Manufacturers across the state are responding to supply chain uncertainties by increasing their inventories.
“In earlier times, most manufacturers wouldn’t tolerate even modest levels of excess inventory of raw materials,” says Greg Hunsaker, one of our continuous improvement experts. “Today, they’re willing to accept stunning levels of inventory. It must be driving them nuts,” he told writer Peter Passi for Enterprise Minnesota® magazine.
All that extra inventory can help keep production on schedule, but it can wreak havoc on facility flow as it forces manufacturers to make space for additional storage, he says.
“Labor shortages and space utilization can go hand in hand,” says Greg Langfield, one of our other experts. “That’s what I see when I visit some plants now. They don’t have good flow in them, so materials are piling up, which takes up more space, which takes up more touches.”
These new constraints confront manufacturers with the challenge of making improvements to their overall production and prepare for future uncertainties. One path for tackling these challenges can come in the forms of Value Stream Mapping (VSM) and automation preparedness using the process of Value Stream Mapping, Eliminating Waste, Simplifying, Standardizing and Automation (VESSA).
VSM helps manufacturers physically map out how materials and processes flow throughout a facility, and how many touches are involved in the entire production cycle. It tracks the number of stops a product makes along the floor and then codes each stop with a green tag (revenue generating) and red tag (storage or waste). Manufacturers get a clear visual on how floor space is being used, with the goal of identifying ways to make more of the map green. These VSM maps can help identify process bottlenecks and help guide discussions on how space and labor might be more effectively utilized.
As leaders use the resulting map to think about process or placement improvements, overlaying functional next steps with the VESSA process can be a useful way to frame long term production improvement goals.
VESSA similarly outlines the key steps of continuous improvement that lead to automation for a work cell or overall process flow. VESSA won’t necessarily result in automation right away (which can take many forms, not just robots or co-bots), but will create a mindset that prioritizes the reduction of waste and variation, and can have numerous secondary or cumulative effects up and down the line.
You can read more about how VSM and VESSA have helped manufacturers overcome inventory and production hurdles in the Summer 2022 issue of Enterprise Minnesota® magazine, available in print or on our website.
Read ‘Make Sure Your Space is Making Money, Not Taking Money’
Read ‘Leaning Into Automation’
June 23 – Executive Manufacturing Forum: Maple Grove
Leading Daily for Results – How continuous improvement leadership and communication work together. Exclusive to manufacturers. In-person in Maple Grove.
July 27 – Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement
Continuous improvement workshop. Exclusive to manufacturers. In-person in Duluth.
August 2 – A Model for Manufacturing Excellence Using ISO 9001
ISO 9001:2015 manufacturing workshop. Exclusive to manufacturers. Online via Zoom.
August 24 – Developing Your Leaders From Within
Actions for turning your current team members into leaders. Exclusive to manufacturers. In-person in Alexandria.
New Obligations for Frontline Sector Employers through Minnesota’s Frontline Worker Pay Program
June 9, JDSupra.com
Two Uponor Campuses Honored with Governor’s Safety Awards
June 9, Contractor Magazine
Job Vacancies Reach Record High in Minnesota
June 7, Grand Forks Herald
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