Original Date: 03/06/2006
Revision Date: / /
Best Practice : Visual Factory
Visual factory is a term that describes how data and information is conveyed in a lean manufacturing environment. The time and resources dedicated to conveying information, although necessary, are a form of waste in lean manufacturing. Raytheon-Louisville uses visual factory to convey information such as signs, charts, and add-ons to make information easily accessible to those who need it. Visual factory has significantly enhanced the production process through the use of signage and color-coding.
When U.S. Navy (USN) orders doubled for Phalanx systems, Raytheon’s Louisville facility was forced to increase production efforts to produce four systems a month. Visual factory was implemented to organize the factory in an effort to meet delivery schedule.
Prior to implementing the total visual factory concept in 2004, workspaces at the Louisville facility were cluttered and disorganized. Work cell names were not posted in all areas, and there was no standardization of signage. Nothing on the production floor had a dedicated location. Work-in-process (WIP) was placed in any location in the work cell. With no standard place for parts within the work cell, much time was wasted verifying and looking for parts. Tools were misplaced or were difficult to find, and supervisors routinely did not know the operational status of work cell equipment. Four things are now visually apparent to anyone who enters the Raytheon-Louisville facility – who, what, where, and when. Visual factory is a revolutionary, open-factory-floor concept with state-of-the-art add-ons that include shadow boards and color-coding throughout the factory to alert all personnel to the status of processes.
Raytheon has identified all aspects of the factory floor with a four-level signage system: Level 1 signs are posted at main entrances to the production floor.
Level 2 signs are used to designate different product lines within the same factory such as Phalanx or the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM).
Level 3 signs are used to designate areas or work cells in the factory.
Level 4 signs designate different workbenches within a work cell.
It is immediately apparent who is working on what, where they are in the process, and where it will move next. The use of visual indicators to direct proper placement of parts, tools, or assembly operations creates a work environment that is self-explanatory, self-ordering, self-regulating, and self-improving. One of the hallmarks of Raytheon’s visual factory implementation is the self-improving aspect. Raytheon has managed to kick-start this program from the corporate level and is changing and improving with inputs from every level of the organization.
In addition to adding signs throughout the factory, Raytheon-Louisville implemented a system of work area colors. The color system allows anyone at any time to know what area of the factory they are in. For example, yellow represents high-voltage units. Color-coded work areas implemented a system of floor striping that designates other high interest production areas such as fire-related (red), explosives (orange), supermarket/line stock carts/kanbans (green), and work cells (blue). Raytheon’s signage and color-coding system enables an assembly worker or supervisor to know who produced the parts in a Parts Presentation Vehicles (PPV) and where those parts are going. PPVs are loaded in the same order that parts are needed for assembly, and any missing parts are noted with a sign that reads “Part Missing.”
Raytheon-Louisville has realized numerous benefits since implementing visual factory, including an overall reduction of 30% in Phalanx production cycle time. Other benefits include established, predetermined locations for everything on the production floor. Parts, WIP, tools, and hardware are readily identifiable and accessible. The time to locate items has been significantly reduced, and work clutter has been eliminated. In a time of increased production, the Louisville facility has been able to create additional production floor workspace from workspace efficiencies. Since Raytheon’s workspaces are cleaner and more organized, the risk of injury has been greatly reduced. Raytheon Missile Systems has created a new culture with buy-in from every aspect of production and everyone feeling responsible for maintaining production areas.
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