Continuous Improvement Tool: Quality Circle

Kaoru Ishikawa, a professor at Tokyo University, is attributed with much of the development of the idea of quality circles. It created great excitement in the West in the 1980s, at a time when every Japanese management technique was treated with great respect. A quality circle is a small group of between three and 12 people who do the same or similar work, voluntarily meeting together regularly for about one hour per week in paid time, usually under the leadership of their own supervisor, and trained to identify, analyze and solve some of the problems in their work, presenting solutions to management and, where possible, implementing solutions themselves.

Most people have the ability to tackle a wide range of problems at work in an imaginative and creative way. However, the ability of an average person at work is used partly. The QC concept assumes that once members are trained, they will be able to organize themselves to use their time effectively and there will be no need of outsiders to tell them what to do. If everyone is given a chance to use his/her talents to solve work related problems collectively, the results will be extremely positive. Problems at work place are best solved by the people most affected.

Ira B. Gregerman outlined a number of requirements for a business contemplating the use of quality circles. First, the business owner should be comfortable with a participative management approach. It is also important that the business have good, cooperative labor-management relations, as well as the support of middle managers for the quality circle program. The owner must be willing and able to commit the time and resources needed to train the employees who will participate in the program, particularly the quality circle leaders and facilitators. It may even be necessary to hire outside facilitators if the time and expertise does not exist in-house.

Some businesses may find it helpful to establish a steering committee to provide direction and guidance for quality circle activities. Even if all these requirements are met, the business will only benefit from quality circles if employee participation is voluntary, and if employees are allowed some input into the selection of problems to be addressed. Finally, the owner must allow time for the quality circles to begin achieving desired results; in some cases, it can take more than a year for expectations to be met.

Successful quality circles offer a wide variety of benefits for businesses. For example, they serve to increase management’s awareness of employee ideas, as well as employee awareness of the need for innovation within the company. Quality circles also serve to facilitate communication and increase commitment among both labor and management. In enhancing employee satisfaction through participation in decision-making, such initiatives may also improve business’s ability to recruit and retain qualified employees. In addition, many companies find that quality circles further teamwork and reduce employee resistance to change.

Reliable resources gathered from Asprova allows QC members to validate that the “problems” are indeed problems, select the priority problem, and again use the information to define the extent of that problem. Besides, our advanced planning and scheduling functions also facilitate QC members to devise solutions to such problems that will ultimately improve business’s overall competitiveness by reducing costs, improving quality, and promoting innovation.

 

Photo credits: flickr © 드림포유

Asprova|Multi-Process

In Asprova, you can also schedule the items going through multiple processes and at the same time monitor inventory movements. In this sample, you will see an item processed through the following:

1

This is called straight process and can be setup in the system. The following parameters should also be setup: process code, resource, production time, setup time, time constraint (or the waiting time) etc.

In this sample, input the process codes such as Cut for the first process, Press for the second process and Inspection for the third process. Set Cutter 1 as a resource for the Cut process, and Press 1 and Press 2 for the Press process. Since cutting will take 1 minute per item, set 1mp as the production time for the Cutter 1. Use the same value for Press and Inspection. If there is a waiting time between processes, this needs to be setup in the ES input as time constraint. In this sample, we have a 60m waiting time between the Cut and Press and Press and Inspection processes. As soon as all the necessary parameters are inputted, you can now run the schedule to manufacture A items in the factory.

2

Change the Inventory order of item A to Production order instead. Input the order quantity, priority and display color in the order table.

3

Press the reschedule button and view the schedule in the Resource Gantt chart. From this chart, you will see that item A is produced through the 3 processes: Cutter, Press and Inspection. The output item A will then be used as a supply in the Assembly process of Order 2 and Order 1 for item AX. The same as in the previous samples, the inventory of the items will be decreased as it is being used up in the processing of orders.

4

To learn more about Asprova specific to this sample demonstration, you may visit Asprova’s e-Learning videos at http://lib.asprova.com (see 22. How to make a prototype).

How to Successfully Implement a Production Scheduling Software

Flickr ©Scott

Flickr ©Scott

Every software implementation needs thorough preparation and planning to ensure success. Over the past years, Asprova has had its fair share of success and failures in the implementation of its Production Scheduling software. Based on actual experiences from our customers, here are important points to take note to be able to successfully implement a Production Scheduling software:

Set clear and in between ideal and realistic goals. To define these goals, understand first why your company needs a Production Scheduling software. Create a project plan that clearly articulates business requirements. Analyze the requirements and ensure to set goals in between realistic and ideal – be able to separate wish lists from the attainable ones. Lastly, goals have to be set with great focus on the company’s bottom line – PROFIT. For example:

1. Be able to answer quickly and accurately → Aiming at the increase of customer satisfaction and sales

2. Reduce inventory → Aiming at cutting costs

3. Shorten production lead time → Aiming at improving agility to respond to customer needs as well as cutting costs

• Build a prototype. Before implementation, it is recommended that a prototype be built first to be able to completely examine the functions of the system. This will help you decide whether the functions of the system will work for you or not.

• Keep additional software development to an absolute minimum. Too much customization may derail your implementation due to time constraints, possible bugs and uncontrollable costs. Take the opportunity to evaluate your processes first. Then, try to solve using the standard functions of the system.Taking into consideration all these important factors will help your company in successfully implementing a Production Scheduling software and in achieving your end goal of hitting profit plans.

Are you planning to implement a Production Scheduler in your factory? If so, we strongly recommend that you download the free trial version of Asprova and watch our e-Learning videos.

 

 

Photo credits: Flickr ©Scott

Classifications in Manufacturing Industries Part I

Silk factory

BY PRODUCTION PROCESS

Assembly type

This is one of the most commonly used classifications. It pertains to factories where parts are assembled to make a product. This is also known as “discrete type”.

Process type

This is also one of the most commonly used classifications. It is where the product is produced from the material through a chemical change. Process type is also known as “non-discrete type”.

BY PRODUCT TYPE AND PRODUCTION VOLUME

Mass production of scant kind of products

From a factory’s point of view, this classification is efficient. This is mainly because it is easier to mass produce than to create different products.

Small volume production of diversified products

Recent trends show that mass production of scant products is slowly dropping away. This is why small volume production of varied products came to be. This is developed to meet the different needs of consumers.

BY STOCK POINT

Make-To-Order (MTO)

As discussed in the previous paragraph, consumer needs vary. So, in order to satisfy the growing needs of the populace, MTO was conceived. MTO is generally a business production strategy that allows customers to buy products that are customized to meet their specifications.

Make-To-Stock (MTS)

This is the traditional production strategy. It relies on demand forecasts that determine how much stock should be produced.

 

The Basics of Production Management

Scheduling is just a small part in the entire collage of production management. It is an important factor that influences the other areas involved in achieving the goals of production. We’ve published many articles focusing on the different scheduling angles of production. This time, however, we’d like to try to review and reanalyze the fundamentals of managing a production system.

Tomoichi Sato, an expert in production management, defines the production system as a “system to convert demand information into products.” That statement also serves as the main goal of production. “This system is composed of humans, machinery and the space provided by normally a kind of building.

They are generally called resources, human resource and mechanical resource,” he adds.

Human resource – this is generally defined as the set of individuals who make up the workforce

of an organization, business sector, or economy.

Mechanical resource – this refers to the machines that are used in production.

According to Sato, the ability to create a production plan can also be termed production control. He underscored that “control” is a more detailed (or stronger, in a sense) word as compared to “management”. Schedulers have the ability to control and influence the results of the entire production system.

PrdSys02-thumb-522x267

Mr. Sato also has a different perspective about what is the main input in production. Conventional view, he said, is to “regard raw materials or parts as input into production system which converts them into products” but his view is quite unconventional, he continued by saying that “The main input is not the raw materials or the parts but the demand information.” In his view, the raw materials, parts and resources are the needed support to convert demand information into products.

Do you agree with Tomoichi Sato’s perspective?

 

Lead time reduction: what are its effects?

Reducing Lead Time

Lead time reduction, was previously discussed in the article Lead Time Reduction and the Limits of MRP published under the umbrella of Production Scheduling Lessons in this site. It is generally known as reducing the latency (or delay) between the initiation and execution of a process. This is a very important feat in production.

A world renowned manufacturer, who launched the first facsimiles for office use,  that was in the expanding phase in their sales, experienced an increase in the high- mix and low-volume production. As demand increases, the need for production processes goes up along with it. The company needed to increase their machines and make production more efficient. They needed a production scheduler to make the processes smoother, and they called for Asprova.

To be more efficient in production, they needed to reduce lead time. If a company needs to reduce inventory, it would be better if they would rather reduce lead time than directly reducing inventory itself. Asprova gave them just the help they needed.

After implementation of this production scheduler, they were able to witness a great reduction in lead time—it was actually cut in half. WIP (Work-in-process) inventory was also reduced by 50%. They improved the efficiency of the whole production process. They even experienced a reduction in delivery delay.

How a Synchronized MRP and Finite Capacity Scheduler Helped a Cosmetic Company?

MTO Manufacturer Still Using Excel

In a Make-To-Order cosmetic product manufacturing, checking material availability usually takes a long time, sometimes it takes too long, that customers would rather cancel the order instead. It is very hard to keep up with order changes and respond to when this happens often. A Japan-based company specializing in: powders, lip sticks, and cream—experienced this setback.

The company utilized an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software as the core system  in the past. This proved to be incompatible with their production setting because it took them a long time to complete all their processes and it was simply unstable. They even  had  to manually schedule using MS Excel for their scheduling because of this issue.

Finite Capacity Scheduling

However, these matters were resolved through the installation of a Finite Capacity Scheduler (FCS) software called Asprova. The company wanted to combine the two concepts to form a process that would utilize both MRP and FCS. And they succeeded by overcoming many challenges in conceptualizing how this would work (for a more detailed explanation click here—case study 14).

After switching from ERP to FCS, the company experienced a considerable reduction in manual workload, precision in scheduling, realized functionality of MRP, and  realized the computation of synchronized MRP and FCS in only 6 minutes—now that’s a quick (and also accurate) response to frequent order changes.

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