In Videon’s manufacturing wing, we strive for continual improvement. If we aren’t getting better at our jobs, we’re not working hard enough.
Many of our improvements are minor. For example, our old part numbering system had us updating documents all the time, even for minor product changes. Our new, streamlined system requires fewer updates, and it has saved us all time and confusion. Other improvements are more significant, like the move to Smartsheet scheduling or Kanban part tracking.
But the biggest change in our process has been our adoption of Quick Response Manufacturing. QRM is a workflow system that reduces lead time throughout the manufacturing process. Rather than directly increasing employee efficiency, it aims to decrease wait times between steps. Production occurs in cells where employees share responsibility. Cells focus on one product at a time, allowing flexibility and cooperation. And as wait times decrease, On Time Delivery and customer satisfaction grow.
QRM has revolutionized what we do, and the results are clear:
- Our OTD numbers have been 100% for eighteen months now.
- Our lead time has gone down by 60%.
- We have half as many defects.
For us, QRM has worked. But it wasn’t an easy change. This is the story of how we completely revised our manufacturing process–and lived to tell the tale.
We wouldn’t have considered our old process chaotic at the time. But it was. Workers throughout the manufacturing floor were focusing on different projects. Most had a backlog of products waiting for their attention. Since employees specialized and did not share skills, they could not accommodate shifting demands. Hero workers emerged as experts in specific products, but the entire team relied on them, leading to burnout.
Still, our production numbers were good enough. There did not seem to be a need to overhaul the system, until a customer evaluated our manufacturing process and suggested that we implement QRM.
Learning about QRM lead us to tough realizations. The hero workers were shouldering too much of the work, hurting themselves and our efficiency. Coordinating each individual’s schedule was tedious. Our processes were un-repeatable and sometimes dysfunctional. And we had large amounts of work in progress at any given time. We decided it was time for a change.
Working with our customer, we set goals for QRM implementation. Specifically, we hoped to:
- Achieve 99.5% OTD
- Reduce defects by 50%
- Reduce lead time by 50%
With these ambitious goals, we set January 2012 as our start date for QRM. And we proceeded to fail spectacularly.
Read our next post to learn more about our initial QRM failure, successful second try and collateral benefits we’ve received from the switch.