Original Date: 04/26/2004
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Lean Manufacturing
United Defense, L.P. Armament Systems Division Aberdeen realized dramatic improvements to its manufacturing processes and products by reducing inventory by 78%, reducing cycle times, and opening up capacity for new product lines with the implementation of Lean Manufacturing practices.
United Defense, L.P. Armament Systems Division (UDLP ASD) Aberdeen was opened in 1985 as a facility to build missile canisters for the U.S. Navy. The main plant building was organized with an assembly line process set up in a typical "J" configuration to allow for the efficient flow of materials and products throughout the production cycle. Incoming materials and work-in-process were stored on the factory floor, usually at the point of use. With this type of production and product lines, a compelling need to control inventory did not exist as plenty of space was available to store the inventory; thus, the facility could take advantage of large lot buying leverages. As a result, the facility built up a backlog of material inventory worth approximately $45M, one year’s worth of goods.
In late 1997 and early 1998, UDLP ASD Aberdeen experienced a sudden increase in workload from increased orders and transition of work from other United Defense plants, requiring the immediate addition of 30,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 40,000 square feet of storage space for the excess inventory. Realizing that the facility could not handle this increased workload in its present plant layout, UDLP ASD Aberdeen personnel began investing in Lean Manufacturing principles. The first problem the facility tackled was waste waste of machines, materials, information, and workers (scrap, rework, inspection). The goal was to flow the product at the “pull of the customer” while compressing time and movement.
In conjunction with waste elimination efforts, UDLP ASD Aberdeen contracted with the Georgia Institute of Technology for Lean Manufacturing training. All employees were trained to ensure their buy-in and support of Lean principles and tools. Plant personnel were given the opportunity to apply the knowledge with hands-on learning on one of the facility’s major products. Results of the training and application included travel reduction of equipment, piece parts, or employees from 1.3 miles to approximately 330 feet; cycle time reduction for the product was reduced by 28%; footprint reduction for the process was reduced by 40%; and the team increased the amount of point of use storage (POUS). Personnel were also trained on how to analyze specific manufacturing flows for two major products and the primary processes required to build these products, as well as ways to change the flow of parts and the way they were stocked. A KanBan system was instituted for large items, assembly quantity kitting was used for medium parts, and POUS was used for small parts.
While the implementation efforts of Lean Manufacturing are ongoing, UDLP ASD Aberdeen has realized significant gains by reducing inventory from the previous $45M to $10M, a 78% reduction; releasing two rented storage buildings; reducing painting time processing from three days to less than four hours; reorganizing several key manufacturing processes; and creating more space to allow the facility to take on a new product line.
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