Category Archive: Process Manufacturing

Kaizen Events for Process Improvement in Manufacturing

The global business environment for manufacturers has never been more competitive. As the axiom goes, a company’s performance relative to its rivals is either getting better or its getting worse — it never stays the same. However, while manufacturing executives are aware that they need to constantly improve their firm’s processes, actually quantifying that improvement is difficult, and figuring out a way to systematically improve company performance on a continuous basis is even more so.

how to use kaizen

In the late 1980s, several multi-national manufacturing corporations trying to identify a method to continuously improve company processes came up with the “Kaizen Event.” A regularly scheduled gathering of employees from all areas of a firm, Kaizen Events are designed to focus that collective experience on any number of individual challenges.

At Manor, Kaizen events are cohesively linked with our safety program, and we’ve learned how to use them to target improvements in safety and efficiency in a wide variety of company environments. With a focused application, we believe Kaizen Events have the potential to benefit not only manufacturing firms, but also firms in banking, government, healthcare and many other industries.

Kaizen Events can be powerful tools to make improvement a continuous and structured effort. What follows is a brief introduction to Kaizen Events and how Manor has incorporated the concept into our ongoing operations. We hope you’ll find it a helpful introduction to implementing Kaizen Events that can be easily tailored to your business.

What is a “Kaizen Event” Exactly?

“Kaizen” is a Japanese term meaning “improvement” or “improving one’s self for the benefit of the whole.” The concept grew out of a wider movement to tackle the critical but elusive task of continuously improving manufacturing processes — this as opposed to just doing things as they’ve always been done and only introducing occasional improvements piecemeal without an overarching plan. But how do you create a set of protocols that allow you to apply an actionable framework to that improvement? How do you make it not only efficient, but enforce a schedule on it and make it reproducible?

Motorola spearheaded the effort to systematically address these challenges with the so-called “Six Sigma” approach. The term is borrowed from manufacturing — a “sigma rating” indicates the percentage of products produced that are free from defects. A “six sigma” process is one in which more than 99.99% of products are defect free.

Kaizen Events are part of this approach to reduce inefficiencies and increase the quality not only of products, but also the processes that create them. In theory, the concept behind Kaizen Events is simple:

  • During a period of 3-5 days, employees from a cross section of departments meet in one place to discuss the process at hand. The participants are all stakeholders in that process, and are usually derived from all areas of the company, from management to administration. The idea is to bring the greatest breadth and depth of knowledge and experience into the discussion.
  • The group observes the process. This can either be in the form of a demonstration or, if it’s more practical, the creation of flowchart of the steps involved.
  • Once the participants understand the process, they make suggestions to improve it.
  • Finally, the group discusses options, during which suggestions are either implemented or discarded, until all participants can get behind the new approach.

The primary attributes of Kaizen Events are their efficiency and their focus. They gather the decision-makers and the people actually involved in the process in one place at one time. A particular strength of Kaizen Events is that they get everyone’s buy-in so that thoughtful, effective solutions can be implemented quickly. Companies can make rapid improvements, particularly with a process that isn’t running particularly efficiently.

How Manor Implements Kaizen Events

Typically, a Manor general manager will spearhead a Kaizen Event, along with a team leader. Also included will be 4-5 employees from virtually any department (punch press, tool room, sales, administration, etc.) to provide a diverse and unbiased observation group. The team assembles in the area where the process to be evaluated takes place, such as a machine operation or particular manufacturing process. However, these events don’t just consider manufacturing or machine processes. They can extend to all aspects of the company, including shipping and receiving, inventory management, engineering, and sales.

The team observes the full process. On the manufacturing side, Kaizen events are most often concentrated on safety and efficiency. Some things that team members might consider:

  • Do they notice something unusual that the operator who works in that area every day might have long since gotten used to?
  • Is the operator performing tasks that appear to be unsafe, and could they be done in a safer way?
  • Is the movement of the operator efficient and ergonomic, i.e., is there too much bending and lifting involved?
  • Are the parts or tools needed for the process inefficiently located?

After observing the process, the team meets to discuss each group member’s observations and decide on any action items that could be implemented. The current process is documented, issues or problems are defined, and possible changes are discussed. Suggestions may encompass changes in a work area to improve ergonomics, safety, efficiency, work flow, etc. Any approved changes are implemented, and a follow up of the process is scheduled to evaluate the results.

Examples of Kaizen Event Success Stories at Manor

Kaizen Events sound good in theory, but the proof of their effectiveness is in the improvements Manor has enjoyed since implementing them. Here are just a few examples:

Increasing Productivity:

A customer part required a soft edge around their product. After the part was made, the operator would deburr the edge using a wire wheel. The process was done by hand, always pushing the part upward on the wheel, and it was noted that productivity dropped off at end of day due to operator fatigue. This same part also required countersinking, which was being done by another operator, and again, productivity decreased as the day wore on. After the Kaizen Event took place, the cell on the production floor was redesigned to accommodate several changes to the process:

  • After the part came off the punch press, the parts were placed on a flat steel skid, two on each skid.
  • The skid then was slid (not picked up and carried) over to a drill press in same cell where the part was fanned with a fanning magnet, and both parts were countersunk at the same time.
  • Following countersinking, the edges of the parts were deburred using a wire wheel.
  • Parts would then be boxed and packaged within the cell and ready for shipping.

As a result of the Kaizen Event, this process now utilized one operator instead of two, provided a break between the wire wheel process to reduce fatigue, all resulting in heightened productivity and a safer process.

Enhancing Ergonomics:

  • It was observed that operators were often bending over and down to retrieve parts from boxes in their cells. A Kaizen Event suggested elevating boxes to a height that did not require repeated bending and lifting.
  • Wheels were added to an aluminum riser that carried parts from process to process or machine to machine, eliminating the bending, lifting, and carrying of items to different stations.
  • Machine presses or work cells requiring similar processes or parts/tooling were rearranged to be adjacent rather than constantly moving items from place to place.

Workspace Organizational Improvements:

In some work areas, Kaizen Events led to the application of a “5S” approach — another work area organizing system with Japanese origins. Loosely translated, the 5S methodology involves Sorting, Systemization, Shining (maintaining a clean, streamlined work area), Standardizing and Sustainability. These principles provided a blueprint for getting all work areas operating as efficiently and distraction-free as possible.

In our experience, Kaizen Events have led to changes that not only improved safety, but also enhanced productivity and even increased revenue.

Barriers to Implementing Kaizen Events

Although Kaizen Events have proven their ability to increase efficiency, boost productivity and provide a program that enables continuous improvement of production processes, many companies are still reluctant to implement them. One primary reason is the perception that such events take employees away from their “main jobs” for up to five days at a time. While this concern is understandable, we’ve found it to be a short-sighted view. In fact, in our experience, proper application of Kaizen Events has led to better performance in employees “main jobs” allowing them to place more focus on quality rather then process. The events help employees identify ways to spend the majority of time in their primary roles more efficiently, rather than having to frequently “put out fires” and attempt to manage systemic problems with quick fixes over and over again.

Another potential drawback is that companies don’t fully embrace the concept. Rather than committing a meaningful number of people for a meaningful period of time, some firms will instead commit a couple of people for an insufficient amount of time. The result is fewer suggestions for improvement, and a perception on the part of employees that decision makers view the effort as unimportant.

And of course, Kaizen Events are not a cure all. There are some instances when another approach is preferable. For instance, if a resolving a problem requires evaluating sets of data over an extended period of time — statistical analysis or variations in long-term experimental results, for example — a carefully selected team of experts that meets regularly will likely be a better choice than a one-time meeting of disparate individuals. Kaizen Events are much better suited to regularly reevaluating existing methods and processes. After all, continuous improvement is the point.

Creating an Effective Kaizen Event

To be effective, Kaizen Events must be championed by management and enjoy the full participation of a variety of employees. During the course of the event, employees on Kaizen Event teams must:

  1. Undergo a brief training period that will allow them to grasp the process more fully
  2. Go into the event with precisely defined goals, outlined in steps 3-5
  3. Acquire a full understanding of the current approach to the process
  4. Be encouraged to think “outside the box”
  5. Develop a plan to follow up on improvements and assess their effectiveness

Of all the steps listed above, #4 is perhaps the most critical and the toughest to establish. Employees must believe that any ideas they may come up with to address problems — even if those ideas may seem unconventional — are important and valued. They must also be assured that any improvements they suggest won’t put them or other employees out of a job. Any successes should be highlighted and shared within the company so that everyone can appreciate and understand the value of Kaizen Events — not only those that have been held, but those in which employees may be asked to participate in the future.

Most importantly, effective Kaizen Events require and foster respect. They show that each area of a company has something important to contribute, that each person in the company is an important part of the team, and that each individual is willing and able to improve the experience of everyone else who works there.

The Real Power of Kaizen Events: Your People

Kaizen Events offer companies several benefits, not the least of which is a time-tested, proven method to address a difficult problem: how to continuously improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a company’s ongoing operation. But we don’t regard that as their chief benefit. At Manor, we’ve always believed the real strength of our company is the people who work here. Most have been with us for more than a decade, and in that time they’ve accrued vast amounts of knowledge, experience and problem-solving skill — qualities that go far beyond the limited concept of “value.” The real power of Kaizen Events is their ability to help us tap into that knowledge and experience in ways that benefit the company as a whole.

It’s a power that we believe any company, using the power of Kaizen Events, can tap into.

Join Manor Tool in Celebrating American Manufacturing

Come join Manor Tool this Manufacturing Day, Friday OCT 2, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, as we exhibit with the Illinois Technology & Manufacturing Association at 1651 Wilkening Road, Schaumburg.  This event will be geared towards students interested in STEM education. We couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate American Manufacturing than to help galvanize STEM interest in our youth!

TMA MFG Day

Manufacturing Day (MFG DAY) was founded in 2012 in order to help improve the way that the public perceives manufacturing industries in America.

Three large and important American trade organizations — the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Manufacturing institute, and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MAP) — joined forces with the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) to start the event.

MFG DAY is an important event. Shifting the perception of manufacturing is its primary goal — the day allows companies in various manufacturing industries to influence how the public views them. The common perception in America of manufacturing has not kept up with the times, and MFG DAY allows manufacturers to shift perception to the reality of modern industry.  

MFG DAY also fulfils a number of other important functions. It allows manufacturers from across America to come together, identify challenges they share, and work together for solutions. MFG DAY also gives manufacturers a valuable opportunity to face an issue that effects everyone in the manufacturing industry — a shortage of skilled workers. Manufacturers can use the day to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and the rewards of a career in manufacturing.

This year, MFG DAY is being celebrated on October 2, with some events taking place before or after as well. Ranging from Mexico to Canada, and from across the United States, more than 1,000 manufacturers will be hosting MFG DAY events for the public, including demonstrations, conferences, expos, and open houses.

Manor Tool & Manufacturing Company, an industry-leading metal stamper for more than 50 years, fully supports to aims of MFG DAY. We have always promoted community, STEM education, and safety.

Keep an eye out for our next blog — we’ll be taking you on a virtual shop tour of our state of the art facility. You can also find helpful resources on our site such as the following guide to edge type selection for deep drawn stamping!

 

How to Select a Deep Drawn Edge Type

Manor Tool Helps Support Engineering Education

The manufacturing industry has helped shape the face of our country for hundreds of years. With the development of new technologies, many professionals have been able to meet the growing application demands of the industry. As time progressed, applications became increasingly challenging, spurring the need for newer technology and competent workers to utilize said technology.

Manufacturing is widely considered a “traditional” industry, in which most of the professionals have decades of experience; though experience is a highly sought after trait, many workers have long since reached retirement age. With these workers retiring, the industry is looking for the next generation of engineers.

At Manor Tool, our team is all too familiar with this problem—that’s why we regularly participate in educational programs to encourage interest in manufacturing.

Last January, our company partnered with the University of Illinois to give students real world engineering experience. With support from Manor Tool, a senior engineering student team of four tackled some significant assignments. Students were tasked with:

  • Performing in-depth research on casting and other technologies that may be applicable for die fabrication

  • Selecting two dies and reviewing each for cost and lead time reduction

  • Analyzing current stamping drawing designs, materials, and applications

  • Researching lubricant technologies for the materials selected

  • Analyzing force and friction environments in which the dies much withstand during stamping operations

  • Development of progressive die fabrication and lubrication alternatives for die design

  • Reviewing alternatives with Manor Tool personnel for applicability, feasibility, cost, potential prototyping, testing and economic analysis

  • Finalizing recommended designs, lubricants, and economic analysis for delivery to Manor Tool & Manufacturing Co. along with final report and presentation

 University of Illinois and Manor Tool  Back Row left to right: Pratham Gandhi, Brian Hoppe, Matthew Wiencek, Jingtin Lin. Front Row left to right:  Kevin Segebarth, Tom Simeone

  

Our engineers provided students with feedback for each of these tasks and helped finalize the results for highly detailed reports and presentations. Each team of students worked diligently to complete assignments under the watchful eye of Manor Tool’s team of specialists.  

“It was great seeing the students’ progression over those few months, said Kevin Segebarth, General Manager of Manor Tool. “I was impressed by their very professional manner and eagerness to learn—in my experience, many engineers don’t fully recognize the importance of continuing to learn and grow.”

Learn more about how Manor Tool supports the next generation of engineers by contacting us today.

 

Would You Like to Cut Down on Metal Stamping Costs?

There are many facets of your company to consider when you want to cut costs. One way to go is to schedule a meeting with one of our skilled design and manufacturing engineers here at Manor Tool to review your drawings and production plan, and help your company meet low or high volume production requirements. Whether this is your first component or your 1,000,000th, Manor Tool can help you cut costs and save money with a “second set of eyes.”  

Offline Time?

CostSavingseBook

For example, how often are your current dies taken offline for repair and re-tooling? If your current design requires frequent offline time for die repair, have you been able to determine the features that are causing this down time and the lead time extension? Review your design to determine the possibility of altering these features to simplify the component and eliminate unnecessary wear on your die and tooling. Manor’s engineering staff can aid your team with this issue.   

Tooling?

As far as tooling goes, review your current requirements for your components and determine if there are alterations that can be made to reduce complexity and maintain functionality. Just changing square holes to circular holes drastically simplifies machining and tooling requirements. This will reduce your production time and your overall component cost. What about your design and the number of machines and processes that are required? Can changes be made to utilize the same machinery or process?

Automation Possibilities?

Are there portions of your design that currently require manual intervention? You should probably go over these areas to identify possible automation or elimination. Manual machining operations are costly and time consuming. Anything you can do to reduce this will have an immediate impact on your component cost. Our engineering team can help identify opportunities to automate feature creation for your parts.

Having an expert third party review your design and provide feedback is just one of the tips we at Manor Tool can offer you. If you’re interested in a few more tips, Manor Tool has put together The Cost Saving Guide to Metal Stamped Parts which gives you 23 tips that will help save on your next metal stamping project.

To download the eBook Guide, click the button below, or contact Manor today and let us assist you.

  Looking to cut down on cost?Download our Metal Stamping Cost Savings Guide

Manor is Punching Up Production with Acquisition of Turret Press

Manor’s metal stamping and deep draw services encompass a wide range of metals. And since we offer custom tooling and fabricating services for such a diverse array of customers, all in need of specific requirements, we are always on the lookout for the latest machinery to help us serve customers’ needs the best way possible.  In modern, flexible manufacturing, jobs vary, and so should machine tools.

November’s blog mentioned “Freddy” – our robotic work cell that has proven to drastically reduce cycle times for a number of clients. It’s certainly been an innovative use of automation for metal stamping at Manor. Now we’ve added a high-tech press to our arsenal of equipment: a new turret press from Finn-Power, the twenty-year pioneer in hydraulic turret punch presses.

Our new C5 Express Press is a unique combination of reliability, versatility and high performance, as well as ease of operation and maintenance. As a lower cost option for initial low-volume, development volume, or prototyping, the new press offers customers the ability to develop parts before investing in hard tooling for large volume runs.

Manor’s new Finn-Power C5 Express features an auto loader, robotic pick up sheets and loads, and remote programming, all designed to increase production time. Fully networked, the machine allows engineers to develop processes from drawings, using sophisticated NC Express Cam software that generates the G-code for tool paths that are sent to the machine for manufacturing.

The new press adds full networking capabilities, faster processes, lower noise levels, more energy efficiency, and a safer operation. The Finn-Power C5 Express features 20 main tool stations and three multi-tool stations, utilizing one station with 24 tools up to ½” in diameter, and two 6-tool stations with up to ¾” diameter. The result is 53 total tool stations, and a maximum punch diameter of 3.5”.

Additional features include multiple tool-holder sizes that can be switched from station to station, the option for additional index stations, multiple shaping capabilities, multiple job runs from one setup, and an automatic built-in scrap conveyor for fast scrap removal. The machine also offers fast loading and unloading with a smaller footprint.

Manor notes that this new press will allow for immediate tool availability in a short amount of time. The new press, along with Manor’s relationship with suppliers, allows them to have tools delivered to clients within two days.

Two days:  That’s good news for company and clients alike. 

Learn how tools like our new Turret Press allow us to help customers reduce the cost of Metal Stamped parts in our eBook:

Looking to cut down on cost?Download our Metal Stamping Cost Savings Guide

Budweiser: King of Beers and Can Design Engineering

Developing a cutting edge product and manufacturing it with extra factory capacity is certainly a win- win scenario, and one which Anheuser-Busch used to produce their new “bowtie” beer can.

If you’re like me, the first thing you thought when you saw this new design was, how did they manufacture it?

If you’re still scratching your head you’re not alone; it took Anheuser-Busch three years and $20 million to develop the equipment and process.

Traditional Can Manufacturing Process

In the final step, the top is trimmed and pressed inward in a process call “necking”; this forms a taper where the lid will later be attached after filling. There are beverage can systems that manufacture cans in this manner in speeds up to 2400 cans per minute.The traditional can is manufactured through a process of cold forming; in this process, a flat blank is formed into a cup,  the cup is then formed using a process called ironing. The dies used in the ironing phase also form the bottom of the can.

It goes without saying that this is a very evolved process, which makes one wonder how different the new process must be to require such a high development cost. In fact the new can costs more to manufacture: it requires twice the aluminum and contains 6% less beer than the traditional can.

With aluminum at over $0.80 per lb., one wonders if the investment will pay off.

New and Updated Manufacturing Process

Budweiser Bowtie Can

Though not much is yet known about the manufacturing process, it is safe to say that it begins with a standard can, with heavier walls. This would explain the extra material, which would have been necessary to produce the shape, as standard cans have wall thickness is only 0.0047”.

Forming the double conical bowtie shape requires a 16 step process that utilizes high precision spinning dies. In a progressive forming process the spinning dies are used to form the bottom of the can in a ten step process, followed by a 6 step process to form the top, and finally followed by the standard necking process.

Due to the physical properties of aluminum, the custom shape and thickness of the material, and the production volume that a product such as this requires, the dies and the system in general would require extreme precision.

Anyone who understands the complexity of high speed automation and precision dies can appreciate the amount of engineering that a system such as this requires.

The can is currently being manufactured at a 300,000-square-foot New Windsor, New York plant, which had to undergo significant changes to accommodate the manufacturing line.

The 150 employee facility has already produced over 18 million bowtie cans, which is just a fraction of the over 3 billion cans that they manufacture annually.

Get More Engineering Insights

Whether you’re interested in learning more about metal stamping (you can read about it on our resources library page here) or would like to discusss an upcoming project with one of our engineers, Manor Tool can help. Click the link below if you’d like to schedule a consultation. 

Get an Engineering Review of My Part