Lean manufacturing has been successfully employed by OEMs to reduce costs, improve productivity and reduce response time. But in many cases, these OEMs are producing the same parts, often on dedicated machines. A steel bending job shop, however, is often producing small lots or parts for a non-repeating project—perhaps a prototype or component parts for a sculpture or a unique structure like a canopy.
A job shop therefore has to be extremely flexible and nimble to meet the demands of its customers. Production may require 4 or 5 different set ups on a machine in an eight hour shift. Even processing the paperwork for a wide variety of non-repeating parts can be time-consuming and difficult.
Several principals of lean manufacturing perhaps can improve the quality, speed, response time and value of parts produced in a steel bending job shop. For example, reducing set-up time will often help a job shop immensely precisely because job shops are all about set-up time. Tactics for reducing set-up times include using quick-clamp tooling, using dies that can be used for two or more different operations, and performing an external set up before quickly exchanging dies. A good source of information on die changes often can be found through the manufacturers of the machinery involved.
What has been your experience with lean manufacturing in a job shop environment?