A Sampling of Successful Projects Conducted by EurekaResults
Click on a project below to see more details.
Using Theory of Constraints and Six Sigma methods, solved two major on-time shipment problems, taking performance from 60% to 95+% on one case and 50% to 80+% in another.
The first firm manufactured systems furniture – cubical style furniture assembled on the customer site. Components were shipped to the customer site but frequently late. Production plants fabricated the various components and shipped them to a distribution center within 25 miles of all of the plants. Preliminary analysis indicated that all of the production plants were meeting their schedule on time with few exceptions, but the distribution center often shipped only 60% of its orders on time. Using the “Thinking Process” from Theory of Constraints, numerous Policy Constraints were identified. These constraints were preventing on time shipment because they governed the way business was conducted. Essentially everyone was doing their job correctly (according to the rules), but they were collectively failing to ship on time. These Policy Constraints were corrected and on-time shipments exceeding 95% were routinely achieved.
The second firm was a hydraulic hose coupling manufacturer for heavy earth moving equipment (used in construction, mining and logging). They had been shipping about 50% of their orders on time, in some cases jeopardizing equipment shipments. The initial belief was that short cycle customer orders (those requiring shipment faster than standard lead times) were the cause. Using Six Sigma problem solving methods it was determined that 10% of the late orders were these short cycle order, while 90% were regularly schedule order which simply did not get scheduled to manufacture on time.The principle reason they were not scheduled were because needed parts were not available. However, all of the needed parts were fabricated at that plant. Upon further examination it was explained that there was insufficient fabricating capacity to make the needed parts on time. Process measurements revealed that there was sufficient capacity, but the manufacturing equipment was scheduled for long runs in order to minimize set-up time and maximize efficiency. These long runs produced more parts than were needed, while not producing other needed parts. This was a Policy Constraint that limited total output of the system. Breaking this constraint by changing scheduling policy and reducing set-up time permitted fabrication of needed parts so that assemblies could be built and shipped on time over 80% of the time.
Applying Value Engineering and Design for Manufacturing and Assembly methods, reduced product cost by over 80% for an aerospace product and 25% for a consumer product.
The first firm was an aerospace company, traditionally manufacturing components and systems for military applications, often price on a cost-plus basis. At the time, defense spending was shrinking and the firm sought to diversify into commercial markets. They had the opportunity to bid on a component for commercial communications satellites. The last similar component had been for a military application and was price at $250,000 on a cost-plus contract. The current product required a firm fixed price. The firm won the contract to deliver 100 units at $65,000 each. Product Engineering could conceive of no way to fulfill the order profitably, and fears substantial losses. Using a combination of Value Engineering and Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, over 150 cost savings ideas were developed, ultimately resulting in a cost of $10,000 per unit. There were so many ideas advanced that a proprietary method of combining compatible ideas into “rich concepts” was developed and implemented. The contributing ideas were developed and evaluated in one week.
The second firm was a producer of exercise equipment used in homes and fitness centers. A new exercise cycle was planned for introduction but was halted because cost was too high. Marketing required a lower cost in order to maintain planned gross margins, while Engineering contended that the cost was as low as possible, and that Marketing would simply have to accept a lower gross margin, which was not acceptable to the business. Engineering further contended that no cost reduction was possible without compromising product features, which Marketing would not accept.
A workshop was conducted using a combination of Value Engineering and Design for Manufacturing and Assembly. A guiding principle was established that there be no compromise of any product functionality, including aesthetics. With this in mind, hundreds of cost reduction ideas were developed that lowered the product cost to an acceptable level. The contributing ideas were developed and evaluated in one week.
Using Lean Manufacturing methods, reduced manufacturing lead time from two weeks to one day.
The firm manufactured systems furniture – cubical style furniture assembled on the customer site. The product in question was manufactured in two plants locate 20 miles apart. The first plant manufactured metal parts, painted them and shipped them to the second plant, who did final assembly and shipped to the customer. Because of historical problems that had shut down the operations and interrupted shipping, leadership insisted on carrying 2-4 weeks of work in process inventory to protect against breakdowns. The two plants were being sold and a new plant which combined fabrication and assembly was being built. It was desired that the new plant have a much reduce lead time.
Applying Lean methods, a current state Value Stream Map was created. Plant leadership then brainstormed what they considered to be the leanest possible operation and a future state Value Stream Map was built. The differences between these two maps defined action plans and Kaizen Breakthrough Blitz’s to make the actual changes. As a result, the new plant was able to eliminate most of the excess work-in-process inventory and build everything in response to customer orders, converting coils of steel into product, painting, assembling and shipping in the same day. In addition, the new plant was designed so that all assembly operation were flexible and could be changed with minimal disruption, allowing further Lean improvement.
Using Root Cause Analysis methods to reduce product overweight shipments by 65%
The firm produced baked food products from a dough sheet, cut into individual units, baked and packaged into plastic sleeve wrappers subsequently inserted into boxes. The box label weight was 16.0 oz, but the average shipped box weight was 17.62 oz. Every product passed over a check weigher, which recorded the box weight and rejects underweight boxes. Underweight boxes resulted in scrap or rework, so there was a bias toward making slightly overweight boxes, resulting in “giving away” approximately over 10% of the product. The accuracy and repeatability of the check weigher were evaluated. The accuracy was acceptable but the respeatability was not, resulting in some acceptable boxes being rejected as underweight. The check weigher was cleaned, adjusted and tested satisfactorily. Now that the check weigher results could be trusted, sources of weight variation were investigated. Product was gathered after the oven, where it was found that product sampled from the north side were significantly heavier than those taken from the south side. Samples taken upstream in the process revealed that the north side of the dough sheet was heavier than the south side. The weight variation was traced to an out-of-level finish roller, which set the thickness of the dough sheet. After leveling the roller the dough weight was equal on both sides.
After correcting the roller it was determined that the next significant source of variation occurred between shifts, with second shift showing far less variation than the other two. Further investigation revealed that the process control approach used by the second shift oven operator was different from that of the oven operators on the other shifts, and appeared to account for the smaller weight variation. After some resistance, this control approach was implemented on the other two shifts, after which the average box weight had reduced to 16.65 oz.
Using Lean Manufacturing methods, developed work cells that were 100x faster, used half the labor, 10% of the floor space, and almost no work in process inventory.
The firm was a hydraulic hose manufacturer for heavy earth moving equipment (used in construction, mining and logging). The firm has two hose assembly plants in Illinois. In order to better respond to customer needs the company leased a building in North Carolina midway between two equipment plants they supplied. The Illinois plants were heavily burdened with work-in-process inventory and took 5.5 days from the beginning of hose assembly to being ready to ship. The major processes were operated as batch processes consuming over 200,000 sq ft, mostly for inventory. It took five people to assemble a hose from purchased components. The existing process was video taped and timed to determine precise work elements. One complete set of manufacturing equipment to the new plant, installed but without anchoring the equipment. This allowed minor readjustment of equipment to be made as needed. Using Lean methods, the work elements were analyzed and combined into a flow process which required two people and produced one hose in two minutes, with one unit of work-in-process inventory.
Using Lean Manufacturing methods, reduce manufacturing setup and changeover by 90%.
The firm manufactured systems furniture – cubical style furniture assembled on the customer site. The product in question was a frame assembly used to construct cubical walls. The frames are made in a variety of widths and heights by a program controlled robotic MIG welder. Changing from one size to another typically took well over an hour, resulting in lost productivity and excessive inventory.
Using Lean Methods, the changeover process was observed, identifying activities that could be done before production stopped (preparation steps) or after production resumed. In addition, the changeover process was simplified and process adjustment was eliminated. After this an entire changeover could be accomplished in two minutes.
Using Quality Function Deployment and Market Research methods, helped bring new surgical tools to market in record time and recovered product development investment in half the usual time.
The firm was a division of a health care company who developed surgical procedures and equipment for performing minimally invasive procedures, such as gall bladder removal and appendectomies. These procedures and devices were new to health care, and promised to revolutionize surgery, resulting in much faster patient recovery and improved clinical outcome. Unfortunately the company also faced slow acceptance of new devices and procedures, resulting in sluggish sales of new products, substantially delaying recovery development investment.
Quality Function Deployment and related market research methods were used to better understand the customers (surgeons and surgical equipment buyers at major hospitals), and to translate what was learned into the equipment designs. The result was equipment that was much more intuitive with short learning curves. This accelerated acceptance by surgeons and led to rapid growth in demand for the new instruments. The faster sales growth led to becoming cash flow positive in record time, recovering all invested cash long before planned.
Using Business Process Streamlining, reduced cycle time for a custom product order entry system from 5-1/2 days to 4 hours.
The firm manufactured systems furniture – cubical style furniture assembled on the customer site. When orders were received electronically they were usually confirmed, with a promised delivery date the same day or next day. However, if the order contained some special content (non-standard product), the order was routed to the Special Order section, who typically took an additional 5-1/2 days to process that part of the order. The company wanted to confirm the entire order, so they had to wait until the custom part had been quoted. While the custom content was a small part of the overall order, approximately 30% of all orders contained custom content. This led to complaints from the largest customers, who were more likely to place such orders.
Using Lean methods, the custom quoting process was mapped in detail. Error loops were identified and the underlying problems solved. Non-value-added steps were identified and eliminated. Express routes were created for the 80% of the transactions that could be done simply. As a result the overall process could was streamlined and could sometimes be completed within an hour. All but the most complex custom orders could be quoted in less than four hours. As a result, large orders that contained custom content were only briefly delayed – a situation not noticeable by the customer.