Fabrication is the act of taking raw stock material and turning it into a part for use in an assembly process. There are many different types of fabrication processes. The most common are
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There are many other types of fabrication processes that are less common than the ones in the list above. There are also constantly new types of fabrication methods being developed.
One such new type is called additive technology. In effect, a machine layers materials to form a part-something like a three dimensional printer that prints in plastic or other materials.
Fabrication processes are particularly well matched to Lean. The motion of operators, their interaction with machines, and the need to manage inventory are all right in Lean’s power alley.
Fabrication processes are particularly well suited to implementing jidoka (autonomation) and hanedashi devices (autoejectors). Both of those devices are prerequisites of the chaku-chaku line (load-load).
But there is one area where Lean can struggle. Some extremely large machines are well matched to the products they are making. But far too many big machines with too long of a changeover time drive up inventory and promote overproduction. It is best to ‘right-size’ machines and put them into work cells if possible. That helps create flow.
The biggest impediment to making flow in a fabrication shop is the preponderance of large, multi-function machines that take a long time to change between parts. This drives up the lot size, creating inventory. It also means that a machine may be used to produce many different components for several product lines. Deciding where to put it is a challenge. If you include it in flow of one line, even the biggest line, it would be a problem for all the other lines.
The task in this case is first and foremost to reduce the changeover time so that the machine does not run large lots. At that point, you can keep reducing the amount of inventory that the machine creates. The second task is to get away from buying large, expensive machines when smaller, dedicated ones will suffice. In many cases, a small machine can be automated with jidoka and hanedashi to make their efficiency rival that of large CNC machines.
One challenge with linking fabrication and assembly processes tends to be the painting process. In many cases, parts leave the fabrication shop to go out for painting, or go right to an in-house paint center. In either case, the flow is disrupted, and the delays cause more inventory. Again, use the CI tools at your disposal to minimize this impact—reduce cure time, reduce the changeover, make smaller batches, go to smaller, dedicated paint booths. Do what you can to keep coming closer to flow.
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