Lean Spreads at Ulven Forging

Sept. 8, 2005
By implementing "Administrative Lean" for its business functions, Ulven Forging Inc. expects to achieve a variety of benefits.

At a Jobshop Lean workshop in February 2004, Andrew Ulven of Ulven Forging Inc., reported how his Hubbard, OR, company has benefited from applying shop-floor management program. Among the benefits he identified were reduced lead times, improved throughputs, improved plant layout, and better informed capital equipment purchases.

“Using these tools had a positive impact on our business,” Andy Ulven said in an interview with Forging following his presentation. (For details on that presentation and the interview see the March/April 2004 issue.) At the time, Ulven said that he was looking forward to learning how Administrative Lean would benefit his company.

In March 2005, a progress report on the application of lean principles to administrative functions at Ulven was published in The Forging Press, the monthly newsletter of the Forging Defense Manufacturing Consortium. It was based on work done by Adela Djajamartana, an Ohio State University graduate intern, with guidance from OSU professor, Dr. Shahrukh A. Irani, under the auspices of the FDMC PRO-FAST Program’s Jobshop Lean project. The following is adapted from that report.

Lean Background
Lean Manufacturing is a powerful strategy based on the Toyota Production System. As a manufacturing philosophy, it shortens the Customer Wait Time by eliminating waste between the receipt of a customer order and the shipment of that order to the customer”.

Administrative/Office Lean focuses on the mapping, evaluation, and re-design of office processes to eliminate the waste that occurs when these processes connect a set of functionally-organized departments. Those departments include Human Resources, Sales/Marketing, Accounting, and Engineering.

A variety of “wastes” are by persons who work in the “paper factory” that supports the shop floor of a custom forge shop:

  • Transferring paperwork between people or departments
  • Delays in flow of paperwork between various individuals
  • Repeated paper-to-computer data entry
  • Manual calculations and tasks that could be computerized
  • Walking and electronic communications to clarify, correct, or obtain information
  • Errors or incomplete data entries in paperwork
  • Checks and double-checks
  • Incorrect or inaccurate documents
  • Wrong format for data
  • Piles of incomplete documents in boxes waiting for personnel to complete them
  • Too many steps to gain approval for release of documents
  • Incomplete forms
  • Duplicate forms
  • Work-related stress
  • Ergonomics-related injuries forcing absenteeism
  • Over- or under-staffing
  • Unused office supplies
Administrative/Office Lean seeks to identify the delays and wastes embedded in office and other business processes that support manufacturing in order to streamline, and in many cases automate, the flows of information, decisions, and activities in these processes using Information Technology (IT).

Project background
Ulven Forging engaged in a pilot Office Lean project to reduce Customer Wait Time in new order processing. A key objective of this project is to design a planning and execution system for the Ulven front office that can simplify, integrate, and automate the majority of the office processes. IT is viewed as an important enabler and facilitator of Office Lean.

When the project was launched, most of the office processes were done manually. This forces office personnel to spend much time “pushing paperwork” instead of working on creative tasks related to their jobs. Also, different corporate functions were not connected, which creates difficulties in sharing information, inter-office and inter-personnel communications, and hand-off (“baton passing”) delays between consecutive process steps. Documents often get misplaced or get lost. Reliance on memory often causes office personnel to make mistakes, especially when they have to simultaneously deal with multiple tasks labeled as Critical and constant interruptions in the office.

There was a consensus among the management and office personnel that the total time to complete new order processing would be significantly reduced if a functional, fully integrated IT system, based on Lean Thinking, was developed to control and organize all business/office and manufacturing support processes.

Project activities
The first step taken was to develop a Current State Value Stream Map (VSM) of the new order process to understand and standardize the current execution steps. The map proved an effective visual tool that showed the overall process flow, the inter-relationships between the various steps, the incidence and scale of occurrence of the Eight Types of Waste, parameters for each activity in the map and current values for key performance measures.

A unique feature of this map is that it distinguishes between the material (paper and people) flows and the information flows that signal, monitor, and prioritize the paper flows. Several Six Sigma tools were used to identify and rank the root causes for the wastes and delays.

The diagnostics based on these analyses were presented to UFI management and a future state map was developed that would eliminate those wastes, improve speed and accuracy of process execution and automate some of the office functions and business processes.

Key recommendations
The project produced the following recommendations:

  • Implement an Enterprise Resource Planning system to replace the current manual system
  • Hire another engineer to work full-time as a production planner and scheduler
  • Investigate a Finite Capacity Scheduling system to speed up the current manual (and highly inaccurate) shop scheduling
  • Establish a Quality Assurance department to continuously monitor quality
  • Achieve robust process quality

Hybrid Cellular Layouts — New Ideas for Design of Flexible and Lean Layouts for Job Shops, a book by Shahrukh A. Irani and Heng Huang, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, describes the architecture, program outputs, and variety of potential industrial applications of Production Flow Analysis and Simplification Toolkit (PFAST). In particular, the book focuses on how to use the PFAST software for design of flexible facility layouts that serve as the foundation for effective implementation of JobShopLean best practices in forging and other job shops.

PFAST is a software tool that has automated the manual methods of Production Flow Analysis (PFA) for material flow analysis, part family formation, design of manufacturing cells, and factory layout.

In a typical application, PFA is implemented in four stages — Factory Flow Analysis, Group Analysis, Line Analysis, and Tooling Analysis. Each stage in PFA seeks to eliminate delays in production flows and operational wastes in a progressively smaller area of the factory.

To date, PFAST has been used successfully to implement JobShopLean in forging and other types of job shops. A demo of PFAST is now available for download.