TIMELY DELIVERY REDUCES PRODUCTION DELAYS AND HELPS MANUFACTURERS RAPIDLY RAMP UP PRODUCTION.
Every manufacturer knows how the late delivery of production equipment from an Automation Solutions Provider adds to project costs. Whether due to delay, inadequate cycle times, or not meeting OEE targets, every hour factory automation equipment isn’t in production can represent millions in lost revenue.
This is what makes timely delivery of factory automation equipment so critical. Given that many manufacturers have carefully factored the delivery date of new equipment into their production schedules, any tardiness in installing that equipment can have a domino effect that causes downstream production problems.
At Eagle, we recognize the value of timely delivery to our customers. When we deliver a project proposal, we know our clients rely on our delivery dates for their own planning. As such, we have taken several measures over the years to improve our engineering and production processes to ensure our factory automation equipment reach their manufacturing plants by the promised date. These include:
1. Simulations to deliver more accurate proposals and catch design problems early in the process.
Our use of simulation technology in the early stages of our production process allows us to design better machines in a shorter timeframe than previously. We use simulations in two of our departments—Applications and Engineering—to improve our project estimates and develop more efficient station designs.
Our Applications engineers rely on simulations during the discovery phase of their work to design process models that demonstrate proof of concept. These allow us to base our delivery estimates on more reliable information with fewer unknown variables. In turn, our Engineering department uses simulation to test project design and fine-tune the automation process. Our robot programmers are then able to program software concurrently using the simulations and concept designs.
Combined, these innovations have allowed us to cut months off project timelines. Automation projects that used to take a full year to design and engineer are now completed in half that time. For more about how simulations can save costs for manufactures check out this article – 6 ways simulations save costs for manufactures.
2. Regular “lessons learned” sessions after every project to discover areas of improvement.
After each project, our team reviews our process to find what worked well and where we might have done better. By incorporating this regular debrief into our process, we can nip bad habits in the bud and ensure that areas of inefficiency are addressed early.
These sessions also help us identify positive practices that we can carry forward into future projects. When we discover a process that works, we can be confident that it won’t be lost between one project and the next. This gives us more freedom to try new ways of accomplishing our goals, knowing that what doesn’t work won’t be carried forward, and what does work can contribute to our wealth of experience. We only need to learn a lesson once to incorporate it into our process.
“Pulling our internal teams together after a project is completed allows us to get feedback from the people doing the work on what did and didn’t work on their project. Holding these cross functional workshops allow interactions between team members so they can understand the interactions between their functions and how they can better work together. The lessons learned documents are storing on a shared drive for the next project team to reference. This process also allows us to drive process improvements with our customer.” –Pierre Crevier, VP Project Management at Eagle
3. Kaizen events every two weeks to take measurable steps along the path of continuous improvement.
Over the years, our commitment to quality has earned us a reputation that has led to even more success. As a result, when our company began to rapidly expand, tripling in size over the course of three years, we recognized an urgent need to review our organizational structure and processes if we were to retain our competitive edge and not collapse under our own weight.
In response, we turned to a theory of continuous improvement named after the Japanese word for “improvement”—kaizen. Following the DMAIC method (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), we were able to identify areas of inefficiency throughout our company. By restructuring our processes, we reduced process steps by 20%, to 167 down from 209.
This mindset of “lean manufacturing” not only helps us meet our project deadlines, it also keeps us accountable to our own standards of efficiency. By running kaizen events every two weeks, we prevent process bloat from creeping into our methodology.
Our Kaizen team is small and effective. We are able to bring issues to the meeting, discuss them, and implement change, quickly. There is no bureaucracy to overcome. In our “ever changing business”, processes that were efficient and effective a year ago, may be irrelevant today, so it’s vital to keep a pulse on the day to day activities and adjust on the fly. Everything we do is time critical. –Dan Kuntz, VP Manufacturing at Eagle
4. 3rd party consultants to reduce waste and improve processes.
Achieving the levels of organizational and process efficiency to which we aspire is an ambitious task. We recognized early the benefit of working with outside consultants who could review our systems and identify areas of improvement that we would otherwise have overlooked.
Our work with outside consultants like Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center was especially important as we began to grow as a company. With new employees came a need for additional training, with an extra focus on communicating our processes to others. Working with outside consultants helped us integrate that growth into our current processes.
Eagle has earned a 97% on-time delivery rate through years of experience and continuous improvement.
As a result of these measures, Eagle has earned a successful on-time delivery rate of 97%—a nearly un-heard-of number in our industry. We are proud of this number, as it represents the dedication of our team members and our commitment as a company toward continual improvement.
However, we know that maintaining our success rate relies on a constant focus on excellence. Without regular processes in place to hold us to our high standards, we know we could lose our edge.
We recognize that our work is never done. We continue to search for new technologies that can deliver insight into our design process, our lessons learned debriefs are a part of every project, our kaizen meetings are a regular part of our company culture, and we are proactive in working with outside consultants—even before we are driven to it by necessity.
We believe our dedication to these processes is what makes our company great. Let us put them to work for you.
Brandon Fuller, Eagle Technologies
Eagle Technologies, headquarters in Bridgman, MI