Original Date: 11/12/2001
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Illustrated Work Guides
The addition of digital pictures to existing written work guides has allowed Frontier Electronic Systems to significantly improve its productivity, when restarting product lines after long production breaks. Illustrated Work Guides provide assemblers with the knowledge and tools to build a product exactly as it had been previously built, and minimizes the learning process for assembly and test personnel.
Frontier Electronic Systems (FES) designs and manufactures high reliability electronic hardware, primarily for military applications. The company’s workload primarily consists of low volume/high product mix assemblies that require highly skilled and trained operators to produce. Since customer orders for many products are sporadic, FES experienced a significant learning curve whenever a product was reintroduced to the assembly floor. Along with this learning curve, the company encountered a less-than-desired first pass yield on many of these items. This condition existed even though FES used detailed written work instructions for the manufacture of its products. Work guides that were understandable six months to a year ago during the last build lost effectiveness because the technician’s image of the build process had lost clarity. Problems, once solved, were having to be solved again which caused productivity and quality to suffer. To minimize these situations, FES began supplementing its written work instructions with illustrations of the build process.
Using a digital camera and color printer, FES quickly and easily produces digital pictures of assembly processes. These digital pictures, along with the written assembly instructions, enable assembly personnel to replicate the assembly process. The result is consistency from build-to-build, and a reduction in the learning curve time. Assemblers, those actually using the work guides, provide input into what information is included in the work guides and what pictures are needed. As a result, FES is now adding text directly to the digital pictures. This addition further helps assemblers perform their tasks. Figure 2-1 depicts the illustration of part of an Illustrated Work Guide.
Within the first two years of using Illustrated Work Guides, FES experienced a productivity increase of 100% on one program alone. The adverse effects of the learning curve were mitigated by these and other improvements, resulting in a cost reduction following a production break of 36%. Additionally, the first pass yield increased from 94% in 1997 to 99% in 2001.
Figure 2-1. Illustrated Work Guide
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