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Reshaping The Factory Floor


In manufacturing these days, the buzzwords are productivity, quality, responsiveness to customers. But the buzzwords don't mean much unless you can break them down into specific changes on the shop floor. How, exactly, do you boost output, cut the reject rate, increase flexibility? A few authors roll up their sleeves to help you answer these questions.

The theme of Richard J. Schonberger's World Class Manufacturing is simplification. Specifics? Cut work-in-process. Cut the time required to set up machinery for production. Reduce the number of parts in your products. Rely on a few good suppliers; cross-train workers so that they master more than one job; and look for cheap, movable equipment to increase flexibility. Do all this, Schonberger says, and you'll get order-of-magnitude improvements. One Hewlett-Packard division, for example, cut work-in-process from 22 days to one day.

To see what others have done, turn to Schonberger's companion volume, World Class Manufacturing Casebook, where you'll find 26 cases of turnarounds, involving the techniques of "Just in Time" manu-manufacturing and "Total Quality Control." For example, Schonberger describes how a company he calls the Ultrix Corp. began a "Just in Time" campaign in the early 1980s. The company revised purchasing policies, rearranged equipment on the manufacturing floor, eliminated storage racks and tables in areas where work in process was stored, and so on. Through these efforts, Ultrix reduced its manufacturing space by about two-thirds, cut back bulk inventories from $6 million to $1.5 million, and increased the turnover of work-in-process inventory from 6 times to 29.

Kiyoshi Suzaki's The New Manufacturing Challenge shows how to reshape the manufacturing process piece by microscopic piece. You're concerned with waste? Suzaki analyzes seven different kinds -- over-production waste, wasting-time waste, waste of motion, processing waste, inventory waste, transportation waste, and waste from product defects -- and then he goes on to recommend specific ways of reducing every category.

Or maybe you'd like to cut setup times. Suzaki's chapter on quick setup techniques shows how modified dies, standardized fixtures, specially designed carts, color coding, improved attachment devices, and parallel work operations can do the trick. A principal with Arthur young & Co., Suzaki leaves little to the imagination -- which is why The New Manufacturing Challenge seems sure to become a dog-eared reference work for managers in successful factories throughout the United States.

-- Charles W. Kyd

* World Class Manufacturing, by Richard J. Schonberger (HC, Free Press, 1986, $19.95)

World Class Manufacturing Casebook, by Richard J. Schonberger (PB, Free Press, 1987, $17.95; HC, Free Press, 1987, $24.95)

* The New Manufacturing Challenge by Kiyoshi Suzaki (HC, Free Press, 1987, $24.95)

Last updated: Feb 1, 1988

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