Helpful Resources

How to Find 10% More Capacity in Your Plant – for Free

Aug 3, 2020

Could you use an additional 10% production capacity right now?  Would you like to be able to process 10% more square footage through your plant every day – without capital investment, without adding people, and without working additional hours?  You can get that very quickly if you apply the simple principles outlined here.

You might be in the fabrication business but, at its core, your company is in business to perform value added services that your customers are willing to pay for.  They are willing to pay you for transforming slabs of granite (or other material) into countertops for their home or business.  They value that transformation.

The maximum amount of square footage that your plant can process in a day is defined by the quantity of value-added hours that you execute that day.  The pure definition of value added is the physical transformation of material into something the customer is willing to pay for.  Everything else is non-value added.

A value-added process would be something like the work done at a saw.  Ordering slabs or repairing chips, while necessary to do, are non-value added.  The goal is to eliminate or reduce the time spent on non-value-added activities.

While processing stone through the saw is a value-added process step, not every activity performed at the saw is value added.  The only value-added portion of this process step is when the blade is in the stone.  Everything else is non-value added.  This includes programming the machine, loading the piece, unloading the piece, cleaning the machine.  All these activities may be necessary, but they are not value added.  The ideal solution is to eliminate those activities.  This can be challenging for the saw operation.  However, if you work at it, you can find ways to reduce the time required to do those activities.  

Eliminating or reducing the time for performing non-value-added activities frees up the capacity of the people and machines you already have so they can perform more value-added activities.  Executing this well across your plant can easily free up 10% additional capacity in your plant.

To help you look for more ways to reduce non-value-added time, I want to introduce you to TIM WOOD.  This is an acronym for the categories of non-value-added activities found in manufacturing plants.

Transportation – Moving product from one place to another.

  • How many carts do you have?  How many forklifts do you have?  How many cranes do you have?  They are all moving product from one place to another.  
  • How many people do you have who spend time moving product around the plant?
  • How far do the parts travel?  It can be an eye-opening exercise to actually measure the number of feet a piece of stone travels through your facility.
  • How often do you move things just to get them out of the way or to move them aside so something else can use that space?  How much time do your folks spend doing that?

Inventory – Material or product that is in your plant but is not having value added work done to it right now.

  • Inventory correlates directly to lead time.  Higher levels of inventory equals longer lead time.  To shorten your lead time, you need to lower the amount of Work In Process (WIP) inventory.
  • How many jobs do you have in process from template to install?  Are all of them being worked on right now?  Is every piece from every job having value added work done to it right now?  
    • Add up all the pieces from all the jobs in your plant and then count the ones that are having value added work being done to them at that moment.  All the pieces that aren’t having value added work done to them are unnecessarily extending your lead time.
    • Ask yourself why those pieces are not being worked on.  Also ask yourself how many pieces you can reasonably process at any given time.
  • You are not making fine wine or cheese.  This inventory does not get better with age.  How often have you had a piece get damaged while sitting on a cart?  How often have you had a customer make a change to a job after you already cut the slab?  Nothing good comes from this inventory sitting still.

Motion – Excess movement by people

  • This includes:
    • People picking up and moving products and supplies
    • People walking to get supplies or information
    • Loading or unloading a workstation
    • Reaching for or walking to get tools and supplies (think installers)
    • Excessive reaching or turning
    • Heavy lifting
  • In addition to wasting time, repetition of these activities can cause injury
  • Why isn’t everything an operator or installer needs within easy reach?

Waiting – Product sitting still, waiting to be worked on

  • When you have excess WIP, you create Waiting.  Think of a cart full of cut pieces for a job.  Usually one is being worked on while the others are waiting on the cart.
  • How many jobs do you have waiting to be completed in the plant?
  • How many jobs do you have that are waiting to be installed?
  • Do you have people waiting on work instructions or jobs to process?
  • How many jobs are waiting on information from the customer or sales before they can continue?

Over-production – Making more than you need right here, right now.

  • Do you have more than one job sitting in front of a process step waiting to be worked on?  Those additional jobs were processed early – before they were needed by the next process step.
  • Do you have more jobs templated than you can process in your plant?  Those jobs were processed earlier than they were needed.
  • Over-production:
    • Increases WIP levels
    • Increases waiting
    • Increases transportation
    • Increases motion – having to load and unload unnecessarily
    • Is the mac daddy of all wastes because it causes most of the others

Over-processing – Performing additional tasks or generating higher quality than is required.

  • Do you have people who like to do extra polishing on edges when they are already fine?
  • Do you have people who add extra process steps just because they like to do something their way?   Ex: Use 4 stages of pad grits to polish edges when 2 works just fine.

Defects – Extra work cause by scrap, incorrect information, errors

  • This one is pretty self-explanatory and includes damage, cutting to wrong dimensions, cutting the wrong slab, poor seams at install, incorrect or incomplete information.

Skill – Many folks add the S to TIM WOOD as a reminder to utilize all of the skills of your employees as you look for ways to tackle these 8 Non-Value Added tasks.

A great way to figure out how much of the above is going on in your shop is to find a viewpoint where you can see most of your shop from one spot.  Work down this list to note where you see these things happening.  Quantify these to the degree you can – a guess based on your experience is close enough.

While the objective is to eliminate all of these Non-Value Added tasks, realistically, in some cases, all you can do is to reduce them.  If you do a good job of identifying TIM and running him out of your shop, you can see a 10% increase in capacity.  This means 10% more square feet per day output with no additional costs.  

If you combine this with our system of managing the business, you can see a 30% increase in capacity and a consistent 5-day template to install lead time.  As an added bonus, the shop is easier to run, and you have a lot fewer headaches. 

Owners who have implemented this approach have actually thanked us for giving them their life back.  Drop me a line at Ed@FabricatorsCoach.com to find out how to make more money and also get your life back.

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