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Fit & Complete - Productivity Improvement 101

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Operations Excellence by Sepp Gmeiner
Sepp Gmeiner is a partner with Lignum Consulting. For feedback, questions and/or suggestions please email

Part Two

I’ve talked about this important topic already a couple 
of issues ago and since then, I have received quite a lot of feedback relating to 
the article. The Bluewater Wood Alliance even asked me to do a presentation on this subject for its November Networking meeting.
In basic terms, if you do not have all the parts or they do not fit together, you cannot proceed with the next process step. It is so basic that we may wonder why we need to write about it (again). Truthfully, this is a problem for many companies, so it’s worth repeating.

It has a ripple effect throughout the organization.
Improving Fit & Complete may show productivity potential of 15 - 25%, depending on the current situation. It is by far the biggest reason for low performance. Other improvement projects might not result in the expected outcome if the company has difficulties achieving sustainable Fit & Complete. 

Symptoms and results
One of the biggest impacts is reduced output. You don’t seem to reach anywhere close to the capacity you have. Another symptom is that your output is not even. There are big differences from one day to the next. Typically the schedule is not met. 

Material buffers are full
The factory floor is overloaded with WIP and there is no flow in the assembly area. The upstream operations lose time as they have difficulty finding space for the material, whereas downstream is losing time looking for the right material.

Interrupted assembly
Another sign of incomplete and not fit is half completed product taken off the assembly line. The workers started the assembly process, found something missing or which did not fit, stopped and took the half-completed cabinet off the line, and started the next product – hoping this one will be complete.  In addition to the time interruption, the extra material is now restricting effective movement as well.

What is missing and what doesn’t fit?
It does not matter if purchased items, manufactured parts, or information is missing, the process stops.  Also, if it’s the wrong colour, finish, or drilling pattern, “wrong” stops the process.

Frustrated workers
As workers need to look 
for information or components, starting processes and then 
switching over, they will not achieve their day’s work. This 
type of situation leads to frustration and tension.  Employees might quit for lack of job satisfaction or worse; they stay but have “checked out” emotionally a long time ago. Successful daily work 
is a big motivator.

False bottlenecks
Recognizing shortages and rectifying them requires fast reaction time.  A system of expedited correction needs to be implemented. Certain processes cannot handle these interruptions well and will be identified as bottlenecks. The machines have sufficient capacity however, now we feel the need to buy an extra machine to fix this bottleneck. 
If done correctly the first time, there would be no need for 
extra equipment.

Late orders
Incomplete and misfit parts/components lead to late orders and disappointed customers. This impacts the company reputation and will lead to reduced sales. Companies might not yet have a negative impact on sales because their competitors have the same problem. Imagine if your competitors get it right and provide 100% on time and complete orders all the time and you have not improved. How long will it take to negatively impact your business?

Extended lead time
To counter incomplete and misfit parts, companies build in extra (safety) time. If incomplete and misfits happen too often at certain workplaces you allow time to correct the situation. If all parts arrive Fit & complete all the time you no longer need waiting time before the next operation. If all parts arrive Fit & Complete only 95% of the time, you might maintain the process with some effective expediting. If Fit & Complete is only achieved 70% of the time your process collapses and you often need to build in a few days to achieve Fit & Complete. Now with more days of WIP on the shop floor, we need more space and 
more time to find the right space. Long lead-time on the shop floor leads to other side effects leading to other waste.
There are many ways to improve. First, you need to understand and quantify what is holding up your process. Is it to Fit & Complete? Once you understand the reason(s), you can develop corrective actions as a second step.

Having a dedicated person who drives the Fit & Complete process is an immediate step. This person’s insight is invaluable for your corrective action plans.

Capital Investment
New machines are, in most cases, not the solution, unless the misfit is created by old and/or inaccurate equipment. For example, the switch from cutting and drilling to nesting usually improves the tolerances and the fit.

New software
In many cases, effective software will improve conveying the required information to the right person/place. Software is a long-term solution but does not solve the underlying problem.

The biggest impact, by far, is usually when everyone in the process chain does his or her job correctly and consistently. This is easier said than done, but there is no real alternative to doing it right – the first time and all the time. If you can recognize certain errors or omissions that occur repeatedly, analyze it and find an improvement to minimize reoccurrences. It can be a matter of retraining, simplification, and process changes or, if nothing else works, reassignment of staff. The fact that this is a common problem in our industry, the promise, that there is as much as 15-25% productivity improvement possible makes this one of the most rewarding projects. Also the statement that a bad performance on Fit & Complete diminishes the benefits of any other improvement project makes it even clearer that we have to start here.

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