Throughput is mindset based on passion and process

Rapid changes in the market and in technology require managers to continuously troubleshoot, as throughput is a mindset based on passion and process.

By Gary Winslow, Ghafari Associates December 6, 2016

"One person with passion is better than 40 people merely interested." wrote English novelist E. M. Forster. Getting your team to share the passion and understand the process, makes anything possible and throughput a given.

A top personal vehicle manufacturer constructed a new facility to manufacture its flagship product.

However, when it came time to meet the production requirements, the plant had a hard time delivering as expected. What had gone wrong?

There were a couple obvious reasons why:

  • Severe weather during the installation greatly affected the completion, thereby delaying the launch of the new system.
  • Delayed completion affected the duration of the launch, not allowing the team to become familiar with the new system technology.

After those two issues were addressed, two unanticipated factors were discovered that had the greatest impact. Customers loved the product and were willing to pay a little more for a more custom paint finish. The more complex paint finishing process changed the original model mix and required more process time. Second, the flexibility of the coating process originally defined by the paint supplier did not meet the workability required for the process.

To tackle throughput issues related to the quality of a painted finish of a vehicle requires a careful and systematic analysis.

The following examples and recommendations cover supply chain quality requirements and define the costs of inventory waste, motion waste, waiting waste, overproduction, over processing, and defect waste. If the issues require a quality control deep dive, when should one be done? Furthermore, over the course of a years-long project, technology makes advances, and as a result, expectations and measurement standards can become more demanding. What factors must be considered when scheduling time to launch? Factors ranging from inadequate training or color changes can result in significant loss of production efficiency.

In the case of the personal vehicle project, the metrics established to measure throughput and quality did not fully address how far the industry had gone from initial concept to launch. Model mixes that predicted what the customers wanted, did not comprehend the volume of higher-end products. Coatings from the paint supplier did not deliver the workability required. Quality measurements continued to advance during construction. The plant paint shop management did not grasp the complexity of the system and, as a result, did not implement the necessary training.

Here are a few insights to consider:

Be sure everyone in the supply chain can meet the quality requirements. As with international nuclear treaties, trust but verify. Subject Matter Expert (SME) for quality and materials should go to the parts suppliers to validate processes and quality. Perform lab testing on all proposed coatings and define the process to validate quality once received. Quality is a closed-loop process.

Without quality, throughput does not exist. That is why poor quality drives the several forms of waste commonly associated with Lean Manufacturing: transport, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, resources, over processing and defects are all factors in a paint shop not meeting their quality metrics.

Transport is wasted in moving parts to repair facilities or stations. Inventory waste means maintaining more raw materials for additional parts. Motion waste, in this industry, means additional sanding, painting and finessing parts to meet quality. Waiting waste means waiting to repair bad parts and assembly lines waiting for good parts. Overproduction means having to process more parts because of scrap from quality. Waste is also seen when resources are not fully utilized or are focused in the wrong areas. The over processing of parts to meet quality creates several forms of waste. Often the repairing of parts by itself can cause defects.

Validate system performance and quantify the first parts produced to meet the quality metrics established in the project charter. If quality does not meet the metrics established in the charter, a quality control deep dive may be required. Here are 12 considerations:

"It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory." ~W. Edwards Deming. Often the very survival of a project or a company depends on improving quality. At times it requires a deep dive into the basic processes and procedures that are at the core of your business. During those times, leadership is most critical. When an honest dialog can be established, amazing things can happen.

Break the process down into steps. Painting is a very complex process. Are the raw materials of the right quality? Leaders have to be open to change and recommendations-when leaders set aside preconceived notions-even longstanding assumptions-at the start of a project, new opportunities to achieve the next level take center stage. When you coat a product, the orientation of the part is important.

Throughput is more than a number, it is a mindset based on passion and process. The old adage that cleanliness is next to godliness must have come from a paint shop leader. Nothing affects quality like dirt and unfortunately most of the dirt defects are from paint shop personnel (see defect graphic). Understanding the causes of dirt defects and the processes to prevent them are key factors in reducing them. Being passionate about cleanliness and part preparation prior to coating can greatly improve quality. Understanding the processes that drive quality combined with having the passion to learn the system and lead the team will have a direct impact on quality. Getting the quality right from the beginning sets the tone for the department and shows that quality is the driver to throughput.

It takes time to get the quality right and then increase production. But if you try to get production then improve quality, it is a very hard road: costs skyrocket from poor quality, and the need for speed increases waste and repair costs so management cuts back on spending. If a leader is focused on building quality and still can’t make rate, look for what changed.

Changes can be singular or a variety or combination of several things. Go back to the project charter and design criteria to validate that the basic assumptions were correct. If they have changed, you need to baseline the original criteria. Then, through change management, redefine the new requirements. Sometimes model mixes that predicted customers’ wants did not comprehend the volume of higher end products. This results in additional process times and routes impacting throughput.

It’s a possibility the coatings from the paint supplier did not deliver the workability required. When you consider all the different exterior factors that can affect a paint coating, it is easy to see how a predicted coating made three years in advance may not have coverage, film build, repair ability, cohesion, orange peel, distinction of image and other metrics that are required to approve the coating. Almost all clients have a defined procedure to validate a coating through testing that cannot be compromised.

Another variable is that quality measurements may have continued to advance during construction. On a recent project, the team sent the first painted part to their central office for review and was told by their executive that the team had created a major problem. The quality of the coating was better on the first part than expected for the final validated part. The team had to improve on appearance by a certain percentage that they typically experienced in a launch even though it was better than expected. The complexity of the system and necessary training may not be fully comprehended by the client. One of the most common mistakes made when building a new system is that the client does not realize how the change in technology would require a significant change in thinking. It has long been understood that effecting change requires a significant emotional event. Building a new system with new technology creates that significant event, and clients do not realize the extensive need for training. All processes and standardized work will most likely need to be rewritten. This is the time to give the critical thinking and problem solving classes. Even something as simple as a clean room policy that may have never been given a thought may need to be established. This is the time to change the attitude of I’VE ALWAYS DONE IT THIS WAY. WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO CHANGE? All the new technology needs to be taught, including new predictive/preventive maintenance training. The new ways to process and repair parts all need to be taught. We have given several workshops on training people, and when management tries to get it all done in two weeks to save money, it backfires. Training takes time and must be used to be retained. The old adage, "use it or lose it," is never more evident than in training.

Take the time to launch it right. It is much easier to get the quality right and then improve speed than to launch too quickly and improve quality later. If quality is at a 2016 level and the customers change during that time, that quality metric changes and the project charter should change to build best in class quality. Best in class is a snapshot of a point in time. Sometimes the client’s competitor may launch a new system prior to your launch that is better than the expected quality of your product. So your client does not want to be shown launching a new system at a lower quality than their competitor, so you have to find ways to get better results.

Paint applicators are the last piece the paint sees before getting on the part. It is imperative that applicators get cleaned at a regular frequency during production to maintain quality. If the next part being painted is the same color, it is a simple cleaning. If you are changing colors, it is more extensive because you must purge all the remaining colors in the paint lines feeding the applicators to prevent cross contamination of colors. (I’ve seen pink cars because the red paint was not fully removed from the paint lines for the white car being painted.) This is a major reason for color batching the same color in production schedule.

These color changes between color batches may seem insignificant, but when a paint shop does not make rate, you need to come back to the basics to find what impacted throughput. We discovered that the time programmed to perform color changes, as well as the frequency, often exceeded those identified by the customer at the start of the project. The plant had just assumed how long it would take without actual testing, so when they experienced some quality issues, they assumed it was dirty applicators, and they kept increasing the color change time. When we timed the color changes and the frequency and added all the lost time together, it equaled over 16 hours a week of lost production.

Factors that go into efficient production can be subject to Pareto analysis. For example, before painting a part, it must be clean. While waiting to be painted, it must not be contaminated. Leaders prioritize the defects and resolve them one at a time, performing the Pareto analysis after each resolution.

Benchmarking is crucial because you must have the data. There are, of course, always human factors, always changes. But when leaders do everything by the book and the result is wrong, leaders have to look at the questions they are asking. What data was not present? When isolating the cause of the delay, they followed the famous logic of Sherlock Holmes: "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Getting quality and throughput takes passion and leadership. Gary Convis, President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Kentucky, stated, "Management has no more critical role than motivating and engaging large numbers of people to work together toward a common goal. Defining and explaining what that goal is, sharing a path to achieving it, motivating people to take the journey with you, and assisting them by removing obstacles-these are management’s reason for being."

A Passionate Mindset

Because of the number of variables in the development of a complex process, data capture and benchmarking are essential features in planning throughput and maintaining quality standards. Rapid changes in the market and in technology require managers to continuously troubleshoot the logic of process steps and to look for delays that can result in costly downtime on the production line, as throughput is a mindset based on passion and process.

-Gary Winslow is group manager for Ghafari Associates