Original Date: 04/24/2006
Revision Date: / /
Best Practice : First-run Engineering
Midwest Metal Products developed a first-run cell to enhance its manufacturing process. This personality-driven cell became an excellent communication tool for engineers, estimators, and shop floor technicians to use for new process setup. The selection of detail-oriented people to run the cell and an established manufacturing resource planning system eliminated the need for dedicated shop equipment and ensured accuracy on the first run of a metal- forming job. First-run jobs have significantly increased company profits since 2003 and eliminated the losses previously experienced in new work.
All new first-run engineering and part programs created for Midwest Metal Products’ (MMPs’) machine tools were formerly completed by several people inside an engineering department. Orders were processed by “start date” and sometimes sat for as long as two weeks before they were engineered, which presented a problem. When an order was released for manufacturing, it was processed by start date and sometimes sat for a week or two before it was fabricated by whomever was available. Orders were not scrutinized for risk of rework, and large lot sizes were not uncommon. Orders were released to the shop floor to be performed by whoever was available and were rarely reviewed by anyone from the shop floor production team. If the quote had an error or there were print questions, MMP was calling the customer well after the order was received. An informal post-review process was conducted by the first-run engineer and the estimator who would dissect problem job, often several weeks after the shipment.
In June 2003, MMP implemented a “first-run cell” to reverse the financial losses of first-run rework and implement a process to ensure that the second run was able to travel through the manufacturing process without problems. The First-Run Cell Team was established consisting of an engineer, a programmer, and one to three employees from the shop floor. Backup personnel are cross-trained to accommodate fluctuations in workloads and vacations.
Team members selected a leader and established ground rules that would work. The team’s goal was to make a profit on first-run jobs and ensure that all bugs were worked out before second-run jobs were performed. The manufacturing process was reviewed and checked for errors and manufacturability. The correct routing through the shops was established at this time, and large lot sizes were discouraged. The team set a goal of turning jobs in 48 hours from their entered or scheduled date, regardless of the job’s scheduled start date. Orders are always scrutinized for risk of rework, and small prototype jobs are often run prior to running the first run. When an order is released to the shop floor, some operations are performed by an experienced operator who is a member of the First- run Cell. Care is taken to be sure that proper setup sheets are done and that the job is thoroughly debugged. This information is relayed to engineering and programming so that all changes to be made are done on the spot.
At the newly established post-review process meeting, first-run jobs are reviewed that were shipped over the previous two-week period. The profit/loss report that is distributed every Monday on the jobs that were shipped the previous week is discussed by the core coaches, the programmers and the estimators who meet every two weeks to discuss profits and losses and troubleshoot problems that occurred during first runs. This review process gives feedback to the estimator who made the job quote and communicates trouble areas to engineers, estimators and programmers. Any first-run job that loses $150 or more must be investigated by the first-run engineer who presents his findings at the meeting. Process improvements are discussed to prevent future problems.
With processes now clearly defined on the first run at MMP, orders flow smoothly through manufacturing. First-run profits have increased from 3.84% in 2003 to 12.76% in the first two months of 2006.
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