Check out our new introduction to Setpoint video.
Check out our new introduction to Setpoint video.
In the military, soldiers need to be able to change optics, lights, and accessories on their firearms quickly and efficiently. In manufacturing, we should be able to change tooling on our production machines quickly as well to give them maximum flexibility, but that is seldom the case. By drawing inspiration from firearms, Setpoint is making tooling changes simpler and faster than most of us would have ever imagined.
Setpoint has a revolutionary ammunition loading machine that combines speed, capability, usability, and versatility with tooling changeovers that are ultra-fast. Some ammunition producers avoid changeovers because they’re slow and complicated, and it’s easier to have multiple machines than to change the tooling. Setpoint’s lean approach maximizes flexibility, so quick and simple changeovers were a requirement for our system.
Our engineer Aaron Stampick developed an idea to use the Picatinny mounting system used by the firearms industry for a solution. Picatinny rails and mounts allow any scope, light, or other accessory that is built to the Picatinny Military Specifications to fit together properly and consistently. The system is inexpensive, readily available, standardized, and accurate. Many manufacturers of Picatinny rail-based optics mounts advertise that their products return within 1/60 of a degree of the original mounting orientation.
Setpoint’s new machine uses Picatinny mounts with a cammed throw lever so that tooling changes take seconds and require no tools. Repurposing an existing technology provided a fast, simple, reliable, and very cost-effective solution to ultra-quick-change tooling. Setpoint continues to find more ways to utilize the Picatinny mounting system, allowing quick-change tooling throughout the entire loading machine.
Over the years we have built thousands of custom equipment solutions for a wide range of manufacturers, spanning a wide range of industries. Each time we engage in a new project, we have to address the issue of machine cycle time. This is the primary number by which customs gauge the overall Return On Investment (ROI), of a capital piece of equipment.
The tendency is to try and push a machine to produce at a higher rate of production, therefore, increasing the company’s overall throughput and reduce the overall time it takes to realize the return on the investment of that piece of equipment.
The primary issue with this philosophy, is that throughput is only one part of the overall equation necessary to understand the true value or ROI that a specific piece of machinery may offer.
The following example illustrates this specific issue:
Even though machine #1 runs at a higher PPM (Part Per Minute) due to the lower OA, the #2 machine actually out performs it, even though the machine’s cycle time is almost 17% less PPM.
We have found that machines run best at a specific cycle rate. Once you push the machine’s cycle time over the threshold of capability, you start to see a drastic drop in overall machine uptime and thus overall throughput. This phenomenon is similar to a Formula 1 race car performance. These cars are pushed so close to the edge of technology and speed that a high percentage of the time, they don’t actually finish the race they started.
One of our customers brought us a challenge, business is booming, the current manufacturing process can’t keep up with demand and floor space is at a premium. They need a solution that’s small and fast, they challenged Setpoint to use the same footprint and double the throughput.
The first thing we looked at is the robot they’re using. Right now the process uses a robot that moves in an arc to pick and place parts. It’s fast but because it follows an arc rather than a straight line, fractions of a second are added to every movement. Which adds up when you’re moving thousands of parts every hour.
We’re switching out their current robot with a Fanuc Spider Robot, seen in the video below. With this robot we’ll be able to shave off fractions of seconds in each movement. This robot moves in straight lines, speeding up the cycle without sacrificing accuracy.
This customer will get the speed they need in the small footprint they want. Of course other changes will be made as well but getting the right robot is the key.
Here I am, an early college grad stepping out into the big kid world and working for Setpoint Systems. Right off the bat I was assigned to work on a brand new project for the company. This new project was unlike anything Setpoint had ever done before. Everything about this project was brand new. Luckily I was put under the wing of Steve our senior Applications Engineer. He helped me take this seemingly complex machine and break it down into bite sized chunks which could be easily handled.
After months of design work and drafting, most of the parts had made their way into our shop. It didn’t take long until the machine was partially thrown together. Obviously the machine wasn’t perfect right away, and parts needed revising. There were also delays on critical components. It almost felt like waiting for Christmas, though instead of Santa Claus I had to beg purchasing & receiving for my goodies. The big day finally came and the unit made its triumphant entrance onto the set with loads of damage due to shipping problem, and on top of that the power which we had anticipated to work for the unit would not work… And the wait continued.
Meanwhile Brad our CEO had his eye on my little project. He of course noticed that all the parts for my machine were finally in and only one thing remained, when would the machine run. On Tuesday, Brad decided to mosey on over to my desk and ask me a very simple question.
“Raleigh, when am I going to see this machine run?”
Of course being somewhat blindsided by his presence and question, I fumbled around a little bit.
“Give me 30 minutes and I’ll tell you when this machine will be up and running.” was my response.
So I dashed about, trying to get a hold of any of my key players. First off I needed to make sure that the power to my machine was finally wired. Luckily the wiring had just been finished the afternoon before. Next I needed to see if I could get some programming and assembly time. Luck was on my side, and I was also able to get their help. After I got confirmation from these two, I approached Brad at 30 minutes on the dot.
“Brad I can get this machine up and running on Friday.”
“By lunch on Friday?” Brad inquired.
“Yes, by lunch on Friday.” I responded.
So for the next two days I buckled down and got to work. It must’ve been a good week, because luck remained on my side. During the whole assembly/debug process no bugs were encountered. Thursday evening eventually came around and I had the machine cycling. I made sure to check, double check, and triple check every little sub assembly that I had on the machine. The reason being was that if any part were broken we were facing a minimum 5 week lead time to receive a brand new part. Of course I didn’t want my first designed and assembled machine to break such valuable tooling on its very first run. I finally developed the confidence and showed Steve the working machine.
“Well let’s throw a part in the machine and see if it actually works.” Steve said.
He then began to call up all the bigwigs. It wasn’t long before there was quite the little crowd gathered around my machine. There was now only one thing left to do, drop a part into the machine. Hesitantly I dropped my hopefully lucky part into the apparatus, and placed my fingers on the go switches. It felt like my stomach was up in my throat. It felt like eternity as my machine went through its processes. Finally the machine’s cycle came to an end and it appeared as if it had successfully made it from point A to B without any hang-ups. Mark our president reached into the bin and pulled out one well transformed part. The adrenaline kicked in, and I could feel my hands shaking, it was so exciting!
I was so excited, not only that my machine worked but also that I was able to keep my word and not only get my machine working on time but to also have it up and running before I promised it to be. I was once told “there’s no shame being on time,” well I know that I feel pretty proud I was able to get my first project running early. I can safely say that this accomplishment would not have been anywhere near possible without the help of my wonderful and talented coworkers.
Ask yourself: who do you think feels more frustrated when a multi-month outsourced project drags on long past the original completion date and costs much more than planned? The vendor charging for the service (the custom web/software development, engineering services, construction, and marketing companies of the world) or the customer paying for the project work?
You get a gold star if you guessed the customer! Having felt this with our vendors Setpoint began utilizing our project management philosophy with them. One of our strategic partners implemented our system when they began working with us and had great results. Recently GapZen conducted primary research with both vendors and customers of complex projects, and can state with complete confidence that customers feel significantly more pain when projects drag on incessantly, costing more than planned. And, if we’re all being honest with ourselves, these types of projects are rarely, if ever, delivered on time and on budget.
Over 90 percent of the customers they surveyed and interviewed were eager to express intense feelings of frustration and distrust (to put it mildly) for their vendors. Customers feel a total lack of control and never seem to have a clear idea how much work has actually been done on a project, when it will really be complete, and how much it will truly cost in the end. Customers dislike feeling “locked-in” to poorly performing vendors who never seem to share bad news until the project is so far along that it is cost prohibitive for the customer to make a switch. And customers really hate receiving final invoices that are eye-poppingly higher than expected.
Though not as severe, project vendors also expressed feelings of pain. Many vendors feel that realistic bids are unlikely to win contracts, so they submit low bids up front and opt to “fight it out” with the customer later on. Vendors know that scope is never clear enough up front, leading to an inevitable barrage of scope change requests from the customer. And some vendors have felt the painful sting of not finding out until after completing a project that it has actually lost money.
Are these painful problems simply an unavoidable consequence of outsourcing project work? Or can these gaps between vendors and customers be closed to the mutual delight of both parties?
We know these gaps can be closed. Over the last two decades we have perfected a better system for managing complex outsourced projects. Using this system, we’ve won awards for completing projects on time when they were delivered six weeks late. And if your customer doesn’t think you’re late, you’re not!
We’re so excited about closing these gaps that we wrote a book and created a website to help others implement our system. Vendors will find a nuts and bolts management and financial system in our book, Project Management for Profit. Customers will find a simple yet powerful system for managing their vendors at www.gapZEN.com.
We invite you to investigate these solutions to repair shattered customer confidence in multi-month outsourced project vendors while simultaneously enabling these vendors to run more profitable businesses.
Have you heard of the Pareto Principle? It is a term used to describe the 80-20 rule. The 80-20 rule can be applied to every manufacturing process (make to order, make to stock, engineer to order, assemble to order, etc. Applying the 80-20 rule to the 5M’s of manufacturing will maximize your company’s success and profitability.
The 80-20 rule suggests that 20% of our labor contributes 80% of your company’s success. If this is true, your focus needs to be on getting the other 80% of your labor to perform as competently or efficiently as those who are showing to be high level performers.
This could simply be a matter of training to bring skill sets up to par, or managing your labor better so everyone knows what is expected and they are held accountable to perform their assigned tasks on time and to the level of completeness the company expects.
It may be required to implement a better hiring procedure to ensure the labor being hired has the skill set or ability to learn and perform at the level that is expected and ultimately demands.
The 80-20 rule suggests that 20% of your methods and processes are solid and robust while 80% of them may not be providing the level of results you expect or require. If this is the case, your focus might turn toward analyzing the methods and processes used in your company and finding out which methods need to be overhauled or modified to allow a higher percentage of success in your business.
The 80-20 rule suggests that 20% of your machines are responsible for 80% of the value added content of producing your product. Another possibility is that 20% of your machines are producing 80% of your overall scrap.
In both situations, your goal should be to standardize your machines/equipment, as much as possible to remove any variation in quality, throughput, up time, floor space, etc. Monitoring and tracking the overall performance of each of your machines will allow you to better understand which machines are contributing positively or negatively. Once this is known, your action plan of attack to solve machine issues will be much more guided and effective in making the improvements necessary to realize the continuous improvement you desire.
The 80-20 rule suggests that 20% of your material accounts for 80% of the cost of your product. Or that 20% of your materials cause 80% of your quality defect issues. Another may be that 20% of your material costs 80% of the overall shipping costs for inbound products.
In all of these examples, understanding which materials fall into an 80-20 category will allow you to further investigate what can be done to improve your overall variances in your raw materials.
The 80-20 rule suggests that 20% of your products contribute 80% of your profits or sales or growth. Whatever it is, the goal would be to find ways to increase the sales, production and distribution of your top money making products.
Businesses exist to make money, if we didn’t make money we wouldn’t be around anymore. In today’s world most businesses have websites to drive traffic to their sites so they can get new customers and thus make money. We depend on the Internet for information. If you need a plumber do you pull out the phone book or do you Google it? It’s so much easier to pull up a company on the web and then pull up reviews of that company to see if you should do business with them. That’s why it’s so important that every company has a website, even if it is just a basic page with how to contact you and where you are located.
Websites bring new visitors. When people are searching for your product, do you show up? If they can’t find you on the Internet they can’t buy from you. Make your site easy to find and navigate. Tell people what you do and make it clear and concise.
Websites build credibility. If you can look at a company’s website and see pictures of their product, examples of prior work, or certifications that they hold it is a first step in building trust. If you don’t have a website, just a listing in the yellow pages, your visibility goes down and you’ve lost that first step in building trust.
Websites show competency. If you’re selling a product your website should focus on it. Our website is focused on automation using lean principles. Because that’s what we sell we have pages on our site talking about it, YouTube videos, White Papers, and of course blogs! Blogs are a great way to pick a specific part of what you do and talk more about it.
Websites address issues. The most recent issue that comes to mind is Disney changing the image of Merida from “Brave” where they gave her a smaller waist, took the frizz out of her hair, and changed her eyes. People got mad and wanted her image changed back. Without a website you are limited to where you can address the issues that will come up. Every business has them. Quick and easy communication with your customers makes a big difference.
Even if your website starts out as just a blog, get it out there. Get started today, you know what will happen if you don’t… people won’t find you. But think about what can happen when they do!
For many years employers of labor have struggled with the balance of maintaining efficiency and productivity with the ever changing project demands versus capacity of labor. Changes in volume of work can range from needing 50% more available labor to finding work for 50% of your already employed work force.
In order to maintain the balance of employed labor and contracted labor the employer must have a basic understanding of their current capacity and productivity. Real capacity can only be established by understanding their current productivity.
Capacity = Total available hours employees work
Productivity = Worked Hours (time on the project clock) versus Earned Hours (hours that change the configuration of a product in a way that your customer is willing to pay for or has already paid for, Gross Profit)
Once an employer truly understands their productivity, then and only then should they make decisions of employing labor to complete projects at an efficient rate of return for the company.
Once the decision has been made that the work load over loads or under loads the current available labor, the employer must choose the most efficient and productive method to maintain productivity and in turn keep their profit margin at a point that they can maintain a healthy business. The balance of full time employees versus contract labor plays a key role in this decision. As an employer analyzes the deviation from capacity, using capacity and productivity, they must understand the long term goals of the company by answering the following questions:
A good decision making point for bringing in contract labor is a 10% overload. If a project or projects are going to overload an already 90% productive work force for a short period of time, overtime and extra effort from existing employees is the most economical method. If a project or projects are going to overload a currently 90% productive work force for an extended period of time, then bringing in contract labor is necessary to keep productivity and profit at the appropriate level.
The Japanese are legendary for efficiency and quality standards, and Toyota has been a global leader in these areas for decades. Their “Toyota Production System” (TPS) principles have fostered manufacturing efficiency and quality standards that far exceed the average.
So what is it that has made Toyota so successful? How does their style and system promote the innovation and consistency that have becomes Toyota’s unofficial trademark?
The truth is that the TPS system is much more than just a manufacturing “system”. It’s actually a complex core business culture. And Toyota immerses their people with their culture and it’s principles at every possible opportunity.
Rather than try to analyze all of the relevant TPS principles here, instead let’s focus on just two of the keys that I think are absolutely essential to the program:
The Toyota Way requires more dependence on people, not less. TPS depends heavily on the workers to identify hidden problems and to fix those problems. Engineers, quality people, vendors, management, and (most importantly) operators are all involved in continuous problem solving and improvement, which over time encourages everyone to become better problem solvers. It’s truly the people who bring the TPS system to life. It’s a system designed to provide the tools and environment for people to continually improve their work and the products that result from their work. The workers within a TPS system have an innate sense of urgency, purpose, and teamwork, and those things almost always translate into pride and craftsmanship in one’s work.
In the end, it’s ALWAYS the people that make or break any system. Toyota figured that out, built a culture around it, and made it work for them. Empower the people and let them improve the process on a daily basis. Pretty crazy concept, huh?
Kudos to Toyota for cutting against the grain on this one!