By Paul J. Heney / Editorial Director
The wide array of inexpensive Design for Manufacturing tools available to designers has reduced the number of opportunities for manufacturers to accelerate the schedule or reduce costs during prototyping—those steps are often no longer needed. Thus, in order to save a customer time and money, the best method is to eliminate waste from the production process.
In a Lean environment, the manufacturer works backwards from the end product to the beginning of the manufacturing process, analyzing each step and interaction along the way. Efficiency efforts that perhaps never escaped a departmental silo now become part of a coordinated program to deliver value to the customer.
Lean manufacturers probe deeply into their production processes to find new ways to improve. Questions become more challenging, consensus harder to reach, and measurement metrics less apparent. For a printed circuit board manufacturer, a Lean process can explore and analyze the following questions:
- How far do our boards physically travel during the production process?
- What if we cross-trained more personnel?
- Is there a better way to pack our finished products?
A PCB that travels a shorter distance during production is at reduced risk of misplacement or damage, can be completed faster, and requires less labor to transport. More cross-trained employees translate into smaller, more efficient production teams. Innovative packing solutions minimize PCB damage during transport.
If Lean does not transform the organization, the results are often catastrophic. Lean implementation failures are well documented. The aftermaths of these unsuccessful attempts rarely make news.
When Lean is not implemented correctly—usually because of poor education and communication—it becomes very difficult to get the momentum started again. Failure is most often avoided by strengthening the lines of communication and reacting quickly when Lean encounters resistance. As long as top management remains involved and evangelists stay persistent, speed bumps will not bring a Lean initiative to a stop.
Metric-driven companies are better prepared to adopt Lean, because they understand how to measure success and avoid the pitfalls associated with failure. Once your organization makes the commitment to Lean, establishes strong two-way communication and provides the tools necessary to make continuous improvement, you need to be able to measure results.
This is good news for PCB manufacturers interested in Lean. Metrics have always been a critical component of efficient manufacturing. Prior to having accurate measures of time, labor and materials, PCB manufacturers found it hard to be competitive even before the Lean trend began.
Now, truly successful Lean programs leverage existing measurement methodologies to create “S.M.A.R.T.” goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound). These improvement measures target everything from water usage to amounts of rigid material used during production. By adding metrics where they previously did not exist, a culture shift takes place for every person in the company, regardless of role. Lean turns into time and material waste reduction—which is the essence of being green as a manufacturer.
Adapted from a paper written by Nancy Viter, Director of Manufacturing, and Mathew Stevenson, Quality Assurance, Sunstone Circuits.
Filed Under: Design World articles, Renewable energy, Green engineering