Learn more about the Flexpipe system and its applications with our inspirational articles on continuous improvement, Kaizen Blitz, Lean Six Sigma, 5S and corporate social involvement.
Flexpipe plants 5 trees to compensate its employees' carbon footprint
During the week of September 18 to 22, Flexpipe employees joined forces to promote carpooling and mobile travel while reducing their carbon footprint. The impressive results of this initiative led to the planting of 5 trees, symbolizing their commitment to the environment.
534 kilometers saved
During the week of the challenge, the company's employees managed to accumulate a remarkable saving of 534 kilometers in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This activity was made possible thanks to the commitment of employees, who chose to carpool and prefer active transport such as cycling or walking to get to work. Their determination demonstrated that simple actions can have a significant positive impact on the environment.
A concrete measure to compensate the environmental impact of their journey
Flexpipe has committed to planting the number of trees equivalent to the CO2 generated by participating employees who were unable to carpool or commute during the period in question. This means that 0.726 tonnes of CO2 will be offset by the planting of 5 trees on company premises. The employees have requested that these trees be fruit trees, so that they can enjoy the fruits of their efforts year after year.
A symbol for the Farnham community
The planting of the 5 fruit trees symbolizes another step towards a greener, more sustainable future, not only for the company, but also for the Farnham community. It's an example of how collective action on behalf of the environment can make a significant difference.
Flexpipe is proud to support this initiative and to recognize its employees' efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. This initiative demonstrates the importance of commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility within the company.
Using Flexpipe for Lean Manufacturing CabinetMakers
Implementing lean is a journey in itself. No company goes from 0 to 60 in record time when implementing lean principles. They learn, get better, learn some more and then improve some more. Each step of that journey is made easier when senior management is entirely on board and, in some cases, driving the lean journey..
ADOPTING LEAN MANUFACTURING
Regardless of your industry, some employees may be reluctant to change, while others may embrace it. For those who resist change, it’s often a question of personal comfort; we’ve always done it this way, so why change? However, with consistent training, constant feedback, daily upgrades, and commitment, you will achieve significant lean improvements using Flexpipe.
Flexpipe is a tool, but the employees drive the improvements
Here are just a few examples of lean improvements using Flexpipe products.
Source: MetCabinet About Us
[caption id="attachment_40677" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Look and feel Lean with clear floor lines.[/caption]
INCREASE PRODUCTION FLOOR SPACE BY REDUCING OVER-PRODUCTION
Several cabinet makers using Flexpipe can decrease over-production while dramatically reducing the square footage of their shop floor. This reduction in floor space saves the company money while making it easier to manage materials, quarantine defective products, collect scrap or refuse, and move semi-finished and finished goods between lean work cells.
We often come across Cabinet makers who have fully adopted batch production. Trying to make different types of products simultaneously, along with redundant work processes and poor material flow, often leads to WIP cabinets, drawers, trims, and sides strewn about the shop floor. We see this quite often. The solution to this issue is provided below
Learn about one-piece flow and how it could be put in place.
Make sure management and owners are on board with the new one-piece flow philosophy.
Be ready and open-minded to adjusting work tasks, departments, and different production and assembly activities.
[caption id="attachment_40681" align="alignnone" width="1280"] The Flexpipe cart holds a day’s worth of nailer boards for final cabinet assembly. Vertical bins for longer parts where different parts are clearly separated and labeled to save time as opposed to searching around aimlessly (nonvalue added). A measurement label is placed alongside the Flexpipe structure to quickly identify and measure parts (visual management).[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_40685" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Color-coded structures help operators and technicians immediately determine the urgency of customer orders. The blue drawer carts are for orders with standard lead times, while the red carts are for urgent or rush orders (visual management). All parts are labeled on the pipes with AL-TAG2 and a non-marking marker is put on the cart for identification.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_40824" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Flexpipe modified 5S Takt board complete with work order instructions, layouts, and plans.[/caption]
This Flexpipe cart in the finishing department is used for cabinet frames, end panels, backs, shelves, etc. Each subcomponent and material is neatly placed in its appropriate slot, making it easy for operators to access a given piece when needed.
OPTIMIZE MACHINE UTILIZATION WITH EFFICIENT CHANGEOVERS
Companies invest a lot of money in automating their machinery and equipment. Unfortunately, these same companies often ignore the lean structures and material handling solutions critical to maintaining running equipment. They simply don’t invest enough time, energy, or money to ensure that their material handling structures are optimized.
Even the newest automation falls short if the structures around them aren’t properly organized. Not convinced? Take some time to investigate and measure your cutting machine’s productivity and efficiency. You’re likely to find there is far more downtime than you expected. Very often this is due to inefficient changeovers.
Review your loading and unloading procedures. Focus on ergonomics so that operators have easy access to tools and work instructions and never have to wait for one-at-a-time forklift deliveries of raw materials.
Have the next job (complete with material and work orders) ready well in advance to reduce waiting time.
Try to put as much as possible every day on casters to give you flexibility and reduce waiting time.
[caption id="attachment_40739" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Tape storage placed within the work cell allows for immediate replacement of consumables.[/caption]
A Flexpipe cart on the Homag Edgebander machine at Superior Cabinet. It applies matching edge tape of various colors to the sides of the melamine to match the finish on the top and bottom.Source: Superior Cabinet.
[caption id="attachment_40751" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Load or unload materials with a pallet stand on wheels to avoid waiting for a jigger or forklift (non-value added).[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_40755" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Flexpipe Manual cutting table with a 5S shadow board.[/caption]
USING WORKER CREATIVITY TO BUILD A LEAN CULTURE
You will never sustain a lean culture if you don’t engage, train, and spend on your employees. The woodworking industry has so many talented, hard-working, resourceful, and creative people. Unfortunately, there are often underutilized. This unused worker creativity is by far the biggest waste in the industry.
Several companies have highly-skilled and experienced employees who have decades of experience. While experience is important, it can sometimes lead to an unwillingness to adopt change. Again, the mindset becomes, “Why change anything when it has been working for 25 years?’’. Here are some guidelines to make sure all employees are speaking the same language.
Train workers, so they can name and spot the 8 most common causes of waste.
Get employees into a routine by holding a daily meeting where the agenda covers the previous day’s improvements and any KPI.
Engage workers and make them take part in small Kaizen events. This is a great opportunity to test out ideas, modify structures and learn from mistakes.
[caption id="attachment_40764" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Customized Flexpipe cart with multiple slots for easy access to materials.[/caption]
Rack design by Michael Kachur – Continuous Improvement Manager and certified Lean Champion at Superior Cabinets in Saskatoon, Canada.
[caption id="attachment_40829" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Customized Flexpipe structure holding bins and securing semi-finished cabinet glass frames.[/caption]
ELIMINATE WASTED TIME BY INCREASING ASSEMBLY PRODUCTIVITY
Within the woodworking industry, it’s common to devote money and resources to storage, trimming or cutting departments while the packaging department is left with too few resources or focus.
Assembly is a labor-intensive activity where small incremental changes can have a large impact. Most importantly, these changes don’t involve changing the layout of the shop floor.
Creating a custom-made lean work cell or workstation reduces unnecessary movement and excessive walking. When lean work cells are positioned near one another, it reduces transit time for work-in-process parts. 5S and ergonomics are critical requirements for these new lean work cells.
Get employee feedback on what they waste time on. It can be missing tools, instructions or having to walk long distances to move parts or get material.
Celebrate your accomplishments and improvements. Congratulate your employees and be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
Make these small Kaizen events a frequent occurrence.
Wood vs Flexpipe Tube and Joint System
Wood can still be used for cart surfaces or siding. However, your stations and carts should be made from Flexpipe – which is easy to adjust or modify. Flexpipe and wood are similar in price but Flexpipe is far more durable, versatile, and much stronger compared to wood. More importantly, it won’t rot or warp due to humidity and moisture.
[caption id="attachment_40768" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Wood carts can still be used for cart surfaces or siding but other structures should be designed with Flexpipe.[/caption]
Wood cart Feist Cabinets & Woodworks
ALUMINUM EXTRUSION VS FLEXPIPE TUBE AND JOINTS
You can save up to 50% with Flexpipe tubes and joints compared to aluminum material handling systems. Aluminum has the required precision for machines, equipment, and robotic integrations, but it’s far too costly for carts, racks, or workbenches. Another issue with aluminum is the tendency to have water stains over time. Flexpipe is easier for workers to use, far less expensive ($8 per 8 feet of pipe), is available in multiple colors, and will never stain.
STEEL VS FLEXPIPE TUBE AND JOINTS
Steel is a universal material with multiple applications. However, creating material handling equipment with steel requires welders and painters. Changing existing welded structures is even more costly and time-consuming.
With Flexpipe, there’s no need for welders or painters. There’s no need to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to modify an already welded structure. Anyone with a little creativity can cut or assemble pipe and joints in a fraction of the time and costs compared to welded structures.
You can quickly put in place improvements and change your Flexpipe structures every day as ideas and suggestions come forth. No need to scrap old, welded structures. No need to re-weld existing structures. The changes you make to a Flexpipe structure in the afternoon can have you up and running in the morning.
[caption id="attachment_40805" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Bare steel - exposed to the environment - will eventually corrode and rust. Flexpipe's products never corrode or rust and there is never any painting of a Flexpipe structure as the piping is available with multiple colors of plastic coating.[/caption]
SIMPLIFYING LEAN MANUFACTURING ADOPTION WITH FLEXPIPE'S MODULAR SYSTEM
Flexpipe is widely-recognized among North American manufacturers as a modular, scalable, easy-to-use, and inexpensive material handling solution. The company's free design extension for SketchUp allows manufacturers to custom-design and build their own tube and joint material handling structures. Customers rely upon Flexpipe's team for its design acumen, speed of response, and the company's cost-effective solutions.
If you would like to see how Flexpipe can help you adopt lean concepts while reducing your costs of material handling, then contact us now.
Poka-Yoke: A Time-Tested and Simple Way to Mistake-Proof Manufacturing
Often seen as the ideal way to ensure the error-free assembly and production of finished goods, Poka-Yoke has been a mainstay of lean manufacturing since 1960. Shigeo Shingo – a Japanese industrial engineer and expert in lean manufacturing principles and the Toyota Production System – developed a simple failsafe approach with a clear set of lean principles designed to eliminate human error while improving product quality.
So, how does Poka-Yoke work, and what role does Flexpipe’s modular and scalable tubing system play in error-proofing your manufacturing process?
The High Costs of Defects in Lean Manufacturing Environments
One of the biggest causes of waste in lean manufacturing includes defects. Sometimes they’re caused by voids, inclusions, or porosity in materials like steel, aluminum, brass, etc. These defects often appear during machining as the material is removed and the void or inclusion is exposed, which makes the part completely unworkable.
Other defects occur later down the production line during the assembly of sub-components, work-in-process parts, and other labor-related manual processes. Regardless of how or why these defects occur, the costs for manufacturers can be measured in lost production, lost wages, machine and assembly downtime, delayed product shipments, upset customers, and any costs associated with having to stop the production line.
Some defects are entirely unavoidable. They happen regardless of how many stopgap or failsafe mechanisms are in place. These defects are often seen as “Acts of God,” which are situations where defects occur that cannot be accounted for. In this case, think of these Acts of God defects as situations nobody could have possibly anticipated.
Poka-Yoke isn’t a tool to eliminate these Act of God defects. It’s a tool to ensure that operators and technicians follow the correct process steps and that the work task is done correctly. More importantly, it’s a fail-safe mechanism that either stops human error at the source or instantly notifies the operator and technician that an error has occurred. In both cases, the emphasis is on immediately addressing the error or defect and taking corrective actions.
One type of Poka-Yoke prevents the error from occurring, while the other detects the error once it’s happened. This leads us to the two primary kinds of Poka-Yoke: Prevention-Type and Detection-Type.
[caption id="attachment_40868" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Customized Flexpipe Part Rack: Each portion of the rack only accepts a certain size, length, and dimensions of a semi-finished part. Images and writing on the rack define what part should be placed and the go/no-go decision - or Poka Yoke - is made by the protruding bars.[/caption]
1 - Prevention-Type Poka-Yoke
This type of Poka-Yoke is often enacted by manufacturers who have experienced previous errors. In this case, they’ve experienced human errors and know they will happen again if they don’t enact a failsafe.
In other instances, a prevention-type Poka-Yoke is initiated during the product’s design stage when engineering and production identify critical assembly or work tasks where human error is likely to occur. Either way, the idea is to prevent the error from occurring by manufacturing or buying a jig or fixture. If an error does occur, the next step is to stop the work task and quarantine the defect.
Should the operator or technician encounter another defect or error on the following product, manufacturers will often stop the process and inspect the batch or production quantity. They may then use a corrective action report outlining the cause of the defects and possible solutions.
Identify the potential for error to occur.
Create a jig, fixture, warning device, or process to capture error.
Stop the work task once the error occurs.
Flexpipe Modular and Scalable Jigs and Fixtures
One of the more common issues manufacturers encounter is making multiple jigs and fixtures to accommodate all the manual steps involved in their manufacturing process. This problem is only exacerbated when companies have an expansive product line. Unfortunately, most of these jigs and fixtures are machined or welded, making changing them labor-intensive and costly.
To avoid the high costs, time, and labor involved in changing existing welded fixtures and jigs, several companies choose to make new ones. They then retain their older jigs or have them stored or shelved. Not only does this take up valuable shelving and warehouse space, but it often leads to mislabeled or misidentified jigs and fixtures. However, there is a solution.
Flexpipe’s modular and scalable tube and joint system mean manufacturers can design, assemble, change, or modify their jigs and fixtures at a fraction of the time and at much lower costs compared to welding or machining new fixtures.
(1 & 2): Flexpipe Cart with Jet Skins Slots: Each slot can only accept a certain size, width, and dimension of skin. Operators immediately know which skin fits in its appropriate slot.
Flexpipe has multiple pipe colors, allowing manufacturers to make color-coded racks where semi-finished and work-in-process parts that have gone through the Poka Yoke process can be stored and quarantined. These 1 1/16 in (28 mm) diameter galvanized steel pipes have a polyethylene scratch-proof coating and come in white, black, blue, yellow, and red.
This “cut-to-length-and-assemble” system is easy to use and just as easy to modify or change. With a scalable Flexpipe Poka-Yoke structure, companies no longer have to retain older welded fixtures or machine new ones. No more issues with misidentified jigs. No more having to store older outdated fixtures. Instead, companies retain their Flexpipe jig and fixture designs and remake their structures when needed. It’s a saving in time, money, and space.
3: Flexpipe Numbered Flow Rack: Numbered slots and specific with specific heights ensure proper part placement. 4: Flexpipe Cart with Vertical Holders: Custom-made tug cart has vertical holders that only accept a specific width of tubes.
5: Flexpipe Cart with Molded Styrofoam: Operators can only put in subcomponent parts that fit the Styrofoam mold dimensions. If they don’t fit, they shouldn’t be on the cart. 6: Flexpipe Cart with Custom Holders: Semi-finished parts must be a certain length to fit horizontally on the cart. If the length isn’t right, it simply won’t fit.
2 - Detection-Type Poka-Yoke
The second approach focuses on warning or notifying the operator once an error has occurred. While the first is preventative, this is a more reactive fail-safe mechanism that stops production immediately. This type of Poka-Yoke often involves equipment or electronics and is predicated on the operator receiving a warning or visual queue once the error occurs. Equipment manufacturers will often incorporate sounds, alarms, and bright red lights to notify operators of an error.
The goal is to provide warning signs in case an operator is present so that they can shut down the equipment or machinery. However, if no operator is available, the system uses a failsafe mechanism that immediately shuts down the operation.
Operator receives a warning.
Error detected immediately.
Failsafe mechanism stops the work task.
Mistake-Proofing Your Manufacturing
Adopting Poka-Yoke as an error-proofing technique will help reduce your manufacturing costs and improve product quality. Success requires your team to define every critical work task and implement a fail-safe mechanism for each of those tasks.
Identify the Work Task or Process for Poka-Yoke
Think about the critical work tasks involved in manufacturing your finished good. You probably already have steps in your production process where periodic quality inspections or reviews occur. A Poka-Yoke can remove those inspections altogether. At the very least, you’ll be able to reduce some of these inspections and rely solely upon the operator or technician.
Clear Assembly Drawings and Work Instructions
Clear top-level and sub-assembly drawings and work instructions are an absolute must. Make sure you have a quality management system that validates assembly drawings, instructions, and work tasks long before you issue work orders to production. The Poka-Yoke system will stop human errors by ensuring the work task is performed correctly and that parts and sub-components are properly aligned. However, bad assembly instructions defeat the purpose of having a Poka-Yoke.
QC-Inspected Flexpipe Structures and Calibrated Equipment
With the proper failsafe mechanism, your QC department may not have to do as many periodic inspections on work-in-process and sub-assembly parts. However, that only happens if your Flexpipe jig or fixture is periodically inspected for fit, form, and function. Over time, even the best-constructed jig or fixture will lose its dimensional tolerances. Regularly checking your Flexpipe structures means ensuring all joints, screws, nuts, connectors, and assembly components are adequately secured.
Trial Runs or Pre-Testing Flexpipe Jigs and Fixtures
Make sure you try some trial runs with your Flexpipe structure. You may need to make some slight adjustments to be sure your jig or fixture works appropriately. Bring your operators and technicians into the process and get their feedback on your Flexpipe jig or fixture's usefulness. They’ll be using it and therefore have great insight, so ensure they’re included in the process.
Clearly Defined Poka-Yoke Process Steps
While the failsafe mechanism will stop human errors from occurring, you will still need to outline the process steps technicians and operators take when an error occurs. Will you have your operators quarantine the product immediately? Will they have to call over a supervisor to review the issue? How often should the operator validate future components before shutting down the assembly process? Each of these questions needs to be determined well in advance.
Flexpipe Jig or Fixture Management Program
It’s good practice to have a Flexpipe jig or fixture management program in place. It should define when, where, and how jigs and fixtures are stored and shelved, when they are replaced or refurbished, when they are inspected, and which jigs or fixtures go with their appropriate work tasks or work cells. The color-coded piping may help here. Ensuring proper nomenclature means all your Flexpipe structures are easily identified.
Three Methods of Poka Yoke
When companies look to reduce the risk of human error and mistake-proof their manufacturing, they end up choosing between three methods of Poka Yoke. When implemented, these three methods will help eliminate the high costs of errors and defects. They are simple methods that help operators and technicians eliminate errors.
The contact method eliminates errors by immediately detecting defects between mating parts or individual parts based on their physical attributes. These attributes can include the part’s width, size, length, thickness, color, or design.
Examples of contact methods include USB ports, power outlets, locks only accepting one type of key, or even simple children’s toys like sorting cubes where balls and blocks must fit in specific slots.
In manufacturing environments, a contact method Poka Yoke might include switches or measurement devices that won’t allow work to begin unless the part fits or matches correctly. Companies that use shadow boards with protrusions or bars that only accept a certain sized part are examples of contact method Poka Yokes. Foam packaging in boxes is another example of where only the right dimensional parts will fit into the foam’s design.
The contact method Poka Yoke is best used for repetitive work operations. It eliminates errors and immediately notifies operators and technicians of any defective parts or misaligned parts.
Constant Number Method
The constant number method – sometimes referred to as the fixed-value method – is a type of Poka Yoke where a specific number of parts or consumables must be used in each work operation. If there are any parts left over at the end of a work operation, then an error has been made.
In manufacturing environments, kitting boxes would include several parts that must be used. If any parts remain, the integrated assembly cannot move to the next chain in the process. This type of Poka Yoke is good for work tasks that are repetitive. This means a certain number of movements and actions must be done sequentially.
An example in our everyday lives would include assembling Ikea furniture and having screws, nuts, or bolts left over or a parent assembling a hockey net or bicycle and having parts remaining.
With the sequence method Poka Yoke, a predetermined number of work tasks or steps must be done sequentially before the part can move to the next operation. In several manufacturing environments, there are systems in place with switches that won’t allow an operator to proceed unless they’ve done the operation or used the parts in the proper sequence. Either the system shuts off completely or the operator is given a visual queue like a red flashing light and warning sound.
An example of the sequence method Poka Yoke might include a car providing a warning light or sound when the driver doesn’t put on their seat belt or a manual car not allowing the engine to start until the driver pushes down on the clutch. Other examples include appliances like microwaves and washing machines not operating until the door is closed.
Flexpipe’s Multiple-Use Tube and Joint System
Flexpipe Inc is a Montreal-based designer, manufacturer, and integrator of modular and scalable tube and joint systems. The company’s Flexpipe Creator Extension is an easy-to-use free design extension for the SketchUp software that empowers manufacturers to design their structures. The savings in time and money means manufacturers can assemble, change, or modify structures as needed. If you would like to learn more, contact us now.
How to optimise material Flow with a Tugger Cart system?
When companies need to safely move loads, equipment, or machinery from one location to another, they often turn to tuggers. Some tuggers are simple hand-held carts or trolleys that allow operators and employees to drag, pull or tug raw materials, consumables, and finished goods. Other tuggers are heavy-industrial machines capable of pulling upwards of 100-plus metric tons.
A Simple Material Handling Solution
Tuggers are an ideal material handling solution for replacing forklifts. Whereas a forklift can only transport one load at a time, a tugger can transport several carts and, therefore, several loads. Instead of using a one-load-at-a-time forklift, companies can link multiple tow carts together and make a single trip instead of several.
A tugger is sometimes a generic term for equipment or machinery pulling or towing heavy loads. While there are thousands of industrial uses for tuggers, understanding how, when, and why these critical tools are used comes down to defining tuggers in terms of their load-bearing capacity.
We’ll explain when heavy-industrial tuggers and towing equipment are used, what warehousing, distribution, and retail locations use, and what solutions are best suited for lean manufacturing environments. The goal is to understand why tuggers are the perfect material handling solution when needing to move multiple loads.
Companies within the aerospace, automotive, construction, and rail industries rely upon battery-powered, motorized, and walk-behind tuggers to ensure the safety of operators and employees. These tuggers can move or pull anywhere from 1000 lbs to 100 metric tons.
So, where do you see these heavy-industrial tuggers? Any time you take a flight for a business trip or vacation, you’ll see these commercial tuggers – often called tow tractors, aircraft caddies, aircraft walkies, or towers - moving loads from one location throughout the landing strip to the next.
These solutions move passenger luggage, shipments, and fuel to and from aircraft. They’re also used to move aircraft themselves, provided the aircraft’s load doesn’t exceed the pulling or towing capacity of the tow tractor or tugger.
Photo credit: DJ Products Inc. AircraftCaddy and Railcar Mover
It’s this type of towing capacity that is used within multiple industries. The rail industry relies upon heavy-industrial tuggers when needing to repair rail cars and locomotives. The construction and automotive industries also use these material handling solutions. However, these applications typically involve moving a single heavy load at a time, such as a rail car or plane. So, what about when needing to pull, tow, and carry multiple loads?
Tuggers for Warehousing and Distribution
Imagine what it takes to move finished goods inside an expansive warehouse and distribution location like Amazon. Think about the distance that needs to be covered to maintain and replenish inventory skews and how often those distances are traveled in an hour, day, week, month, and year. Now, think about how much it would cost companies to replenish that inventory using only a forklift.
Extensive warehousing and distribution facilities save money and time by keeping their forklifts for loading and unloading new shipments while relying upon tuggers to transport those loads throughout their facility.
Battery-powered and motorized tuggers are highly-engineered machines capable of pulling multiple heavy carts linked together. This allows distribution and warehousing facilities to transport large quantities of materials, semi-finished parts, tools, and finished goods long distances. Forklifts are used to remove incoming shipments from trucks while the tugger carries multiple loads throughout the warehouse.
Hand-Held Tuggers and Electronic Tuggers for Retail
Depending on the retailer’s size, they may use small battery-powered tuggers such as DJ Product’s WagonCaddy.
This simple cart can carry upwards of 3000 lbs, making it ideal for moving parcels and products to store shelves.
It’s also an ideal solution for moving pallets and incoming shipments to and from the warehouse. These walk-behind solutions ensure operators and employees are positioned behind heavy loads so that any unforeseen spillage or fall won’t injure warehouse and store employees.
Tugger Solutions for Manufacturers
Tuggers are a critical material handling solution for manufacturers. They help to transport multiple loads at a time, allowing tugger operators to drop off essential materials and tools at individual workstations while transporting finished goods back to the warehouse.
As is often the case with lean manufacturing, the emphasis must be on minimizing transit times. This means manufacturers must plan their transit and delivery routes well in advance.
The journey starts within the warehouse, where tuggers either take loads from stocking shelves or take them right from the warehouse docking station.
Next, clearly-defined delivery routes ensure the tugger can pull all carts safely to their destination.
The goal of the tugger is to transport the loads to the designated replenishment area, such as a kitting location or a lean manufacturing workstation.
A staging location must be identified outside these lean manufacturing work cells so that operators and technicians can quickly and safely unload the materials, consumables, and semi-finished goods.
Warehouse or Docking Station: Make sure your loading and unloading procedures and processes for incoming and outgoing shipments are clearly defined. You may choose to use the tugger and tow carts immediately after shipments are unloaded at the docking station. You may also be able to have your suppliers provide deliveries that can easily be broken down for separate locations within your warehouse or when moving parts out to lean manufacturing work cells.
Delivery / Transit Routes: Take time to properly lay out your transit routes. Be mindful of high-traffic areas where two or more tuggers may intersect during transit. Split your routes up. Ensure directions are clearly marked along each of the paths. Safety during this process is of paramount importance so use clear markers that operators and technicians can easily identify.
Designated Unloading Location / Part and Material Staging: You can easily combine both of these into one area. However, if you do, ensure you’ve identified how far tuggers can advance to unload the materials or semi-finished goods from the tow carts. Your unloading processes should be well explained. Again, it’s about ensuring the safety of operators and technicians so that material and parts can quickly, easily, and safely be unloaded beside the lean manufacturing work cell.
Transit Route Back to Warehouse: This is why clearly outlining transit routes and directions is so important. It ensures minimal traffic jams and free passage for each tugger during transit. Ensure your delivery/transit route to and from the warehouse is free of obstructions or areas where the tugger and its carts might come into contact with equipment and machinery.
Tuggers and Flexpipe Tuggable Carts: Perfect Combination of High-Load Capacity and Flexibility
Any time a manufacturer pursues lean concepts, they must balance their need to increase production throughput with the importance of ensuring a safe work environment for employees. After all, there are no benefits to lean manufacturing if employees, operators, and technicians start missing time due to severe injuries.
While lean manufacturing aims to reduce the impact of idle time, minimize work stoppages, reduce cycle times, and increase production throughput, the ultimate goal for any company pursuing lean manufacturing is to accomplish all these benefits without putting operators at risk. This means optimizing your tugger and tow cart combination.
Choosing your tugger comes down to defining the loads and the weight they’ll transport. You never want to go too low on your weight estimate. A good rule is to take the number of stops your tugger will make during transit from the warehouse to each unloading area. Next, you’ll need to calculate the estimated weight of each drop-off of material and parts at a given lean work cell or kitting area.
Once you’ve chosen your tugger, you’ll need to choose your tugger carts. You essentially have two options. The first involves choosing fixed carts that are either welded or manufactured to specific dimensions.
Your second option is to choose a tube and joint system like Flexpipe where you can make your own scalable and modular carts that can easily be adjusted or modified as you see fit.
Fixed Structure / Welded Carts:
At some point, the weight, size, and configuration of what your tow carts carry to and from the warehouse will change. That change can be an internal decision made by your company or one made by your customers. It can be as simple as changing the design of your finished product or winning a new contract or bid.
When that change occurs, you’ll need to either change your tow carts and buy new ones or refurbish and repair your existing fixed carts. Either way, it’s an expensive change. Repair and refurbishment can take weeks, if not months, and involve a substantial amount of money. Purchasing new tow carts is even more costly.
Refurbishment, repair, or reconditioning is expensive and can take weeks if not months
Purchasing new fixed tow carts is more expensive than repairing what you already have.
It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to have multiple types of fixed tug carts, as depicted in the images above. This only increases a manufacturer’s costs when needing to refurbish or replace their tow carts.
[caption id="attachment_7582" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Flexpipe Modular and Scalable Tow Cart[/caption]
Modular and Scalable Flexpipe Carts:
On the one hand, you have expensive fixed tow cart structures you buy or repair. However, on the other hand, you can make your own cost-effective tow carts with Flexpipe’s tube and joint system.
Modular and scalable Flexpipe tube and joint systems are not only less expensive, but changing or modifying a Flexpipe tow cart takes hours – not days, weeks, or months. With Flexpipe, manufacturers only pay for the tubes, joints, castors, and other miscellaneous parts needed to assemble their tow carts.
The flexibility afforded to manufacturers means the costs of a Flexpipe tow cart are less, and any changes or modifications can be done in a fraction of the time compared to fixed structures.
Manufacturers pay for materials
Manufacturers can assemble their own structures at a fraction of the cost compared to fixed structures.
Manufacturers can easily change their tow carts as needed.
Empower Your Operators with Flexpipe Inc.
Flexpipe Inc. is a Montreal-based designer of tube and joint solutions for material handling. The company’s customer-centric approach and flexible piping solutions empower manufacturers to make their own material handling structures at a fraction of the cost and time it takes to get fixed structures.
The Flexpipe ergonomic solution is scalable, easily modified, and quick to assemble. To learn more about this simple system, contact us now.
About DJ Products:
DJ Products has been designing, manufacturing, and supplying electric-powered, battery-powered, and walk-behind heavy industrial tuggers and towing solutions for over 20 years. The company’s product line includes warehouse tuggers, semi-trailer movers, small aircraft tugs, pull carts, caddies, and dumpster moving equipment.
How to Sell Continuous Improvement to Senior Management
Regardless of the company – or the industry – senior managers in manufacturing enterprises need to make decisions based on cold, hard, irrefutable facts. They need numbers. They need data. They need to ensure that their decision to move forward has a high probability of success.
Senior managers need this critical information to make a go/no-go decision on capital expenditures, hiring, expansion, machine and equipment repairs, or, more aptly, for pursuing continuous improvement projects.
Learn more about the three fundamental principles needed to convince senior managers to pursue continuous improvement initiatives and how Flexpipe structures are critical to that goal with insight from Leslie Pickering and Mark Zeilinger of Quadrant 5.
Pursuing Continuous Improvement Initiatives
In manufacturing environments, waste can take many forms. It can include work stoppages, human error, misaligned or out-of-tolerance parts, poorly assembled parts, machine downtime, redundant tasks, repetitive tasks, or any action or process that inhibits the natural flow of work.
Sometimes, reducing waste in manufacturing can be as simple as reducing the transit times to move work-in-process parts between cells. It could include revamping a workstation so that the assembly process is more seamless and the operator within the workstation has easier access to materials and tools.
Regardless of what approach is taken, these changes initially seem small. However, when repeated across all work cells, these small changes quickly add up until costs are reduced, quality is improved, and more finished goods are produced. Unfortunately, because these small steps seem so inconsequential, senior managers have difficulty viewing the benefits of adopting lean concepts.
As stated by Leslie, “Senior Managers are really good at developing global views – where they can see the end game or the end goal – but they often don’t take a sequential process to how those goals are achieved – what steps need to be taken sequentially to get there. Your job in continuous improvement is explaining the steps to achieve that goal.”
A Simple Three-Step Process
Ultimately, adopting continuous improvement initiatives can be summarized in three overriding steps. Leslie states, “1. This is what is currently happening. 2. This is what we’re trying to do, and 3. These will be the benefits of implementing lean.” So, does that mean you simply verbalize these issues to senior management, and they’ll quickly agree to pursue lean initiatives? No, it does not.
These three steps are merely guidelines. You must gather the hard facts that senior managers need to implement lean. Your goal includes gathering the data and defining the metrics that will help senior managers measure the return on investment (ROI) for enacting continuous improvement across the entire production floor.
Cycle Times and Throughput Volumes Are Key
All work operations or work tasks involved in making a product have a cycle time. Lowering cycle times means you’re manufacturing more products at a lower cost. The question senior managers want to be answered is whether the savings of implementing lean are higher than the cost of implementing lean.
In our example, we’re using a basic cycle diagram (below) showing the steps for manufacturing a product. Our basic cycle diagram defines each work process or manufacturing step involved in making a fictitious product.
For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume that each of these “steps” represents a single work cell. Each cell has a specific cycle time for a given work operation –the time it takes an operator to complete a work task.
Each cell also has a throughput volume – that volume of semi-finished parts the cell completes before those parts move to the next chain in the process.
This exercise aims to gather data on how lean initiatives can 1) Lower cycle times, 2) Increase throughput, 3) Lower manufacturing costs, and 4) Shorten the lead time to get finished goods to customers.
At the end of the exercise, you’ll have the data you need to show senior management what was happening, what you changed and why, and how making similar changes across all cells will result in lower cycle times, increased throughput, and reduced costs – or to paraphrase Leslie “the benefits of implementing lean.”
Manufacturing / Cell Productivity Rate
While operators might be paid for an 8-hour shift, they do not work a total of 8 hours. You must account for two 15-minute breaks in the morning and afternoon and then lunch. In our example, we’ll assume it’s a one-hour lunch. That leaves 6.5 hours of actual available work time.
Now, nobody can work at 100% efficiency. People go to the bathroom, get called away, or are interrupted for valid reasons. We’ll assume that the operator works at 85% efficiency. This means that the work time is 5 hours and 35 minutes.
We’ll now use that 5 hours and 35 minutes when calculating the work cell’s throughput.
1.“This is What is Currently Happening.”
Every lean process has a beginning, and we’ll assume that beginning includes you focusing on an initial assessment of a single work cell. Start by assessing the cycle times for each work task in your chosen work cell.
Ensure the operator or employee of the cell understands that your goal is to help make their job easier.
Make them feel part of the process, and they will be more than willing to show you some of the issues they come across.
Ensure they understand that this exercise is not about timing them but capturing the causes of work stoppages.
Mark of Q5, “We’re always touching on the human element. How do you get people engaged? That’s where improvements happen. Nobody knows that piece of equipment or machinery better than the operator themselves. So, you really need their input. The approach is to create “an island of excellence,” something people can point to as an example. So, give people recognition – a pat on the back and make them feel part of the continuous improvement process.”
Work Cell #1
Unit of Measure
Cycle Time in Minutes converted to seconds
Set Up-Time Minutes
Conversion of Minutes to Seconds
Number of Work Operations
Conversion of Minutes to Seconds
Comments / Notes
Missing material (Operator had to search for material)
Missing assembly instruction
(Operator had to search for instructions)
Broken SawBlade / No replacement (Operator had to leave work cell and go to stores to get replacement blade)
No issues - clean work task
No issues - clean work task
Missing assembly instruction
(Operator had to search for instructions)
Missing tool (lack of tool placement caused delay)
No issues - clean work task
No issues - clean work task
Missing tool (lack of tool placement caused delay)
You’re going to create your own “island of excellence” by using these initial cycle times within the cell to show the issues the operator faces daily. You’ll also capture any reasons for delays or work stoppages.
In our example, the cycle times with no issues are done in five minutes or 300 seconds. We’ve converted it to seconds because even the smallest changes that save a couple of seconds can dramatically impact.
Now, the 5-minute cycle time may not be the optimized cycle time, but for this example, it’s the best cycle time this cell produces.
However, the average cycle time at the bottom is skewed by the operations (1,2,3,6,7, and 10) that encountered work stoppages. This means these work stoppages pushed the average cycle time to 9 minutes, 25 seconds, or 555 seconds.
There is no hard and fast rule about how many cycle times you should track. In our above example, we’ve tracked ten cycle times. We’ve converted those times from minutes to seconds to simplify how we calculate how much the work cell produces.
Deduct the 30-minute setup time from our manufacturing productivity rate of 5 hours and 35 minutes.
Take the remaining 5 hours and 5 minutes and convert them to seconds. This gives us 18,300 seconds of available work time.
Now, divide the 18,300 seconds by the cycle time in seconds, which is 555. This gives us a work cell throughput of 33 units.
The table below summarizes the data you’ve gathered from the work cell. Now, it’s more than likely that you already know what a given work cell produces. You may also know what the cycle times are. Plenty of MRP and ERP software solutions provide cycle time data.
However, no software can show you how to reduce the cycle times. It can only report them. It can only provide numbers. You need to see for yourself what causes work stoppages. Only then can you enact strategies to reduce those cycle times and increase throughput.
Average Cycle Time in Minutes
Average Cycle Time in Seconds
Total Number of Seconds (5 hours 5 minutes)
Work Cell Throughput
Work Cell #1
You now have data on a work cell that defines Leslie’s first statement: “This is what is currently happening.” You have a list of the most common delays encountered by the operator in the work cell. You know the causes of higher cycle times and can enact strategies to eliminate those causes.
2.“This Is What We’re Trying to do.”
One of your changes included making a modular and scalable Flexpipe tool storage rack. You then placed this rack immediately outside the work cell, so the operator no longer has to walk to inventory to get replacement saw blades.
Another change included making a Flexpipe workstation where all tools and consumables are easily located. You combined this new workstation with a modular flow rack so that replacement consumables and materials are always readily available.
Finally, you’ve created a modular Flexpipe work center where the operator can easily access assembly instructions.
Storage Rack: Machine Parts (Blades)
Modular Flow Rack
Modular Work Center with instructions
After making these changes, you revisit the work cell and take a new set of cycle times.
While there are still operations that encounter some delays, the overall benefit is that you have achieved more operations that meet the desired cycle time.
Work Cell #1
Unit of Measure
Cycle Time in Minutes converted to seconds
Set Up-Time Minutes
Conversion of Minutes to Seconds
Number of Work Operations
Conversion of Minutes to Seconds
Comments / Notes
No issues - clean work task
Misaligned part - small adjustment
No issues - clean work task
No issues - clean work task
No issues - clean work task
Replacement Tool needed - easily found - small delay
Replacement Tool needed - easily found - small delay
No issues - clean work task
No issues - clean work task
Broken Saw Blade - Replacement blade in material flow rack immediately outside work cell minimized replacement time.
A new workstation made locating replacement tools easier for the operator.
Placing a storage rack for replacement saw blades immediately cut down on the time the operator took to replace the blade.
Instead of a 25-minute cycle time or “delay,” the operator merely located the replacement blade and made a change that only took 14 minutes.
Ultimately, your average cycle time was lowered to 6 minutes and 57 seconds.
The lower cycle times mean the work cell increased its throughput by 41%, from 33 to 46 units.
Average Cycle Time in Minutes
Average Cycle Time in Seconds
Total Number of Seconds (5 hours 5 minutes)
Work Cell Throughput
Work Cell #1
3.“These Will be the Benefits of Implementing Lean.”
Increasing throughput in a work cell accomplishes nothing if the remaining work cells don’t make similar continuous improvement changes. All you’re doing is creating a backlog for the next cell in the process.
You’ve increased the cell’s throughput, but without making similar changes to the remaining work cells, it’s all for naught. At this point, you’ve gathered enough data to show how making small incremental changes can have a dramatic impact on a work cell’s throughput.
Senior managers often have little choice but to move forward on additional continuous improvement initiatives when presented with this data. It’s now very easy for them to see how repeating the process will lead to significant improvements and savings.
The costs of a Flexpipe structure include the cost of the materials and the time it takes your operators to assemble structures. That initial cost is minimal when compared to the constant returns of pursuing lean principles. The benefits of lean are forever.
As stated by Mark, “That’s what we love about Flexpipe. It’s really easy just to try something. There’s no downside whatsoever. Cut a pipe too short, and we’ll just use it elsewhere.”
Ultimately, the company would achieve the following benefits if you pursued similar continuous improvement initiatives with the remaining cells.
Increased Manufacturing Throughput: More parts are produced in a day, week, or month.
Reduced Costs: The company achieves lower manufacturing costs by increasing the number of finished parts produced within an 8-hour shift.
Shorter Lead Times: Reducing cycle times and increasing cell throughput means you’ve reduced the time it takes to provide finished goods to customers.
Improved Machine Utilization: There is nothing more costly for manufacturers than having idle machinery. In the example above, having consumables and spare parts for machinery immediately outside the work cell helped to reduce the time the machine was sitting idle.
Better Ergonomics and Safety: Poorly constructed work cells often include hazards that lead to human error and injuries. Worker injuries and absenteeism cost manufacturers $1,100.00 per day per worker. Take the number of missed days due to injury over a given year and use that amount as further justification for pursuing continuous improvement initiatives.
Cost-Effective Flexpipe Material Handling Solutions
Flexpipe is a Montreal-based supplier, designer, and integrator of modular, scalable tube and joint systems for material handling. The company’s customer-centric focus and proactive approach empower manufacturers to make their structures at a fraction of the cost compared to fixed material handling systems.
The company’s free design extension for SketchUp is easy to use and provides a complete assembly drawing, material cost breakdown, and bill of materials.
If you would like to see how Flexpipe can help on your next continuous improvement project, contact us now.
About our Lean expert - Leslie Pickering
Mr. Pickering holds a degree in Mechanical and Production Engineering. He brings 35 years of experience in international process improvement, manufacturing, and operations. He is a recognized Toyota Production System specialist and is highly regarded as a Subject Matter Expert in the areas of Lean Manufacturing.
About our Lean expert - Mark Zeilinger
Mr. Zeilinger holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He brings over 30 years of experience in manufacturing and operations. Mr. Zeilinger is a recognized Toyota Production System Specialist, who has implemented successful transformation methodologies across a wide variety of industries, including Packaging, Electronics, Construction, Plastics, Food, Automotive, and Aerospace.
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.
Want to know all the ins and outs of building a karakuri structure? Esteban lived the experience and can tell us all about the trials and errors Here is his story
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.