Production Problems: Look for the Issue in Pre-Production

You have overdue orders. The shop floor is a mess. Overtime costs are too high. People are constantly screaming for urgent responses. You have production problems – right?

Not always! The root of these problems might lie elsewhere, and you need to be able to identify the heart of the problem before you can take it on. Commonly, the reason production is a mess is because something is going wrong in pre-production. Very often the pressure to start production orders (especially if they’re already overdue) drives us to begin with the question ‘Do I have everything I need to start?’ when we should be asking ourselves ‘Do I have everything I need to finish?’ The production process is complex with plenty of opportunity for hold-ups. Drawings, setting parameters, chasing approvals, setting up programmes and acquiring tooling and materials all run the risk of causing significant delays. How many times have you just had to wish and hope that everything outstanding will come good and be successfully managed in? There’s no blaming you – the priority will always be those who shout loudest! If someone is complaining about an overdue order, it’s only natural to make a start. The earlier you start, the quicker you’ll finish is the general assumption but, in your experience, how often do things come good through wishing and hoping? Sadly, not very often…

However, there is a way for you to make sure you will finish production orders on time and hit your due dates every time. The TOC rule is to Full-Kit; don’t start unless you have everything you need to finish.

At first, this might seem counterintuitive as it would imply a delay at the beginning of the process, but in reality, the threat of this delay forces us to chase what’s missing before it causes a problem. The danger of starting an order before you have the Full-Kit in place is that once the process has begun any gaps will get masked in the chaos of the shop floor and when people are seen to be working on an order, there appears to be no real need to keep chasing. It’s ironic that if you want everything started and finished according to the planned schedule, you need a policy which doesn’t allow you to start on time if you’re not ready. Adhering to a Full-Kit mindset allows you to start and finish on-time, every time, and will guarantee a reduction in lead times as there will be no more waiting around at various stages. You’ll have everything you need to get the job done!

By Phil Snelgrove, Lauren Wiles