The assembly path to a completed product is often complex. The supply chain getting parts to the assembly line must be reliable. Necessary components must be of high quality and fit the tasks at hand. Assembly itself must be efficient.
However, supply chains are also getting more complex. A PwC survey of 209 companies found that 95 percent of respondents feel that supply chain dependencies are increasing, and that 80 percent say products and services have become less standard.
Supply chain management is critical for any business, but once key parts are in stock, how they are handled during assembly is just as important. The concepts of precise parts placement and lean layout give companies an edge both when the supply chain is humming along and when it’s stalled. Here’s a deeper look at supply chain management, precise parts placement, and lean layout:
Whenever a company contracts a third party to supply parts or raw materials, risk inherently attaches to the process. Components may not be delivered on time, accurately, with sufficient quality, or at all. Some risk is even out of the supplier’s hands; for example, if a company relied on a vendor based out of Wilmington, North Carolina, it likely didn’t receive its orders during or immediately after Hurricane Florence …
When risk evolves into a concrete problem, your operations—and bottom line—can suffer. Auditing suppliers for risk, having contingency plans, and maintaining active supply chain management can mitigate risk. Some aspects of the supply chain are ultimately out of your control—you can’t stop the hurricane from coming, but you and your suppliers can plan ahead. Taking care of what you can control is crucial for effective supply chain management. For assembly lines, this control may include:
- Selecting a top-notch distributor to procure high-quality parts at competitive prices
- Choosing a distributor that also offers low shipping costs, which keeps overall expenses down
- Running a lean stocking system to further reduce expenses and ensure the components you need are on hand when you need them
When your supply chain is clicking, precise parts placement can deliver even more efficiency. Moreover, this precision concept can keep operations cruising even when something on your supply chain isn’t performing as expected.
Precise and Streamlined
Precise parts placement subscribes to a simple idea: that the parts and tools assembly line workers need for their jobs are easily accessible and retrievable (within arm’s length), and that the installation of those parts is sound, efficient, and follows ergonomic and safety guidelines. This precision offers the following benefits:
- Reduced time fetching tools and parts that otherwise might not be at a workstation
- Better stocking management (because workers will see, right in front of them, when they are running low on certain parts)
- Fewer personnel needed for assembly
- Fewer injuries
- Reduced wear on tools
- Increased productivity
- Better organization
- Increased ability to recognize defective/incorrect parts
In a precise parts presentation, everything an assembly employee needs to complete the task is instantly and easily available. Workers aren’t stepping away from the line to find the right tool or part. Not only does productivity increase, but so does the quality of the product itself.
Lean and Mean
To achieve an optimal precise parts placement, you inevitably will need to consider the layout of your manufacturing floor plan. Lean layout principles dictate the flow of workers, parts, and products from task to task, workstation to workstation. For example, that palette of components in the middle of the production floor, taking up space and forcing people to waste a few extra seconds hundreds of times a day by going around it, should probably be moved away in a lean layout. Of course, you aren’t tossing the components, just taking them someplace where they won’t be in the way, yet will still be easily accessible when needed—and if you are practicing precise parts placement, that won’t be too often …
Precise parts placement and lean layout don’t happen overnight. Companies looking to adopt these complementary practices likely will need to attempt various configurations, workstations, and processes before arriving at something that improves efficiency and workflow. But if you are hoping to maintain supply chain management and increase productivity, the effort is well worth it.