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Making materials flow

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A Lean material-handling guide for operations, production-control, and engineering professionals

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Rick Harris, Chris Harris and Earl Wilson

Foreword by Jim Womack, Dan Jones, John Shook and Jose Ferro

Winner of the 2005 Shingo Research Prize

MAKING MATERIALS FLOW describes in simple language another step in the implementation of a complete lean business system.

LEI's first book, LEARNING TO SEE, focused on where to start - on the value stream of each product family within your facility.

SEEING THE WHOLE then expanded the value stream map beyond the walls of the plant, from raw materials to the customer.

Once the waste and potential applications of flow and pull have been identified, you can now use the CREATING CONTINUOUS FLOW techniques to implement truly continuous flow in cell-based operations.

MAKING MATERIALS FLOW addresses the next step by explaining how to supply parts to the supply chain to support the continuous flow.

"Companies are making progress in creating continuous flow areas as more managers learn about value chain maps and continuous flow cells," said co-author Rick Harris, who also co-wrote the book CREATING LEVEL PULL. Both books have received Shingo Research Prizes.

During his visits to plants, Harris has noticed a disturbing trend. “As I walk through the facilities and examine serious efforts to create continuous flow, I see how difficult it is to maintain a constant output. Usually the problem is the lack of a lean material handling system for purchased parts that supports continuous flow cells, small batch processing, and traditional assembly lines. ”

MAKING MATERIALS FLOW explains in clear language how to create such a system, by applying the relevant concepts and methods in a step-by-step progression. The book reveals the exercises, formulas, standards, and forms that a consultant would use to implement the system in their environment. And, like other LEI books, MAKING MATERIALS FLOW answers the key question managers generally ask about manufacturing tools and concepts read, "What do I do on Monday morning to implement this?" The four key steps detailed in the book include:

  1. Develop the Plan for Each Part (PFEP). This basic database promotes a precise and controlled reduction of inventory and is the basis for the continuous improvement of the materials handling system in the plant.
  2. Build the market for purchased parts. Learn the formulas and methods for measuring and operating a marketplace that eliminates the waste of hoarding, searching for parts, and storing inventories throughout the plant.
  3. Design supply routes. You get the principles and calculations that make a sprawling, messy plant into an organized community where operators get the parts they need, when they need them, and in the quantity they need, supplied right to their fingertips. Proper supply routes not only improve inventory and flow, but also security.
  4. Implement “pull” signals to integrate the new material handling system with the information management system. Learn the steps to create a system that keeps inventory under control by allowing operators to get only what they need while focusing on producing value for customers. You will also learn how to calculate the number of pull signals needed and how often to stock up on supplies.

Finally, you will learn how to continually maintain and improve the system by implementing periodic audits of the material handling system throughout the management chain, from the operator on the road to the plant manager. You will learn the five-step process to introduce audits to the market, routes, and “pull” signals by a multi-functional team from production control, operations, and industrial engineering.

Harris and co-authors Chris Harris and Earl Wilson will take you through 10 simple but pragmatic questions that show how a lean manufacturing plant implements a robust but flexible material handling system for purchased parts:

  1. What information should you include in the PFEP?
  2. How will you maintain the integrity of the PFEP? Develop a supermarket of purchased parts
  3. Where to locate your purchased parts supermarket?
  4. What is the correct size for your supermarket of purchased parts and what is the correct quantity of parts in the supermarket?
  5. How to operate your supermarket from purchased parts? Design the Supply Route and the Information Management System
  6. How do you transport supermarket parts from purchased parts to production areas?
  7. How do your production areas tell the supermarket of purchased parts what to supply and when?
  8. How do you fill the supply route? Maintain and Improve
  9. How can you maintain the performance of your lean material handling system?
  10. How can you identify and eliminate additional waste?

An appendix explores how to adapt key principles of lean material handling to more complex environments, such as incorporating work-in-process supermarket (WIP) into the system for purchased parts, adding sourcing routes from production cells to a grocery store. finished items, and apply the system to low volume, high mix processes.

MAKING MATERIALS FLOW will benefit lean leaders, managers, and executives in production control, operations, and engineering, who have at least a basic understanding of lean concepts such as value stream maps, cell design, and standardized work. The 93-page book contains more than 50 illustrations.


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