having ideas is undoubtedly a good thing, it's even better to explore them. Encourage employees to lend a hand in crafting the solution by having them sketch out a problematic element in their environment and what could correct it.
If needed, the person leading the improvement process can help the staff realize and refine their ideas. Additionally, he could suggest a brainstorming session among team members to generate further options.
8 – Ask employees to help implement an idea
Once you've collected the various concepts and encouraged employees to play a role in devising the solution, why not ask them to continue the creation process by, for example, having them design their new lean manufacturing workstation? Besides feeling proud of his accomplishment, an employee can improve upon his workstation again in the future according to the company's unique requirements, when need be.
One way to make ideas come to life more efficiently is to have tools and necessary materials on hand. A moonshine shop can be an exciting option to provide a creative setting.
9 – Celebrate the victories—and the defeats—resulting from the change
[caption id="attachment_17864" align="alignnone" width="814"] All the Flexpipe employees at the MPA Trade Show in Montreal.[/caption]
Your organization should celebrate both the highs and lows related to the change process. Some businesses offer a reward such as t-shirts, corporate items, or gift cards to participants. The gifts need not be expensive; they're meant to recognize the employees' efforts and encourage them to continue the Lean transformation endeavor.
10 – Keeping flexibility and agility in mind while recruiting
Even with the best intentions, sometimes it's difficult to overcome resistance to change in some employees. When recruiting, make sure to emphasize flexibility and agility. Ask candidates to give you examples of changes they've gone through in past jobs and how they reacted to it—beware of those with a hardline stance or who seem insincere.
WHAT CAN FLEXPIPE DO TO OPTIMIZE YOUR PLANT EFFICIENCY?
Flexpipe modular industrial pipe racking system 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, which allows to reduce the 8 manufacturing wastes.
9 tips for a lean and secure plant after the COVID-19-imposed shutdown
The time has come for many North American manufacturers to get back to work. The situation will obviously not be the same as it was before. Ways of doing things will have to be adjusted. In the coming weeks, plants will be implementing a host of new measures to comply with new government rules, particularly in terms of health and safety. If this is the case for your company, here are nine tips, based on the principles of continuous improvement (lean manufacturing) that will help you prepare for a safe return to work.
1– Distancing your employees from each other
It's not always easy to maintain a physical distance of two meters on an assembly line. Employees often work very close to each other and have little room to maneuver.
By using modular aluminum panels or those manufactured by Flexpipe, these new physical constraints can be more easily met. For example, you can add acrylic panels between employees working opposite each other or a tubular panel, with an acrylic interior, for employees working side by side. Acrylic is currently hard to find; you can, therefore, also hang mica canvases with eyelets on your structure or workstation that are attached to a steel or tubular frame.
In the event that you cannot modify your existing workstation, install large panels, either wheeled or fixed, between employees instead. Flexpipe offers several such modular panels. Why should you choose Flexpipe? You can take them down and reuse them to make a cart, for example, when the pandemic subsides.
[caption id="attachment_18909" align="alignnone" width="814"] Here are dividing panels for working side by side[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_18939" align="alignnone" width="814"] Here are dividing panels for face to face work.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_18888" align="alignnone" width="814"] Here is a separator panel that will help create a distance between employees.[/caption]
2– Transforming your equipment into mobile units
Are your workstations and equipment on wheels? If they are not, take advantage of the current context to install them. It is an inexpensive investment that helps you increase the mobility of your work environment so that you can more easily comply with the rules of physical distancing. There are also various braking systems, such as foot brakes or total locks, to stabilize workstations.
For example, at Flexpipe, we have relocated part of the staff in our building reserved for assembly to our warehouse. This operation, aimed at reducing contact between employees, was simple to carry out since all our workstations are equipped with four- to six-swivel wheels.
[caption id="attachment_19444" align="alignnone" width="814"] Point of use tooling (POUT) with four swivels caster with total lock brake[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_19450" align="alignnone" width="814"] Steel Tool cabinet that was put on caster[/caption]
3– Strengthening your 5S program
Even though 5S can increase productivity and reduce the risk of accidents, it will also be advantageous when disinfecting work tools.
By using the 5S program, you will clean up your workstations to leave only the tools your workforce uses regularly. For example, at Flexpipe, an employee disinfects work tools, but also door handles and kitchen equipment three times a day. Thanks to the 5S program, our disinfection manager is much more efficient because he does not waste time disinfecting unused tools.
Already have a 5S program in place? Remind your staff about the importance of being rigorous, especially during a pandemic.
[caption id="attachment_19454" align="alignnone" width="814"] The 5S system facilitates the disinfection of workstations.[/caption]
See how the facilitators of hygiene measures apply in the medical sector.
4– Reviewing your work procedures and standards
While your plant is reopening, why not take advantage to review your work procedures and standards to avoid, as much as possible, the sharing of tools and equipment? In addition to improving your processes, you will provide a safer environment for your employees.
Over the next few weeks, you may have to operate with limited staff. If you have never done so, don't hesitate to reassign one of your temporarily laid-off employees to update your work procedures and standards, especially if you are eligible for government assistance for businesses.
5– Using visual cues
Visual cues are quick and easy to set up. Using different colored tape, draw lines on the ground to clearly delineate the corridors and separate work areas in your plant. For example, at Flexpipe, we have created one-way corridors to prevent people from crossing each other.
Don't hesitate to use vinyl that sticks to the floor to clearly mark the two-meter distance your staff must respect, especially in busy areas such as the cafeteria.
[caption id="attachment_19513" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Visual cues are quick and easy to set up[/caption]
6– Managing the flow of materials to work cells
Consider identifying the materials, raw materials, work in process, and finished products within each work cell in your plant to limit contact between your employees and other stakeholders.
For example, use flow racks for your hardware parts. With this system, the inventory handler brings the parts to the back, and the assembler takes them from the front, without any contact between the two.
Apply the same principle to your shipments. Clearly define the area in which the products are to be picked up, at a certain distance from your workspace.
7– Limiting unnecessary travel
The pandemic is one of the best reasons to encourage your employees to stay at their workstations. Indeed, unnecessary movement and travel are one of the most important wastes in value-added production because it does not add value.
At Flexpipe, we have put in place a policy to reduce the number of people walking around the plant.
Our assemblers receive their parts from a single employee who goes around the workstations with a trolley. If for any reason (defective part, lost part, etc.), one of our assemblers needs new parts, they must stay at their station and notify their supervisor. To avoid a recurrence, the employee is asked to describe as accurately as possible the problem they just encountered while waiting for the new parts. Once the problem has been described, another employee will take over the task of finding a solution to the problem.
8– Setting up POUTs for sanitary facilities
Like most factories, you have probably purchased sanitary equipment (gloves, masks, disinfectants, etc.). To improve efficiency, set up Points of Use Tooling (POUTs), which are small workstations in which sanitary equipment is neatly stored and easily accessible, at strategic points in your plant.
Use this opportunity to post the company's policies on COVID-19 at each POUT.
9– Deliver elevated quality standards right from the beginning
Production defects are one of the most common wastes in value-added production. Especially in the context of coronavirus, positively encourage your employees to do quality work right from the beginning.
Why should you do this? Because a poorly assembled part is manipulated by many employees who will try to discover the problem and fix it. In contrast, impeccable work involves fewer people and less travel. You will limit the risks of propagation while increasing your productivity.