As a global manufacturer of industrial fork trucks struggled to ramp up production of its new, award-winning flagship series, frustrated distributors worldwide threatened to cancel their long-delayed orders. With time running out, Leonardo Group Americas brought in its battle-tested methodology for designing and deploying Lean mixed-model production systems.
The plant, located in south Wales, had introduced an all-new series of high-end fork trucks with up to 18-ton capacity and a host of innovative features. The decision was to build this product family in a pre-existing line whose products were being phased out, but there had been no formal line design process for the new products.
Parts shortages, capacity constraints and incessant delays plagued the line, which after months was still running below 50% of plan. As a sense of crisis built up, one senior executive declared ominously, “This line is our future.”
The challenge was to move very quickly without missing key elements of the project, while also building buy-in and consensus across a complex organization comprised of German senior leadership, English managers and engineers, and Welsh production employees.
Two Leonardo Coaches convened a multi-disciplinary team from operations, engineering, management and materials to plan and execute a comprehensive Lean Line Design and Materials System for Mixed-Model Flow Production. This included a Value Stream Map assessment, followed by resource calculations throughout and a detailed new plant layout from fabrication all the way through final assembly and test.
Working in parallel, the materials group designed a pull-based parts replenishment system (Kanban), including an intermediate Supermarket for several thousand parts involved. Following a rigorous 5S scrubbing of the area (about 100,000 square feet), the entire line was reset in phases during nights and weekends to avoid interrupting production.
Within days of going “Live”, the fork truck line began to experience a sharp drop in parts shortages and a noticeable increase in production tempo. As welders, assemblers and and material flow specialists gained confidence in the new system, weekly output of finished trucks climbed steadily towards the required target of ten, reaching that critical goal just four months after the initial assessment meetings.
With production flowing smoothly, excess inventory was drawn down to the correct calculated levels, freeing up several million dollars of working capital. Most important, the danger of order cancellations was averted and an excellent new product family took its deserved place in the market.