Tasks and answers
Task 1: To what extent could or should Deane expect to apply the philosophies and techniques of JIT/Lean to the running of a staircase cell? Staircases Production Company (SPC) is a small, successful, privately owned timber and building materials company based in a small city in the UK. The company offers a wide variety of timber products, from regular doors, windows and staircases to special products such as non-standard sections or special profiles (i.e. old designs of skirting board). Its products stand out from its main competitors (small joinery businesses) with high levels of quality. Due to the quality of its products as well as the huge demand of special stairs in the region, sales has been increasing steady year by year particularly special stairs. However, the business is not as profitable as it was expected and some important customers have been complained recently due to late deliveries. Because of the loss of profitability, Dean Hammond, the new appointed General Manager of SPC, is thinking about carrying out some changes in the organisation in order to cope with the current problems. Precisely, he thinks Lean and Just-in-Time principles and techniques might help SPC increase its profitability as well as improve the performance of the whole organisation. However, although this philosophy has been applied successfully to manufacturing and operations environment (Chowdary and George 2012), Mr. Hammond unknowns if the application of Lean principles in a company that produces a high variety and low volume of products would make sense. The Lean management approach, developed by Taiichi Ohno (1912-1990) at Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan, forms the basis for the Toyota Production System. The term Lean was first introduced in 1990 in the book entitled The Machine that Changed the World by Womack, Jones and Roos. In "Lean thinking", 5 principles were put forward an implementation framework to be used by an organisation (Womack et al. 1990): •
Specify value from the customer’s perspective,
Identify and understand the value stream,
Improve work flow (minimize interruptions during processing), •
Let value flow only through the customer's pull (all work is initiated by customer demand), and •
Pursue perfection continuously (the goal is zero waste)
The core idea of Lean philosophy is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. From a production perspective, Lean manufacturing uses Just-in-Time (JIT) approach as its production strategy for minimizing waste and improving quality (MindTool 2013). JIT provides for the cost-effective production and delivery of only the necessary quality parts, in the right quantity at the right time and place, while using a minimum of facilities, equipment, materials and human resources. JIT is accomplished through the application of specific techniques which require total employee involvement and teamwork (Lee and Ebrahimpour 1984). The application of these principles in the manufacturing and assembling processes characterized by a high variety and high volume (HVHV) of activity has been widely proven a great success. However, the difficulties associated with applying Lean principles within HVLV organization have been identified and analysed by Jina et. al (1997). The analysis of the applicability of Lean principles in SPC has been carried out taking into consideration some aspects analysed by Jina et al. (1997): •
Product and product demand. The manufacturing and assembling process of SPC begins with a customer's order (simple dimensioned sketches of the required product) what is called “pull system”. Customer's pull demand is one of the principles of Lean and it enables a company to produce only what is required, in the correct quantity and at the correct time. However, the nature of the orders (called "make to order") makes the application of the Lean principles a huge challenge for SPC due to small changes of the inputs (changes in the schedule,...
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