|W&WP May 2000
Zap Waste -- Before It Zaps You!
By Tom Dossenbach
Waste -- what does that word mean to you? Webster's dictionary defines the verb: "to spend or use carelessly; to squander; to allow to be used inefficiently or become dissipated." The noun is defined in part as: "damaged, defective, or superfluous material produced by a manufacturing process; scrap." My short definition of waste is: "the mismanagement of resources."
Whatever the definition, we know waste is bad and that it can rob us of the profits we work so hard to produce. We know it causes us major headaches when it pops up -- making our jobs as plant managers and supervisors difficult at best. We all agree that waste is something that needs to be eliminated.
However, the central question is: Do we recognize waste when we see it, or are we so used to it that we overlook it every day? My experience is that the latter is prevalent in the woodworking industry. Is this the case with you?
To answer that question, I invite you to join me today on a plant tour of the Timber City Furniture Company. Before you continue reading, pick up a pen and have it ready to circle any waste that you see during our plant tour.
The Plant Tour Begins
Bill Smoot, the plant superintendent, walks out the door and greets us. "Glad you could make it, Tom," he says. "Who is this with you?"
"Oh, this is one of my readers who is interested in identifying and eliminating waste and wanted to join me in the walk-through of your plant that you requested. That is, if it is OK with you, Bill."
"Sure, I can use all the help I can get. Sorry for the mess in the plant but it is only temporary. We are just about ready to break ground on a 40,000-square-foot expansion. You know your way around. Just check with me before you leave and let me know what you found."
The Machine Department
We pass by a band saw on the way to the cutting department and see the operator arriving at her saw to cut curved pieces, which have been marked on glued up panels. We notice several cracks in the glue joints and that the panels seem to be longer and wider than necessary for these parts.
We walk over to the chop saws and watch for a minute or two. There seems to be a lot of pieces that are being cut up for the hog because they are too short for the shortest length on the cutting list. We note that they aren't using back gauges.
Bill shows up and shouts, "Now if you want to see waste, follow me." Just then a worker walks up and asks Bill, "Where is my four-spindle boring head?"
"I don't know," Bill says. "Check with Lonnie."
On the way to the sanding department we pass a new CNC router that is not running, so Bill cuts off a leaking air line. We stop at the polish sander and he shows us a stack of 40 panels with walnut veneer faces -- all sanded through on the edges.
"This is serious money!" he exclaims.
The Assembly Department
Over at the cabinet line there are about a dozen four-drawer chests sitting on the floor with drawers missing. Sarah tells us that they ran out of drawers yesterday before switching over to a new group.
As we turn toward the finishing room, we stumble over a pile of drawers on the floor.
"I'll bet these are the missing drawers, Tom!"
"I don't think so. These drawers are oak. The chests are maple and they are running walnut down the line now."
The Finishing Room
We ask where the drum storage room is and go in and count about 30 drums of various materials with a February 1998 date on them.
The packing line is stopped since the finishing line is down, but everyone is busy in the repair area.
We walk into a huge warehouse with product stacked high. We find the supervisor and ask him the typical lead time for their products.
"We try to keep everything in stock," he says.
"So your lead times are only a day or two?" I ask.
"Well, not exactly," he counters. "We are always running out of something!"
We noticed stacks of cartons with yellow tags on them.
"What are these?" I ask.
"Oh, just discontinued and damaged goods," the supervisor replies.
"Well, what do you think? Have you seen enough? Okay, let's go find Bill and give him our report."
What Did You See?
How many items did you circle during the tour? If you circled less than 12, you are not aware of what constitutes waste. If you got more than 40 you really know how to identify waste. If you are in-between, read through the article again and look more closely. Remember, waste can be found in labor, materials, space, time and money -- you just need to recognize it for what it is and zap it before it zaps you! Put a team on it and take a tour of your plant today.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.