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Production Planning & Control Perceiving optimal shopfloor practices

Nov 2, 2015

Optimal shopfloor practices in addition to performance metrics mark world-class competitiveness in automotive manufacturing. The round-table shares the insights of Production Heads in terms of production flexibility, continuous improvement programmes, sustainable initiatives and training activities.

In today’s competitive environment, organisations must practice good manufacturing techniques for achieving zero defects, high quality products, delivery, safety, morale and productivity. Productivity is the most important which need to be attained at the utmost level. The feature discusses an in-depth know-how to achieve manufacturing excellence. Plant heads sharing the good practices of shopfloor are Dr Ravi Damodaran, President (Strategy & Technology), Varroc Group; Pravinkumar Fatangare, Plant Manager— Mechatronics, KSPG Automotive India; Jeganathan P, Vice President—Manufacturing and Logistics, WABCO India and Sunil Humnabadkar, ex-Vice President, Operations (Automotive), Avtec Ltd.

From shopfloor to top floor

It is important for an organisation to focus on operational excellence models from shopfloor to top floor towards achieving the long-term goals. Commenting his thoughts on the same, Humnabadkar says, “To achieve the long term goals in manufacturing environment implementation of JIPM–TPM methodology is the most important factor which involves the engagement of lower level shopfloor workers of all types, including contractual.” Further highlighting the practices followed in his shopfloor, Jeganathan avers, “We are a TQM company, stretch goals are set and achieved through policy management. In the operational area, we have a strong conviction on TPM as a tool to make sure that the manufacturing is always available to meet customer demand with higher levels of flexibility. To run faster than the competitors, we are adapting lean as the phase 2 of TPM. The lean tools and techniques are derived from TPM and global experience. The blend of this brings us many important operational standards which helps us focus on entire operating system to sustain and move forward on achieving the stretch targets to keep us competitive. We also strongly believe that engaging talent in our initiatives will give us success.”

On the other hand, Fatangare stresses that Lean Six Sigma philosophy is practiced aggressively as an operational excellence model, which is primarily based on five elements, viz. 5S, standardisation, visual management, problem solving, and employee integration. He further adds, “In our shopfloor, continuous improvement in material flow is mainly driven via Value Stream Map. Six Sigma DMAIC approach is being practiced for problem solving on various assembly and machining processes. 5S is a chosen journey to continuously have the shopfloor uplifted.”

Looking at the changing market scenario, Damodaran emphasises, “The last few years of sluggishness in the industry has been an opportunity to review our operational efficiencies. We have set excellence standards in terms of manufacturing system capabilities and reliabilities to be the best in the industry by 2020. We have TPM as an operational excellence program initiated over half a decade back and have covered more than half of our India footprint so far. While most continuous improvement programs were focused on improving manufacturing systems reliability in the initial stages, the focus is now shifting to process capabilities and productivity improvement.”

Implementing right mix of automation

Staying competitive in manufacturing, demands the utmost in automation. But, even at times, the best of automation and advanced technologies could fail to give ROI if the strategy or timing of automation is wrong. Agreeing on the same, Humnabadkar believes that the automation needs to be implemented wherein the direct workforce is very old and efficiency is a challenge. “However in today’s manufacturing scenario where temporary or contracts are used for manufacturing, the automation does not justify from the ROI point of view. It has to be a right mix of manual and some LCA - low cost automation,” he further adds.

Automation is best done once the manufacturing process has been converted into a lean process with minimum waste. Citing an example, Damodaran says, “If I were to give an analogy of automating the process of folding a shirt – the right time to automate it is if one has perfected a process to fold it in say two steps instead of the conventional 4 or 5 steps.” He further comments, “While automation improves cycle time and quality, for our fragmented industry with either low volume per part number or low value per part, it is critical to achieve a lean manufacturing process first, prior to automation, as this requires a minimum scale. Our industry requires in-house lean manufacturing experts, who are empowered to drive such initiatives out of class rooms into shopfloors.”

On similar lines, Jeganathan opines, “We introduce automation only where the business is demanding. Also, we believe that we should possess the automation technology instead of buying it. This helps in deciding the right amount of automation at a very low cost with higher levels of reliability. We have developed a very strong team of engineers, to understand the business needs and to design our own automation technologies. By these strategies most of our automations returns are achieved less than a year.”

However, taking a different approach, Fatangare believes that consistency in quality and productivity can be sustained with the robust processes. “Automation, to the extent of avoiding human dependency on process conformance, shall enable to have reliable processes and fulfill the customer demand. Strategy of having reliable and robust processes will lead to optimal ROI” he shares.

Selecting the right tool & technology

Changing demand trends insist that smart technologies and production management systems incorporated in the shopfloors as well as in the supply chain will provide higher production flexibility, and lower production costs. Taking forward on this approach, Humnabadkar adds, “We run schemes like 1 Kaizen/person/quarter; implement the Poka Yoke for all the assembly lines since the inception/conceptualisation of the program and use 2 bin system for Kanban and JIT. This is achieved by regulating the shop/job order through the ERP which will help both the production and stores departments to manage their work efficiently. In fact, we make the stores and line feeding system person independent by taking the advantage of the ERP.”

On similar lines, Jeganathan agrees that talent engagement, Poka Yoke, Six Sigma, Kanban and Kaizen are the foundation for his company’s journey towards excellence. “Our engineers are capable of designing processes with technologies like Visions system, CNC, AGVs, navigation tracking system for logistics, etc. At the shop floor level, the operators and team leaders are engaged to improve the QCD targets using tools like Kaizen, Poka Yoke, suggestions, QC circles, Six Sigma projects, etc” he adds. Contributing to the same subject, Fatangare avers, “Quality and productivity issues are addressed with Six Sigma approach. Scrap cost and customer complaints are the key indicators for the operation performance leading to not just customer satisfaction but also determines customer delight. Poka Yoke is extensively used in various assembly and machining processes, as well as extended in packaging and logistics process. Kanban with 2 bin system triggers material feeding to assembly lines.”
However, taking a different approach, Damodaran signifies that companies, who understand the sequence of implementing production management tools, will be the first to realise the benefits of investing in such tools. Citing an example, he says, “Six Sigma is not the right tool to use if the baseline process capability is 2 Sigma or less. Similarly, level scheduling is ineffective if the customer schedule adherence discipline is poor.” Sharing his company’s initiative, he further highlights, “Our factories in India have different baselines and we apply the right tools in the right sequence to progress on the operational excellence path. So we have progressed from basic 5S, Poka Yoke, Kanban and Kaizen in most factories to achieving JIT. We are in the process of initiating usage of Six Sigma tools in our Indian factories, while our international operations are already using this as a standard practice.”

Shopfloor training initiatives

It is the organisation’s response to initiate training activities to improve employee productivity as well as to support Green Manufacturing and Zero Defect Manufacturing. Adding his comments on this, Humnabadkar says, “We enhance the skill of the operator by giving dedicated training of 5 man-days/year as well as an on job training by providing 30 minutes activity in line with the JIPM-TPM – Jishu Hosen Philosophy which supports the Green Manufacturing and Zero Defect.”
On the other hand, Jeganathan believes that providing experience based safety training is mandatory to all the employees. “Fusion of TQM culture with Six Sigma culture from our global operations, helps in developing talent, process and equipment’s capable of producing ‘Zero Defect’ with a strong employee engagement. We have developed our own training centres to develop our talents in various areas. Policy deployment up to the level of first level supervisor helps in improving productivity by a ‘bottoms-up’ approach,” he says.

Focussing on employee motivation, Fatangare adds, “Incentive scheme based on sales, customer complaints and absenteeism has supported to not only have motivated employees but further improve the KPIs significantly. Product development with robust process design makes the smooth product launch supporting Green Manufacturing and Zero Defect Manufacturing.” Highlighting his company’s initiative on employee training, Damodaran shares, “Some of the regular trainings we focus on in India are on TPM tools and basic operational areas such as inventory management, machine programming, ERP tools, instrumentation and basic problem solving. A significant number of our Kaizens and Poke Yoke are driven by reduction of energy and water in factories. Replacement of grid energy with alternate energy such as wind power and solar energy is another initiative.”

Challenges faced on shopfloors

According to Humnabadkar, the major challenges faced on the shopfloor are the technology upgradation of the equipment at an apt time which results in attracting newer customers who wish to have everything world-class at an optimal cost. He recommends, “It would be better to upkeep the plant and machinery and make it more on the lines of FMS – Flexible Manufacturing System. This will help manufacturing to support the product configurations which are getting more complex in the years to come.” Addressing on the challenges faced in shopfloors, Jeganathan believes that poor discipline carried from outside environment into the shopfloor is one of the key challenges. “When we go for ‘Make in India’ with a globally acceptable quality levels, discipline in the process and behaviours are vital. Since we have little control over outside environment, continuous and consistent coaching & guiding of employees are a must,” he believes.

Adding his comments on the employee motivation programme, Fatangare says, “Today’s shopfloor employees are educated and skilled with a high degree of IQ. Monotonous and repetitive tasks, without a learning journey makes them demoralised. Approach of engaging the lowest level person in the company’s vision, mission statement with a focus on individual development plan will support to motivate the people.” He further signifies the importance of change management approach. “Any change in product or process may have vital effect on product performance. Practicing robust change management, addressing the four M (Man, Machine, Material and Method) change verification and validation will support to address the potential risk of shipping the deviated products,” he adds.

On similar lines, Damodaran opines, “Worker training and motivation seems to be the most important challenge for manufacturing industries like us who rely on a large contract labour force. Secondly, the lack of lean manufacturing experts on the shopfloor has impeded rapid penetration of production management tools. Both are driven by an impatient and unimaginative management that is not exposed to or cannot understand the impact of investing in these areas. A sustained change management initiative to transform our factory managers into believers of lean manufacturing principles would be the first big step in addressing these challenges.”

Way to smart manufacturing

Global technology analysts suggest that Industry 4.0 will boost the productivity and growth in manufacturing industries. Agreeing on the same, Fatangare says, “Industry 4.0 will boost the productivity by keeping the value stream completely connected from supplier to customer. It would have real time information of performance and enable management to act quickly and speedily.” Looking on the capability of Indian manufacturing, Jeganathan emphasises, “India has full capability to leverage Industry 4.0 to become factory of the world. We have lot of talents with frugal mindset who can create smart factories with digital manufacturing. But in my view, infrastructure development will decide whether we will leverage it or not.”

On similar lines, Damodaran elaborates, “There is no doubt that Industry 4.0 will certainly take productivity, capability, reliability and growth to the next level. However, our readiness as an industry is poor and we as a country have severe challenges to tackle before we can implement smart factories. Shopfloor manpower has to graduate from hand to computer skills, while IT and connectivity infrastructure have to leapfrog to space age levels, dust and cleanliness levels have to reach medical standards, machine reliabilities and process capabilities have to be at Six Sigma levels, uninterrupted power of high quality should be a must at all points in the supply chain and lastly the top organisation in the supply chain should be willing to compromise “flexibility” with discipline in processes. However, the most difficult challenge is to transform a traditionally technology shy factory owner into a believer in the need to overcome all the above challenges.” On a concluding note, Humnabadkar says, “It is good that we start talking on Industry 4.0 now, so that it can happen in the near future if perceived aggressively by the industry supported by the infrastructure.”

Image Gallery

  • “Companies implementing the right sequence of production management tools will realise the benefits of investing”
    Dr Ravi Damodaran, President (Strategy and Technology), Varroc Group

  • “Scrap cost & customer complaints are the key indicators for the operation performance leading to customer delight”
    Pravinkumar Fatangare, Plant Manager— Mechatronics, KSPG Automotive India

  • “To run faster than the competitors, we are adapting lean as the phase 2 of TPM”
    Jeganathan P, Vice President—Manufacturing and Logistics, WABCO India

  • “The major challenges faced on the shopfloor are the technology upgradation of the equipment at an apt time”
    Sunil Humnabadkar, ex-Vice President, Operations (Automotive), Avtec Ltd

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