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Throughput Conquers All!

There is no one book, mentor, or methodology that is the secret “magic dust” we need to successfully run our manufacturing facility. After all the conference calls, lean programs, training applications, shopfloor Gemba walks, we apply to get better – one thing is always essential and painfully clear.

Throughput Conquers All!

Think about how much time we waste with endless meetings, internally and externally, when we fall behind with our shipping schedule.  The leaders and employees on the production floor quickly get overwhelmed with the ciaos created by the inability to keep up with demand. With production and many support groups consumed with the harsh reality, the ability to attack continuous improvement projects takes a back seat.  Also, during these problematic times is usually when quality issues arise as teams try to circumvent the standards to get more throughput.  Neither the Customer nor the plant wins in this situation.

We all can remember a tough launch, a bad process, a major supplier problem, lack of manpower, forced overtime…………. Those can be bad times for our manufacturing groups when we have lost the mojo, and our teams are faced with an uphill battle.

All is not lost.  Many times the solutions are not complex and can quickly be resolved.  The team has to open their eyes to identify the “Waste” and create quick action plans to address.  Becoming a problem solver is the KEY to unlocking the throughput potential.  Let’s review the example below to put this into perspective.

Kicking the cats away from the fish…….

In 1993, I was part of a Chrysler team out on a tour of duty at our supply base doing Kaizen workshops with the TBM Shingijutsu Group. We were at an old Air Force base in Rantoul Illinois. We had scheduled my sensei Chihiro Nakao to join us on a major throughput issue, and from what I remember, we attacked with great speed…….

a.      Interim step for throughput - We began pre-bending a part to a fixture outside the cell before the operator had to fumble around or force it into a fixture.

b.      We quickly developed, established improved boundary samples inside the cell for quality. We found that our team was throwing away 25% of the product and it had our cell completely out of sync! Most of that 25% was good material – but our operators did not understand good vs. bad.

c.      We made a quick cycle time improvement on the robot load and unload as a critical part of the process.

Overnight – we improved our throughput by over 45%!

As we created better flow in the cell with our team members, we began to effectively measure our production counts and visualize the real issues in the cell and drive accountability to our operating team.

I will never forget what Nakeo said to us… “We spend much of our time here kicking the cats away from the fish………. When all we must do is pick up the fish” Enough said. 

Throughput Conquers All!

Right up the middle and Right flank teams: Sometimes in the thick of battle, this effort may need to be a separate team to support, leaving the current manufacturing group to continue regular production.  This is to maintain production 101.   A second engaged group should observe the process and interact with the current team to understand the problem.  You will be amazed at what you will learn, and quick wins you can put in place.

Focus on off-standard conditions and non-cyclical disruptions and knock them down one by one.  Below are some key points in helping the team drive the change and accountability necessary to move the needle:

1.      Hourly pacing boards to a target on each line. Get real with your team.

2.      SQDCM T1-T2 board reviews to get cross functional support on Safety, Quality, and Throughput.

3.      Focus on Process. Give some love and attention to your technical group. Listen to them too!

4.      Concrete quality standards. Use very visual boundary samples and make things clear….

5.      Look at operating pattern improvements for technical overlap and start & end of shift improvements.

6.      Create action lists with assigned responsibilities & dates.  Be prepared to fix new issues along the way.

7.      Focus on part presentation for your operators.  Look at where they want it.

8.      Work your way out of the cell with Standard Work for your Group Leaders

9.      Manage and train to the standards.  Audit only after you successfully completed this step.

10.   Revisit cycle time analysis to customer takt.

11.   Set the tone with 5S, clean cell, everything up off the floor.


What kind of strategy do you have in place right now for your throughput challenges? Who in your organization is part of your “right flank”?


Do you have the right resources in place to get this done?  Skills of observation?  Cycle times?


What kind of “off standard issues” do you have that can be improved and cascaded across the board?


The Dynamic Improvement Group can help you get that throughput!  BOOM!

Written by Josh Gasaway and Ben Roush

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