Summers Laser Focus Improves Performance While Reducing Costs
Summers Manufacturing was founded in 1965 by Harley Summers. Today, they are a 100-percent employee-owned company. That means every employee has a stake in the company’s success. As a result, their focus is solely on customers…not on shareholders. It’s everybody’s personal endeavor to develop Field Tested Tough equipment that’s better than anything else you’ll find.
Their mission is to build field-tested tough agricultural equipment to help farmers feed and fuel the world.
In order to respond to customer needs more quickly, the company purchased a laser fabrication center (cell) for the Devils Lake facility. The fabrication center processes different thicknesses of sheet metal; with the goal of bringing in-house some of the parts that were being processed by outside suppliers.
Initially the company faced many challenges which included random placement of many sheets of sheet metal all around the cell area. There was no organization or transparency of what was in the cell. Frequently there was shortage of materials. At times, it was difficult to identify the materials needed for jobs. The processed parts were also assigned to random locations and left-over materials (drops) were stacked on top of each other. This discouraged the cell operators to make the best use of the drops. In general the flow of materials through the cell needed work and there was a great need to manage the flow of information and material from time of receipt, consumption, staging for downstream processes, and replenishment.
Previously Impact Dakota had provided some training which included inventory management, value stream mapping, pull/kanban, and manufacturing cell design. Summers Manufacturing turned to Impact Dakota to provide help acting as a facilitator to coordinate a project that can help with improved management of the cell.
Impact Dakota served as a facilitator helping the project team members to develop their own solution. The company designated a project manager which had received Lean Enterprise Certification Training. Working with Impact Dakota, the project manager developed an A3 which provided background information, information about the current state and desirable future state. Simultaneously, the project manager also identified team members which represented different functions and areas as potential sources of information.
A flow diagram detailing the flow of materials and information was developed and used to help identify the problems and opportunities for improvement. To achieve the desired improvements, a project plan was developed with team member assignments and timelines for various activities which included:
- Adding parent and component bin locations to jobs (ERP system)
- Fine tuning sheet metal usage (optimization) for kanbans
- Putting up Purchasing & Receiving bins
- Designing and fabricating supermarket racks for managing of incoming and drop materials
- Providing means for improved visual communications including installing a white board by the laser machine for scheduling and kanban cards for better managing of material flow
- Testing part number etching on parts
To insure the project succeeded, an audit process was put in place and following PDCA; adjustments were made to the list of activities.
Time Saving - Time was wasted looking for and moving materials. The rack system with kanban cards facilitated easy and quick identification of needed materials. Drops rack system also helps with improved storage and quick access to materials. (60%)
Increased Productivity of Personnel and Cell - Material shortages are rare resulting in enhanced productivity of cell and its personnel. (50%)
General/Other (Space savings) - The racking and kanban systems helps to maintain the right amount of materials and using vertical spaces to store the materials. (70%)
Cost Saving (Materials) - Material usage has improved as a result of improved nesting and improved utilization of drops. Materials cost savings expected to go up further as more raw materials are standardized. (20%)
“Impact Dakota was instrumental in getting a laser fabrication cell setup so it can be regulated without being reliant on a MRP system. This has increased productivity and transparency and minimized excess inventory in the fabrication department tremendously. I would totally recommend Impact Dakota to other companies needing assistance.”
—Tom Serumgard, Master Production Scheduler