At Schukra, small pieces of cardstock wield impressive powers.
The second session of the October SIG was jam packed with information as participants were given a crash overview of the Schukra Production System (SPS) before learning in more detail about their current kanban and pull system. This was followed by a plant tour so we could see the pull system in action.
One of the goals of SPS (as for its forefather, the Toyota Production System) is to design processes for mentally challenging and physically safe work. The keys are tapping into operator know-how and staying on top of what is actually happening on the floor. While Schukra relies on kaizen events as part of its toolkit, adding sustainability to the kaizen results and continuing to tweak the process are the activities that take place each and every day. One helpful Schukra employee advised the CI team that they would do better to spend more time planning so that they didn’t have to keep changing things out on the floor... If only it were that easy!
The Schukra pull system is low-tech and robust. Physical kanban cards drive supply and manufacture, and employees are trained that no work can be done without the card that permits it. The before and after descriptions of the kanban and pull system showed impressive productivity gains. Improvements were made in WIP, cell design, limits to cherry picking assignments, warehouse space, inventory control, and stock outs. The reduction in warehouse space was significant enough that Schukra was able to successfully bid on significant new business in cutting-edge product.
When asked about how long it took to implement a meaningful segment of the pull system, the answer was that different parts took different times. The theory portion was the shortest, taking about a day to work out. Running the numbers to set up a line took about a week of work. The longest piece, which is still in progress, is changing the behaviour of the employees from “the old way.” Schukra has found that this period varies depending on whether there is opportunity to backslide. As much as possible they rely on forced structures to support faster implementation. They also explicitly link successful CI activities to plant improvements as much as possible. Schukra employees know that the line they installed for the new product is there because they are following “the new way.”
Thanks very much to our tour guides and hosts at Schukra. Thanks also to the friendly and patient employees who accommodated an inquisitive group of visitors. Finally, thanks to the EMC members who joined us, for contributing to lively discussions during and after the tour.
If you find these abbreviated notes intriguing, be sure to sign up early for future SIGs so you can take part in the discussions and get all the details.