THINK LEAN: What are your plant’s talking floors telling you?

September 16, 2009   by Richard Kunst

We’re always looking for “Talking Floors.” They should be speaking to you about what the stuff is, where it should be located and in what quantity. Are the aisles clear and uncluttered or have you designed an obstacle course?

Space is always an issue so when an opening appears material conveyance employees will pounce on the opportunity to cover it, or optimize it. If you don’t have talking floors, you will be prone to developing a non-value add core competency called “moving stuff around,” something customers are not willing to pay for.

Look for ways to make access to parts, forms and information easier.

Where are parts and supplies located and how are they organized? Are employees exercising excessive motion to retrieve parts, forms and information or can you do a simple layout adjustment to make access easier? The tendency is to store items in part number sequence rather than based on consumption rate, and let’s face it: once we have an area organized, who wants to return for a review and potential re-adjustment?

Inventory levels at point of use (POU) are often established by default, based on the size of the storage container. A plan for every part (PFEP) database tool will allow you to calculate with accuracy the size of your supermarkets and determine the quantity required at your point POU locations based on replenishment rates.

Sometimes conducting a waste walk near the end of a shift will reveal additional opportunities. In most plants employees are allowed time to clean their workstations and areas. But has “clean” been defined? If it’s communicated verbally employees will likely come up with their own interpretation.

Define clean
Clean needs be clearly defined, timed and documented and it should support the ecstatic view of plant operations as well as your total productive maintenance program criteria to ensure processes remain predictable, reliable and robust.

Do employees use compressed air to clean? This is not cleaning! All compressed air does is move the debris to another location or even atomize the dust into the air where it will settle on other areas and potentially encumber processes later on. If there’s a plus side to compressed air, it’s that dust will settle on parts and machines providing a visual indicator of just how stagnant your inventory flow may be.

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