Milling Department with Lean Manufacturing photo Shop Floor Information Technology Streamlines Communications and Reduces Cycle Times photo 6S Scorecard photo Visual Management WIP queue photo

Midwest Precision Improves Competitiveness through Implementation of Lean Manufacturing Methods

  • 6S Program Increases Efficiencies & Reduces Costs
  • Visual Management Empowers Employees to Eliminate Bottlenecks in their areas
  • Shop Floor Information Technology Streamlines Communications and Reduces Cycle Times

Midwest Lean Manufacturing Methods

Midwest Precision LLC; a precision machining and assembly contract manufacturer is improving the competitiveness of its business operations by implementing Lean Manufacturing tools.

A 6S program began the process. The elements of 6S are Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Sustain, and Safety. "Implementing 6S in the shop and offices has led to increased efficiencies and reduced costs" states Paul Ruley, Midwest Precision's Vice President of Engineering and Operations. "For example, our job setup personnel no longer need to search for tooling and hardware which improves machine tool uptime. Consumable tooling is now inventoried in our business system and cataloged electronically using bar code technology saving several hours a day and eliminating excess inventory of expensive tooling".

To keep the focus on sustaining the 6S program, the plant floor and office areas have been organized into zones with each zone assigned an owner who is accountable for continuous improvement. Monthly audits objectively determine a score for each of the 6S elements and the monthly scores are charted tracking progress for each zone. The toughest element of 6S is to sustain it. The posted metrics provide visual reinforcement and are reviewed in the company's Quality Management System management reviews.

Another Lean Manufacturing tool being used by Midwest Precision is "visual management". This is a useful component of the lean toolkit that highlights work queues and increases visibility of bottlenecks to company personnel. Other examples of visual management being used include production cycle metrics, outside process queue tracking and product traceability cards.

Midwest Precision is using Information Technology on the plant floor to supplement its lean initiatives. Two examples currently in use are paperless labor reporting and electronic scheduling displays. For labor reporting, bar coded job routers are scanned by employees when reporting production which reduces errors and provides production information immediately to management. Electronic scheduling displays reduce queue time and eliminate waste by highlighting job readiness through a "red / green" matrix. An "all green" matrix signals to setup personnel that all elements of a job are in place (e.g. material, gaging, tools & fixtures, etc.) prior to beginning a setup.

"Our objective is to be the premier precision machining / assembly contract manufacturer in the world and we are taking the necessary steps to achieve that objective" said Ruley. Lean techniques are key to our continuous improvement efforts."

"Implementing 6S in the shop and offices has led to increased efficiencies and reduced costs"