Efficiency: A shared commodity (December 12, 2015 by Mary MacDonald)
In the deadline-oriented world of manufacturing, executives rarely get to visit other businesses and find out how they have improved productivity.
Enter the all-access bus tour.
Polaris Manufacturing Extension Project, a division of the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation, launched the all-access tours this year to help manufacturers learn from fast-growing companies.
Last week, for the second time, the tour sold out, attracting company executives, managers and representatives to guided tours that included Parmatech-Proform Corp. in East Providence.
A standing-room-only group of 60 participants gathered for the Dec. 8 visit to Parmatech-Proform, before splitting into smaller groups to move through the production facility. The focus of the tour was lean practices in manufacturing, the tricks of making more-efficient use of time and staff.
The company produces metal injection molding components, used in applications that include medical devices and the automotive industry.
On the tour, participants learned how simple visual aids, in the form of colored tape placed on the floor, helped to identify where people and objects should be placed.
In the inspection area, where employees use magnifiers to review each component, a magnetic whiteboard now charts what job should be taking priority, allowing employees to self-direct themselves.
“It used to be, ‘What should I do next?’ ” said Robert DeQuattro, quality manager for Parmatech, a question that then sent the employee in search of someone who could identify the order they should prioritize.
“We’ve eliminated all of that,” DeQuattro said. “This board here will tell you who’s working on what.”
In the secondary-operations room, Alisha Bates, the production coordinator, pointed to two metal shelves and said they used to overflow with bags of components that needed to be reworked. At the time of the tour, the shelves had just one bag waiting.
Before the whiteboard was introduced, three departments were involved in the process, she said, and employees were getting mixed signals.
Through the more-efficient direction of employees, she said, her on-time delivery of orders improved from about 38-40 percent, to 86 percent last month.
How important is that for the company?
“Just about every single component comes through this room,” she said.
Virginia Weston, the quality manager for Precision Turned Components, of Smithfield, was a tour participant. At Parmatech-Proform, she was struck by the efficiency of the shipping department, where the company now uses ready-made plastic packaging to send product to its clients. This saves time in distribution because each container has a pre-established number of components.
It’s one of the ideas she’s taking back to Smithfield.