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Increasing manufacturing capacity/productivity

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Hi there,

Looking to pick some brains with any possible advise on increasing productivity/capacity in manufacturing.

Are there any areas that anyone can suggest looking at, from their experience. I appreciate it's vague but it would be interesting to hear of anyone's own experience increasing capacity in their business.

Getting a bit frustrated with speed of our manufacturing for a while – have invested in parametric cabinetry software last year which has helped a lot on the production information side of things (automates cutting lists, veneer layons, etc. and exports to .dxf with toolpaths) and purchased a Masterwood through feed CNC router/drilling machine earlier in the year, again, a massive help but still – even with these it feels like capacity and growth is limited.

Space is currently small, 1100ft, so little room and no space for another cabinet maker. Hoping to expand into an adjacent unit but subject to persuading landlords.

T/O last 12 months probably around £250K. Might breach £300K soon but has not been over £250K since starting (9 years this December).

Currently have 2 experienced makers and 1 junior on full time.

We are bespoke cabinet makers (London based) so mainly manufacturing kitchens, fitted furniture, etc.

Thanks a lot

Jack
 

TFrench

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Think where you want to be in 5 years time. Are things comfortable now or is it a struggle?
Personally I work for my family business (not carpentry) - started by Dad and his brothers. We've always stayed small (relative term) because it keeps life easier. Take on lots of guys, you have to start chasing work and driving prices down to get it and you're back where you started. It sounds like you need more space, but given London ground rent it's a tricky one!
 

Roland

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Is the problem speed of working on individual processes or end-to-end throughput times for the factory? I’ve seen a lot of factories where capacity was increased, stock reduced, and floor space freed up, by reducing waiting times between processes.
 

marcros

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I think that in the first instance you need to map out the processes and flows of work, including time taken for each process. what are the current constraints?
 
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@TFrench – Thanks for your comment. Yes we need to set some 5 year goals. It is both comfortable and a struggle. Comfortable in that we have a good order book which could soon extend well into next year. A struggle in that
1. we struggle to meet programming/put the work out quickly enough
2. I have too much on my plate with managing the workshop, doing design development, production design, running the CNC, etc. Have tried outsourcing some of the unimportant design work (partial success) and training one of the guys on the CNC, but not enough to make a significant impact. My partner runs the office and accounts and has just come on nearly full time to help ease office side of things and improve/oversee programming. My view is that I would prefer to stay small as you say, but we need to be able to meet current demand let alone grow!

@Roland – Thanks for your comment. End-to-end throughput times rather than individual processes, I would say. If it were individual processes it would be easier to tackle. For example last year the production information/design time was the bottleneck and we invested in the new software which has eased this a lot. Then the CNC has eased having to produce setting out information for our makers, unnecessary work by hand, manual handling, etc. Now, it seems less clear. Having said that I am inclined to automate as much as possible to try and get it out the door quicker.

@marcros – Thanks for your comment. We have mapped out all work processes and work flows, although allocating duration is more difficult because the scales of projects vary. I have excel data detailing who did what each day on what project, but turning this into readable data is something I don't have time for or wouldn't know how to or format.

-

I have tried looking but there doesn't seem to be much out there in terms of literature geared towards joiners or even small manufacturers. There is Alison Warner's Build and Grow and Greg Wilkes Building Your Future, both great books if you in building trade, but geared towards trades such as electricans and plumbers. BWF has a good short guide as well but that's pretty much all I have found. I think joinery trade shares aspects of construction trades, so some advise is transferable and can be sought, but is different due to having one foot in the manufacturing world, and so high running costs. I have a friend who is much longer established who I occasionally ask for advise, other than that feel a bit isolated.
 

Sideways

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There's a basic concept of "lean" manufacturing called single piece flow. Basically says that doing things in batches is inefficient. Complete a process on one piece and immediately move that piece along and start the next process on it. Don't wait until (for example) you have sawn all the parts for a complete kitchen before moving on. Saw the parts for one cabinet and move it on.
Single piece flow reduces waiting time which is waste. You might find some of the ideas from "lean manufacturing" worth a look at.
Cheers
 

TheTiddles

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A (too) short answer would be Pareto Analysis. This does require a little bit of knowledge in how to do one and a lot of knowledge on your processes. A lot of one of those cannot substitute for the other, been there, predictable results but what lovely diagrams...

You mentioned outsourcing the unimportant work, that’s probably the wrong way to think of it, it takes quite a bit of effort to outsource work, If I was doing it, I’d outsource something important to make it worth my time in managing it.

Aidan
 

Rob_Mc

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Do you understand what is limiting your capacity currently, ie what is your bottleneck resource? Is this bottleneck resource running flat out ... if not why not and what is constraining it?

You mentioned you had considered expansion into additional premises but you didn't mention what shift patterns you were working on the existing facilities. Presumably you are milking your expensive investment in CNC machine facilities around the clock 24/7 before considering additional premises and machinery investment?

How much production time and capacity is lost to poor planning and poor pre-production processes? Having all of the necessary tools, raw materials, drawings, CNC programs, fixturing, and manpower available to start an operation when you planned it to start requires careful coordination and in my experience can lead to a lot of wasted production capacity if done badly. Is you pre-production planning process sound?
 

edwilding

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I find the best and easiest way to improve efficiency is to reduce waste, to do this you need to find where the waste is.
I would suggest get everyone in your team to wear a stop watch for a few days and record any and every non value add time, so from walking to the other side of the unit to get screws to having to remake a part. Get a time and description for everything. I would assume a lot of the waste will be of similar things, and could be some very easy wins like moving machines around to reduce the travelling time, every little helps!

This is all just from lean manufacture which can apply to any size of manufacturing business, look into the 7 wastes.

This is from things I have learnt doing my engineering degree and helping to design a production line for my work.

Good luck!
Ed
 

TheTiddles

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edwilding":2dp5o5qh said:
I find the best and easiest way to improve efficiency is to reduce waste, to do this you need to find where the waste is.
I would suggest get everyone in your team to wear a stop watch for a few days and record any and every non value add time, so from walking to the other side of the unit to get screws to having to remake a part. Get a time and description for everything. I would assume a lot of the waste will be of similar things, and could be some very easy wins like moving machines around to reduce the travelling time, every little helps!

This is all just from lean manufacture which can apply to any size of manufacturing business, look into the 7 wastes.

This is from things I have learnt doing my engineering degree and helping to design a production line for my work.

Good luck!
Ed
This is a good one, but there may be a simpler method to try first... have you asked your team what would make their lives easier/faster? Sometimes they know, but haven’t been asked

Aidan
 

doctor Bob

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Sideways":2cmpchhi said:
There's a basic concept of "lean" manufacturing called single piece flow. Basically says that doing things in batches is inefficient. Complete a process on one piece and immediately move that piece along and start the next process on it. Don't wait until (for example) you have sawn all the parts for a complete kitchen before moving on. Saw the parts for one cabinet and move it on.
Single piece flow reduces waiting time which is waste. You might find some of the ideas from "lean manufacturing" worth a look at.
Cheers
This is a crazy way to make a kitchen.
I make 3 or 4 kitchens at a time, to do one cabinet at a time would be ................. sorry just no.
 

Cheshirechappie

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Talk to your makers and junior about what slows them down, frustrates them, and causes bottlenecks. Not just once - continuously and regularly.

Making them a real part of the team could increase productivity significantly.
 

sammy.se

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Hi,

I do not, and have not, been in the joinery business, so I can't give any advice from that perspective.
However, my whole professional career has been in automotive and large scale customer fulfilment - both of which are heavy on capacity management, optimisation and efficiencies / lean / six-sigma, etc.

A couple of general things you can do:

1/ map out your current process, meaning write/draw your process flow, and for each step, note how long it takes and the capacity it uses up (space and man-hours). Are there any areas you spend longer than you expected or think is necessary? Can you uncover any areas that slow down the overall project? (i.e. a bottle neck) Are you literally waiting for glue to dry, causing idle time (glue drying time can be reduced with machines)? That all adds up.
2/ what can you outsource? e.g. making drawers can be outsourced, how much capacity will that give you (based on step 1 above)?
3/ in your supply chain, what can they do for you? e.g. a board supplier may cut and edge-band before delivery (just an example). Do you currently deliver and install yourself? can delivery be outsourced? etc etc
4/ Is your quality management suitable, meaning, are you spending more capacity on quality aspects that the customer doesn't see or care about? Dial that down and either take back the capacity or re-invest that into quality areas the customer cares about.
5/ In terms of moving stuff in and out - are you keeping stuff on your premises longer than you should? do you need some off-site storage (or bigger workshop) so that you can work on more projects?
6/ Task-switching: When you map out your process (step 1) are you finding that you are constantly switching tasks and tools and machinery, or are you batching up so that all similar work is batched and done at the same time? (batching definitely works)

Sorry if this is too abstract/theoretical - but it 100% does work.

If you take only one thing away, it is step 1. To get to where you need to go, you need to find out where you are. Document your current process in detail, with time and space (and cost), and then talk to other joiners on here to discuss your options based on what you do today - this will yield better results for you.
 

sammy.se

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andthatwasthat":175ja1gs said:
@marcros – Thanks for your comment. We have mapped out all work processes and work flows, although allocating duration is more difficult because the scales of projects vary. I have excel data detailing who did what each day on what project, but turning this into readable data is something I don't have time for or wouldn't know how to or format.

-
That is a very good starting point. If you are looking for info (books/resources) on this subject, below are examples of the kind of things you can search for online - again, a bit theoretical and not joinery specific:

Takt time & cycle time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isu6MG3v0-s
Cell design: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPNF0MZZiZM
Workflow layout optimisation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkP-HOBLsvk
 
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Thanks for all your replies – wasn't expect so many responses!

@sideways
Thanks – as doctor Bob says, maybe not practical in this instance. Any one project might have 50-200 parts. Am vaguely aware of lean manufacturing, will have another look.

@TheTiddles
– will have a look, thanks.
– The outsourcing example was specific to drawings, some of which can be tedious.
– Yes good idea, I ask sometimes but maybe not enough

@Rob_Mc Thanks
– I will have a further look. I don't think it's a single bottleneck resource but perhaps I can identity some specific ones.
– I can see how some manufacturers run CNC 24/7 but not practical for me on such a small scale. We are doing normal shift pattern, 40hr week and some of the staff will do overtime if on site and one of the guys does a day at the weekend.
– Yes, production planning/pre-production could definitely be improved, but I would inevitably need another member of staff in the office. Short of office space means that's difficult.

@edwilding
– Thinking about waste might be helpful, thanks. There is no way in hell I could persuade my staff to wear a stop watch, they would rinse me dry, but I think the sentiment, i.e. workshop layout & workflow, identifying what is taking the longest is useful, thanks.

@Freddyjersey2016
– I don't belong to a trade body but I will email bwf. I know they have iso9001 programme but that is probably beyond our scale.

@doctor Bob
– OK, thanks. Yeah a bit cramped. Hoping we can persuade the landlords as one of the adjacent units, probably around 2500-3000sq/ft might be coming up.
– Correct, myself and my g/f (ops and financial director) run the business and in the workshop have 2 experienced cabinet makers, one junior, and the occasional adhoc. Could do with a drafter, badly.

@Cheshirechappie
– Thanks noted.

@sammy.se
– Thanks a lot for all your comments and taking the time to respond in depth. That is all really helpful.
 

Lons

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TFrench":1sdr75ly said:
Think where you want to be in 5 years time. Are things comfortable now or is it a struggle?
Personally I work for my family business (not carpentry) - started by Dad and his brothers. We've always stayed small (relative term) because it keeps life easier. Take on lots of guys, you have to start chasing work and driving prices down to get it and you're back where you started. It sounds like you need more space, but given London ground rent it's a tricky one!
I haven't run a joinery manufacturing business but have in several other industries and my own small enterprise for 18 years so just my twopennerth.

The sentence above is by far the most important imho and in your position is where I would spend some time planning, I had similar decisions to make and decided against as the risk/reward calculations were't sufficiently tipped to take the risk. I decided that for me it was better to control my business by cherry picking the projects I actually wanted to take and could produce quality work at decent margin, I built a reputation on that and retained customers over the years. That decision was influenced by my experience running volume businesses with enough staff to cause the usual problems.

Not the same as churning out kitchens ( a mate I bought a lot of kitchens from over the years went bust twice by expanding quickly and losing both quality and volume btw ), but my experience is that it's very easy to get into a mindset of expansion because your order book is full, that can be a very different mater when you've significantly increased overheads and staff costs and are chasing customers to pay for it.
Expansion works but has to be for the right reasons and can also result in a downward spiral, your turnover staying at that rate for 9 years would concern me unless net profit had increased, it suggests either your output is reducing or sales value isn't increasing at least in line with inflation and rising material costs.
Have you evaluated how the lockdown and brexit are likely to impact of your business going forward? The crunch will probably come in November.

Only you know your business and owners tend to look at their "baby" through tinted glasses, maybe you should also look at getting a professional to cast his eye over it.
 
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