Painting by Numbers

I was asked by a client to have a look at their production process.  The main problem seemed to be that the paint shop was a bottleneck and at busy times they struggled to get the throughput they needed.

The current state process map was interesting:

  • The paint system had a 12 hour curing time and they couldn’t afford an oven to speed the process up.  This, coupled with the availability of drying racks, defined the maximum throughput we could achieve.
  • Because the product was awkward to handle the painter needed help at busy times to allow him to concentrate on the value add task of painting.  There was no definition of the load above which the painter needed help.
  • The painter was responsible for cleaning down the surfaces prior to painting.  When we looked at this process it was obvious that there was a lot of variability in the cleanliness of the components when they arrived in the paint shop and sometimes it took longer to clean the components than it did to paint them.

As I was facilitating the “Analyse” phase of the DMAIC I gave the team a couple of gentle pushes: one towards taking the variability out of the process so that we could plan effectively and one towards defining the inputs to the painting process.  In fact the SIPOC (Supplier, Input, Process Output, Customer) was the key to removing the variability.  The upstream processes were supposedly responsible for ensuring that the components were clean when they were delivered to the paint shop, but there was no definition of what this meant.

We came up with a simple planning sheet that allowed the production manager and the painter to build up a daily plan.  The sheet consisted of a simple matrix in which the job number, component and colour could be entered.  Part of the matrix was shaded and if jobs had to be entered into this region then the painter would need help.  The production manager then used this sheet to pull work into the paint shop.

We provided lint free cloths and a degreaser for each of the upstream processes and modified their SOP to include a definition of what a clean component should look like.

Lessons learned

Defining the inputs to a process is often the key to making it more effective.  Carrying out a SIPOC analysis ensures that the inputs are correct.

Once we’d defined the inputs all we had to do was create a visual plan for each day and define the load above which the painter required assistance.

Understanding the capacity of the paint shop and pulling work into it made the whole process a lot easier to manage.

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Posted in Lean