Going green can do more than just
save the environment, it can boost
your bottom line. The wood-
worker who adopts green
practices will gain new
Modern 3D modeling programs,
labor intensive tasks.
Save time and save
Lean is a methodology developed at Toyota to improve
efficiency in manufacturing by eliminating waste. Waste is
everything that doesn't add value to the customer. The
principles developed at Toyota have since been applied to
other types of work, as well.
The need for efficiency has become much more critical since
we've entered this recession. Many of us need to cut costs
dramatically just to stay in business. Methods that worked in
the shop in the past just don't work any more. So how can
Lean principles help us in custom woodworking?
In mass production facilities such as Toyota, the benefits of
applying Lean principles are relatively straight forward. Products
are discreet; each car is one unit. Variation from product to
product is known up front; options are determined ahead of
Custom woodworking is a different situation. It's really a job
shop situation. Each job that comes in is different in scope and schedule. Rather than having a product line with known variations from model to model, custom woodworking can contain very unique products. Often a discreet product is hard to define. Is it a series of cabinet boxes, each being a discreet product or is it a whole room of millwork with blueprint matched grain running throughout?
Okay. All the principles of Lean can't be applied as they were at Toyota. But some can and some provide dramatic cost cutting benefits when applied correctly. Some of these principles may be obvious but others may not.
Let's look at one established technique for efficiency in woodworking. Optimization of panel cutting on the saw can save both material and labor compared to using conventional methods. The larger the batch size, the more potential savings we can achieve.
This technique is considered wasteful by Lean principles. But why? Well, for one thing, the labor saved in cutting is offset by the labor needed to sort and store panels after they come off the saw. Secondly, and more importantly, the overall flow of work through the shop is hampered. If a large batch is given to the saw, it takes a long time to get through that step. In the meanwhile, every step in production that follows the saw is waiting until the saw is finished. Remember, the whole batch must be cut and sorted before it moves on to the following steps. Even if it isn't sorted for edge banding or the CNC, it will need to be sorted for assembly. Until this is done, assembly is waiting.
Well, there's other work in the meanwhile, right? Maybe, and maybe not. What is certainly affected is the lead time. Assembly can't start their part until the whole batch is completed and sorted. Now we're in that all-too-familiar situation of crazy overtime, rushing the job through the finishing department at the last minute, and hoping for the best.
The reason I showed this example is to emphasize the fact that we need to be open minded and start to look at things differently if we hope to prosper in today's marketplace. This is only a brief example of one way in which Lean principles can help us.
At Howell Consulting Services, we have over 35 years of experience in woodworking, focused especially on custom woodworking. We have seen techniques that work but at the same time we're always keeping our minds open for opportunities to improve the way we do things. We research techniques such as Lean so we can help you apply what we have learned to your situation. Cost savings are essential for achieving prosperity in the world today. The first step is to find the opportunities which give the greatest return with the least cost and disruption. Once we implement these opportunities and see the savings, we are inspired to look for more.