Last week I was able to tour a small biomedical company located near Boston.    Kevin Oliver, VP of Engineering and Manufacturing is an old friend.    He has a highly effective approach to production that he calls “Common Sense Lean”.   I left with a few observations that I thought were important:

 

  1. Their main product is a low volume, high complexity integrated box build.  The production floor is set up in dedicated production cells.   One for final assembly and four for subassemblies.
  2. Most raw material is set up with point of use storage.  This includes bread man style hardware bins, and shelving for most components.   Larger items and high cost items are located in a stockroom area a short distance away from the cell.
  3. There are KanBan racks for the sub assemblies. With one set being on the shelf at all times.
  4. Final system assembly does not take place until there is a customer order.  This addressed one of the key wastes of Lean, called overproduction.   There is no overproduction in this system.
  5. There is no part kitting.  If an operator needs one of the larger parts in the stockroom, they walk over and get it.  They fill out a stock transaction slip and drop if off with the production control clerk.
  6. The production team kicks off each day with a 10 minute standup meeting.  This discussion is used to align the team’s efforts and make sure any issues are addressed.
  7. The entire company is responsible for inventory accuracy.  The stockroom is not caged, anyone could come and take an item.  In some companies this leads to accuracy problems that forces cages and kitting, both of which are non value added activities.   Aushon’s approach is to make everyone responsible.  If someone needs a part, a transaction slip must be created.   Regular cycle counts are done to monitor the accuracy and once a year a completed physical inventorycount isconducted.  The Inventory count isscheduled to occur on Friday’s and the entire company takes part.  If there are inaccuracies, a recount is done on Saturday.  The desire to avoid having to come to work on a weekend is a strong motivator for everyone to follow the transaction process.  This system has produced an accuracy of better than 99%.

 This “Common Sense” approach to lean relies heavily on trusting that the employees will properly handle the material transactions.   The alternative is to add expense and staff to track the material.  Aushon has created a simple process, which is easy to comply with and very effective.  I think this is a good example of a Lean implementation.

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