Man, what a difference implementing JIT/LEAN can make for a company. Went to tour another company recently, and as impressed as I was, SLR has blown me away today. Both companies worked primarily with sheet metal and manufactured a large number of parts, but SLR had so much less inventory and equipment on the floor. That place was run impeccably. They utilize cell manufacturing in almost every station they have, and the shop contains a ton of equipment designed in house. They built their own tables, cell carts, cranes, and even custom door stops that allow their workers to knock a door closed after bringing in equipment or material.
They’ve done an incredible job engineering their process over there. Every station was equipped with a large flat-screen tv hooked up to a computer so the employees could have easy access to an organized file-system containing assembly instructions, tasks, and processing time requirements. Everything had it’s place, and stations for less often used cells were kept on carts along the walls with taped off delimiters showing where they would be kept when not in use, and more showing the organization of the cell after wheeling them out. Every station had a wall of tools, with laser cut sheet metal in the shape of the tools as a placeholder behind them, so they would always know where something went and when it was missing.
They utilized Kanban bins and cards to control part flow and ordering, and they build custom mounts for all of their material stock that had slots to only fit a certain type and number of stock. I did manage to ask them if they had their suppliers nearby, and they said it varies from down the road to across the country. The engineers that led us through, are quite proud of their inventory management system, which used a two-bin system for every piece. That way, whenever one of the red bins got pulled up front, anyone could grab the tag off of it and get an order pushed through for the next shipment.
There engineers all looked like they had a blast working there, and were showing off how they designed their entire workspace and specced their computers in house. Looks like an awesome place for an engineer who is fresh out of university to flex their creative muscle and design a wide variety of cool products. I spoke with a student who knows one of their engineers, and it sounds like they get more than a few opportunities to get out on the production floor also.