Monthly savings of a whopping $200,000-plus. That’s how much Custom Bus Australia, who make huge buses, and employ more than 60 staff, have achieved thanks to productivity training by the Improve Group. Custom make big buses, very BIG buses. Big buses have an enormous number of components and Custom hand build every bus. They run two lines with nine assembly stations and a final paint station, and they turn out an exceptional product.
With such a large production process, more than sixty staff and an inventory warehouse the size of a football field, there is plenty of opportunity for things to go wrong. Delays, cost blow outs, and defects are all part of a complex labour intensive production process.
At the end of 2015, Custom’s Production and Manufacturing Manager, Charlie Khalil started a Diploma of Production Management with Improve Group coach Peter McGregor, to develop a greater understanding of how he could incorporate ‘lean manufacturing’ practices into the current production process.
Charlie had already implemented many improvement initiatives and had achieved a relatively stable ‘pulse line’ process with a Takt time of 2 days, however there were still too many issues with material and component supply, delays in each of the assembly bays and an ever-present bottleneck at the end of the line just before going to paint.
In the first six months of the Diploma program, Charlie set about stripping down the work performed in each bay to understand the value activity associated with bus assembly and identify waste components that were slowing down the process focused on the bottleneck as a stage in production that would give him the biggest gain. A cost analysis was completed and a future state model with a Takt time of 1.5 days was formulated.
The goal of achieving a 1.5 day Takt time was going to significantly reduce the production cost of each bus, deliver a 25% increase in production output and return a significant profit to the company.
One of the most significant gains has been in the management of components moving into the production line and the on-site manufacture and delivery of parts to each station. The co-ordination of the delivery was a constant concern with the assembly team frequently waiting for parts to be delivered. The responsibility for the on-site manufacture has now shifted to the Production and Manufacturing Manager role and with the establishment of improved communication systems and co-ordination of the pre-assembly operations with the requirements of the individual assembly bays using JIT (Just in Time) principles, delivery reliability has significantly improved. This has delivered a monthly saving more than $200,000.
It has delivered a monthly saving more than $200,000.
All production bays have been through an efficiency analysis and re-design process to reduce the motion waste of the team members. Purpose-designed tool management stations have been developed for each team to provide ‘point of use’ availability of all the necessary tools, reducing the requirement for team members to search for tools. Consumables and components are now delivered to the right place at the right time to reduce the waiting delays were previously present in the process. This has resulted in improved productivity and a reduction in overtime requirements, saving the company almost $35,000 a month in overtime wages.
It has resulted in improved productivity and a reduction in overtime requirements, saving the company almost $35,000 a month in overtime wages.
Each work station now displays an ‘Issues Board’ where team members record any non-conformance associated with materials delivery, design factors, quality issues or assembly. This has provided a level of visibility for both the team and management and has given the assembly staff confidence in the problem-solving process. Each team member now knows that when an issue is posted on the board it stays there until it is resolved.
Each team member now knows that when an issue is posted on the board it stays there until it is resolved.
The Custom Bus production lines are continually improving, the team members are now experiencing the direct benefits for themselves and they are aware that the work intensity is not as demanding as it was twelve months or more ago. Charlie can sense a shift in the culture of the team, which is evident in work attitude and desire to help make the process better.
As with all improvement processes, the giant gains come early in the scheme of events and the awareness of opportunities for improvement seems to grow exponentially. This is certainly the case for Charlie and his team, who are now settling into a cycle of continuous improvement on a weekly basis. The end is not yet in sight; however, Charlie can see the time in the near future when he and his team can shift to a stable 1.5 day Takt time cycle that produces quality buses with little or no re-work.
Charlie can see the time in the near future when he and his team can shift to a stable 1.5 day Takt time cycle that produces quality buses with little or no re-work.
And the longer future, what does that hold? Well, a one day Takt time pulse line is already being talked about. And why not, after all, what is there to stop this team at Custom Bus.