Log Jams and Bottle Necks

You know the key to positively impacting your bottom line is to get product through the plant and to your customers quickly and with minimal waste. Of course, any supervisor or manager with even a week's worth of experience knows that this is far easier said than done. You can create smoother throughput, less waste and ultimately more profit by observing time.

There are plenty of time measurements taken by the successful Lean plant as we covered in a previous issue. In order to keep things nicely flowing in on your shop floor it's important to develop balance between Takt time and cycle time. Cycle time is straightforward and measurable. It's how long it takes to produce the product with your current resources. It can be either a plant-wide, start-to-finish measurement or a very specific measurement of one repetition of a task or set of work elements.

Takt time, from the German word for beat or rhythm, Takzeit, calculates your production rate and reflects the synchronization of your throughput to customer demand. It's like the drum beat keeping the rhythm for the marching band – without a consistent beat, band members would be marching to their own rhythms, looking chaotic at best and crashing into each other at worst. The drummer keeps everyone in step.

The same thing is true on you production floor. When production rates are not in synch, you end up with log jams and bottle necks at one place (read: over production) and a lot of waiting farther downstream (read: waiting and waste). It's also critical to match cycle time with Takt time. For example, if you can produce 475 units in your 900 minutes of available production from the example above, your cycle time is 1.9 minutes. It's out of synch with the Takt time (1.8 minutes). Uh-oh. You're in for late shipments, shortages and overtime. If you can produce 550 units, your cycle time becomes 1.6 minutes, and now you're in for overproduction and waste caused by too much inventory.

Ideally, when your Takt time matches your cycle time, production flows at the rate at which it's needed. No log jams and bottle necks and no overtime or unhappy customers. You probably know if your times are out of synch based on your current headache – screaming customers or inventory spilling into the aisles. But in order to make an improvement, that sort of yardstick is not nearly accurate enough, and any changes you make based on "gut reaction" will probably tip the problem in the other direction.

Getting accurate, real-time measurements is not as challenging as you may think. It's what we specialize in at MPower. Our system provides you with up-to-the-minute reporting that allows you to make changes and adjustments quickly, and then immediately evaluate those to ensure you are creating the synchronicity you need for optimum efficiency.

Contact us to learn how the MPower system can provide the information you need to keep you in synch and avoiding log jams and bottle necks.