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Takahashi's Scheduler Case Book: Chapter 1

The Mysterious Case of the Vanishing Lead-Time

I was called in to visit Company A, a factory manufacturing shock absorbers that were being built for installation on bikes, cars and planes. A shock absorber is a piece of equipment used to buffer an object from the force of impact by converting that movement into heat (in the case of pneumatic or hydraulic shock absorbers). The energy from from the shock can be dissipated by using either a liquid, gas or even electromagnetism.

After examining the factory shop floor I discovered that the process flow was extremely long with between 40 to 50 processes including metal-working, piston rod hardening, product assembly and final painting. As a result of this they had an average lead time of 2 months! Anyway, I gathered all the factory's data for the processes, configured the scheduling parameters in Asprova and tried to create a production schedule for the shock absorbers. After some fine tuning I was finally able to succesfully produce a production schedule and view it on the Gantt chart.

To even the most experienced and skilled production planners trying to produce any kind of schedule for a 40 to 50 process manufacturing line at all is extremely difficult, let alone a schedule that is optimized to reduce later orders and improve lead times. However, with a production scheduler this is not only very simple to calculate but with a graphical interface to display the jobs as a Gantt chart it is also much easier for the planner to visualise the overall process flow as well.

After analyzing the results of the schedule we realised that we had been able to reduce the average manufacturing lead-time to just 2 weeks, a quarter of what it had been before. At first the planning supervisor couldn't believe the results so we double-checked to make sure that there hadn't been any mistakes but no, we had actually been able to cut the lead-time from 60 days to 14 days. Even I was surprised. However, the planning supervisor was supiciously silent. He now had the unenvious job of having to explain to the factory manager just exactly how he had been scheduling upto now to produce lead-times of 2 months.

Of course, although the production scheduler was able to drastically reduce the lead-time to 25% of what it originally was, that doesn't mean that the factory is going to be able to suddenly be able to change it's way of production so that it can carry out the manufacturing processes with the same level of efficiency. However, there is another advantage of a using a production scheduler, you can fine tune the parameters to slowly decrease the lead-time little by little. This allows the shop floor to then gradually carry out kaizen methods to improve their manufacturing.

The planning supervisor breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe it wasn't going to be so hard to explain about the improved lead-time to the factory manager after all.

Case Closed. . .


Learn more about Production Scheduling at Production Scheduling System Asprova

Written by Kuniyoshi Takahashi: Production Scheduling Case Book

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