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Just stop! You’re probably over producing (and by probably, I mean you are)

We all know how critical it is to understand the eight deadly wastes of manufacturing. They are:








Unused employee creativity

In a nut shell, all the bad things that happen in our factories fall into one of these categories.

Believe it or not, all eight of these are running around our factories costing us tens of thousands of dollars every day. So why don’t we just fix it? I will quote Taiichi Ohno from his 10 precepts “Waste is hidden, do not hide waste”

But everyone wants that big win, the silver bullet, if I just do this I will double my productivity. Well I have good news friends, for most of us this does exist.   

As we travel the globe helping companies implement lean manufacturing there is one thing always do 1st.  We try as fast as possible to get one of those eight deadly wastes under control, despite what you might think is going on in your factory if you do not have systems in place to control over production then I can almost guarantee that is your #1 problem.   

I know what you’re thinking.  “How can we be over producing when everything is late & customers are screaming?  There is no doubt, we are under producing!!!!”

If you look at the word overproducing at face value you may assume the definition would be making too much of something  which gives us this mental picture of shelves full of finished goods where are the only bad affect it’s a little too much inventory but at least customers aren’t waiting.

To really understand the effects of overproducing we have to zoom in a little closer. We now have to examine the output of each work station.  In a perfect world each station would be balanced only making what the next station needs.  We do not live in a perfect world. The definition of overproduction is simply “producing more than the next station can consume”.  And this doesn’t mean the end result is an abundance of finished goods, it actually could be quite the opposite and slowing down your entire factory.    

To help illustrate the effects of overproduction imagine you’re in a row boat with six other people the objective is to get from one side of the lake to the other in the shortest amount of time. Your team captain is no fool, and from the available candidates he manages to pick five average people and at the last second gets lucky and finds one young Man who has 2x more muscles than anyone else on the team.   Getting a powerhouse like that will surely secure the win.  Or will it?  What happens to a rowboat when one side is rowing way harder than the other side?  You guessed it, you just go in circles. So in a rowboat when one side over produces, as in is producing more power than the other side, you go nowhere.

Our factories are not much different when one station is over producing as in producing more parts than the subsequent stations can consume.   The same thing happens you spend all your time trying to manage the overproduction rather than adding value for your customers.   The reason overproduction is so detrimental to your organization is it is the single one of the eight wastes that Immediately evokes the other seven, and I mean instantly. Don’t believe me yet? Let me tell you a little story about a skid of parts.

Station one is being measured by how many parts they cut and they have a maverick operator. So each day, station one produces one more skid than station two can consume. (1. Overproduction) at the end of each day somebody has to come and move that skid out of the way. (2. Transportation) Now those parts are either on the shop floor or neatly tucked away on a rack and are now considered “in stock” (3. Inventory).  All of this transportation is also being done by one of your dedicated employees (4. Motion).  One thing that historical data keeps teaching us is that wherever there’s a batch there’s a defect. Whether that defect was caused from moving it around, bumping into it Or operator error from the previous process, We just know whenever there’s a big pile of parts there’s always a bad part hiding in it (5. Defects).  Eventually we start consuming these parts and stumble across the defect. Dubiously we set out to fix it. Now fixing some thing that should already be right is doing work that shouldn’t have to be done. (6. Over processing) And this whole time we are moving, sorting, fixing or plain or making too much in the first place, parts are sitting around our shop not moving and we are inadvertently punishing our customers with long lead times (7. Waiting) and if you do not have a system in place to actively engage and gather Intel from your workforce then you are missing out on your biggest opportunity for improvement (8. Unused employee creativity).

This counter intuitive principle of slowing down to speed up works like magic.  The fancy terminology for this is to “subordinate all activity to the bottleneck”.  Then focus on improving the bottleneck.   And this is not limited to shop activities alone, your office can be heavily engaged in over production.

Ask your self:

Do I have an abundance of raw goods plugging up my shop? Your purchasing Dept is over producing.

Is there 3 months worth of drawings waiting to be released to the shop? Then your engineering department is over producing.

Is one work centre in your shop always buried in parts? Then the station right before them is likely over producing.

Do you have cabinets built up in your assembly area waiting for doors? Your assembly area is over producing.

If you called us and we showed up at your factory today to help you solve some manufacturing issues, without question the first thing we are looking for is who is overproducing and how fast can we shut that off. Typically These are sacred cows that need to be slaughtered. Example: Boss says “the CNC’s must run, never turn off the CNC’s!  (or saws or shapers or moulders, depending on what you’re producing).

The easiest way of doing this is look for the pile!  It can be a pile of paper in the office, it can be a pile of parts on the shop floor.  But where ever you find the mountain of extra work, turn off the station before it until the pile is gone.  Then when you turn it back on, pace it to the station in front of it.  You will discover a ton of extra time and floor space you didn’t think you had.

Don’t get discouraged, finding waste and eliminating it is hard, if it was easy, everyone would do it.  We call it “The lean crawl” for a reason.

We are always here to help, and these days we have been forced to adapt ourselves and are having great success helping companies virtually!  Who would have guessed it.    So if you have any questions or need help tackling the overproduction in your factory, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.