Miniature Precision Components, Inc.
Miniature Precision Components, Inc. (MPC) implemented a three-phase lean initiative to improve an antiquated logistics situation within one of its assembly plants.
Install a conveyor system to transport incoming components to work stations and to transport finished goods to the shipping department. Objectives included reducing material handler travel time, decreasing assembly operator wait time for product, eliminating point-of-use storage of parts on the production floor, improving inventory accuracy, avoiding safety incidents related to manual material transportation and improving overall 5S of production floor.
Prior to this project, the process involved operators receiving their work orders and attempting to contact a material handler to request the necessary components. This was done in a number of ways: hand written notes that may be hard to decipher, paging over a loud speaker system that was often hard to hear depending on the location of the sender OR the intended receiver, or people wandering around ‘looking’ for a material handler and telling them what they needed, thus requiring the material handler to make a note. Once the material handler had the information they needed, they would pull the components, put them on a hand cart and wheel them to the workstation.
This would occasionally require several trips and the material handlers were intercepted along the way with other requests that they needed to remember.
Some challenges to implementing the conveyor included determining the style of conveyor to install; where to install the conveyor; how to lay out the plant to accommodate the conveyor; finding an affordable conveyor and determining whether the conveyor would transport material to the floor, to the warehouse or both.
MPC initially implemented the conveyor as part of its lean initiative to reduce waste (i.e. excess transportation and wait times). In an attempt to calculate time wasted, MPC had material handlers wear pedometers to determine how many miles they were traveling per day by transporting material to and from the production floor. On average, this figure was determined to be just over 5 miles/day. By installing the conveyor, MPC was able to reduce the amount of travel for the material handlers by 75% as well as get product to the floor in a quicker and more efficient manner. Average wait times for components to reach the production floor decreased by 60%.
With the new disposition stations, assembly operators are now required to use scanners and scan their own product into the system as soon as it is produced, thus keeping more accurate inventory and allowing operators to move onto the next work order without waiting for the material handler to scan in their finished product, which in turn improves their efficiency.
Implement a parts fulfillment system (PFS) that enables operators to scan barcodes on their work orders to request additional product to the line. The order is received in the back of the warehouse where material handlers load the correct quantity of components onto the conveyor and direct them to the correct work zone. Key objectives included reducing assembly operator wait time for components from the warehouse to the production floor, improving communication between material handlers and assembly operators, creating a system that would track recordable metrics for the material handlers (i.e. time to fill order), inventory accuracy, amount of product used per zone and more.
This phase was thinking completely outside of the box for MPC, so the company used fast food drive-thrus as its driving force. MPC ultimately knew what it wanted the system to do, but it struggled with how to get there. The questions were endless and MPC needed to find the answers: How would the operators “call” for their parts? Would they type the part number and quantity in or use a scanner? Who would be responsible for ordering the parts? How would MPC train everyone? Who would fill the orders? How would the order in the back warehouse be acknowledged?What if MPC didn’t have the inventory the system showed it had?
After completion of this project, the operator now takes their work order to the PFS computer located in their zone. At this station, they use a scanner to scan the barcode for the parts they need directly off their workorder, no typing necessary. No room for error. This sends the order to the back of the warehouse where the system shows the material handlers exactly what part number is needed, the quantity and to which zone they need to send the parts.
At this same time, the system starts a clock (similar to a drive-thru) and records how long it takes to fulfill the order. If it has been 10 minutes or more, the line turns yellow. If it has been 20 minutes or more, the line turns red, delivering a nice visual cue to everyone to show how long someone has been waiting on parts. MPC was also able to implement metrics for its material handlers, such as wait time, fill time and inventory accuracy. These numbers can be broken down by shift, material handler and by part number. There is also a comments section so the material handler can respond back if the parts are not here, if they are contained, if it is the last bin in house, etc. It is a great communication tool.
Overall, the benefits of the three-phase project have been numerous at every phase. In addition to the “calculated” benefits, there have been many intangible benefits, such as less frustration, less “mania” in regards to time constraints and an overall feeling of a well-oiled machine vs. chaos. Achievements include: a 75% reduction of transportation, a 60% decrease in operator wait time, a 10% increase in operator efficiency, a 6% increase on inventory accuracy (from 90% to 96%) and in more than 400 days, no loss time accidents.
About Miniature Precision Components, Inc. (MPC):
Founded in March of 1972, Miniature Precision Components, Inc. (MPC) is a company on the move. MPC is a recognized leader in the innovative design and production of world-class, thermoplastic quality parts for the expanding automotive and commercial industries. Throughout its history, MPC has maintained the unique ability to make a wide variety of thermoplastic components and assemblies. Its customers confidently rely on MPC’s practical design, efficient manufacturing processes, consistent quality and competitive pricing.