Original Date: 07/09/2007
Revision Date: / /
Best Practice : Low Technologies That Work
The Inpro/Seal Company employs various low-technology solutions in its production cycle that save time and money on the shop floor. These solutions enable new employees to learn the processes more quickly while reducing confusion on the shop floor.
The Inpro/Seal Company uses several different low-technology solutions to solve several of its production problems and needs. These low-technology solutions are not temporary fixes but are time-tested solutions that keep production moving while helping to reduce production time and cost. Some of these simple solutions, along with streamlined production of parts, have helped Inpro/Seal to incur a cost increase of only 9% in the past seven years.
Simple color-coding is the first low technology that helps designate how much of the production process needs to be completed for an order. Blue paper is used for orders for parts that are currently in stock to prevent them from being reproduced and from wasting floor time. Yellow paper is used for isolator orders that already have parts in stock but need to enter final assembly before shipping. White paper is used for regular orders that need to proceed through the entire production process, from design to shipping. White forms may receive a red-colored “hot” sticker that indicates they are priority orders in the production cells.
Color-coding is used in more than one area of the shop. The stock material is labeled with color codes to differentiate various types of steel. Since the two types of steel commonly used by Inpro/Seal are physically similar in appearance, it was decided to mark each type of stock with a color code to prevent any mistaken material identity. Stainless 303 is currently marked with red and stainless 316 is marked with green directly on the stock of each before being placed in a bin at a cell. This quick and simple coding method prevents many costly mistakes. Color-coding material is also applied to waste material. Since bronze scrap is recycled, the pure or “clean” bronze scrap is placed into barrels marked with a bright green color so that bronze with no contaminants can by sent to the recycling plant. This cost-effective process enables Inpro/Seal to receive a larger return since there are no foreign materials to be removed from its scrap.
A major innovation at Inpro/Seal is its parts cleaning process, which is actually a downgrade from a previous process during which parts had to be placed on a line, go through a cleaner, then ride on a conveyer belt while drying. This process was expensive due to energy consumed by the machine, time to load parts into the machine, and time wasted cleaning scraps out of the machine. This process has been replaced with a bucket of water containing water softener at each machine in the shop. As parts are completed by CNC machines or mills, they are blown off with air and dunked into the bucket of water. The air generally blows off any scrap material, while the water softener removes any cutting fluids from the tooling process without leaving any watermarks. This simple approach has been found to be cheaper and more effective than a parts cleaner designed to perform the same job. In the near future, the old parts cleaner is to be removed from the shop floor, freeing space for more production machines and other cells on the floor. Inpro/Seal hopes to sell the original cleaner assembly, which will partially pay for removal of the machine.
Even while using the more complicated tools in the shop, Inpro/Seal finds a way to simplify its process and keep it moving smoothly. Every part that comes into the company’s programming department is designed to match the tooling of the CNC machines currently running. The programming department is responsible for writing the programs for CNC machines to design. This simplifies the process of machining parts by reducing the number of tool changes performed on the shop floor. This also helps to standardize designs and make the actual designing of the part run more quickly and efficiently.
Though there are many complicated machines used to cut the product out of raw stock, only a screwdriver that has been bent 90× and its sharp edges ground off is used to assemble the isolators. This simple tool allows the O-rings to quickly and easily be inserted into the parts without the need to have a custom tool created. These tools are also given to regional sales representatives to perform on-site fixes or final assembly demonstrations.
Simple setups are also used in the test lab area where all test stands and test setups are designed and created in house. This saves Inpro/Seal thousands of dollars that would be otherwise be spent on buying expensive test setups created by an outside company. Most of these test setups are simple by design yet perform their tests accurately. In-house ingenuity can be attributed to the effective use of materials to perform a multitude of tests, including the industry standard International Protection (IP) Code test.
Several software programs have also been effectively used at Inpro/Seal to save money on the purchase of expensive programs, save money on keeping licenses current, and save time using/training employees to use the program. Instead of using an expensive and complicated production planning software, Inpro/Seal uses a simple software tool that sends each job request to its appropriate destination and tracks the status of jobs in the production process. When an order comes from sales or engineering, a production manager receives the order on a screen in his/her office; if needed, the programming office also receives this order. The order is sent to a production cell to be completed, then to final assembly and shipping. This simple software allows the process to be tracked and standardized by creating a prioritized list of orders that must be completed to the appropriate shop locations and updating the locations using barcodes.
The tooling inventory program is also simplified. A simple Excel spreadsheet with read-only access in the cells is used by operators to ensure that all of their tools are in their cell everyday. The spreadsheet indicates how many of the requisite tool sizes should be located in each cell; this information can be updated in the programming office if needed. The spreadsheet also contains embedded links to the procedures and standards for changing each tool. This helps even the inexperienced operators find the proper way to perform tooling changes without needing a hardcopy manual in the cell.
Inpro/Seal’s use of low technologies in the production cycle has been economically advantageous while reducing production time.
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