Posted April 25, 2017
By Thiru Munisamy, Ph.D.
Building a Lean Anodizing House
Ask all anodizing and metal finishing shops around the country what their daily mantra is, and they would say: “Quality, on-time delivery, and low manufacturing cost.” Lean manufacturing has the potential to help achieve these goals with high first-pass yield, lower turn times, and low production cost.
What Is Lean Manufacturing?
The goal of any lean manufacturing initiative is to reduce waste. Efficiency and cost-effective measures are integral parts of the lean model, gained through a series of steps that reduce waste and eliminate non-value added steps (i.e., anything that a customer would not want to directly, or indirectly, pay for). Lean uses a methodical approach and tools to reduce waste in manufacturing.
Waste encountered in manufacturing includes:
- Unnecessary transportation
- Excess inventory
- Non-essential motion
- Under-utilized resources
Lean Manufacturing in Anodizing
Anodizing involves the formation of an aluminum oxide coating on aluminum alloys by the application of a current in an acid solution. Anodizing consists of a sequence of steps (see Figure 1 for an anodizing process overview) with several personnel and departments involved to obtain a finished product. In most cases, anodizing is the last step of product development. Certainly, waste and non-value added steps will be encountered in anodizing, just like in any other multiple-step manufacturing process with time constraints. For this reason, lean methodology and tools are a must and are a no-brainer for anodizing shops.
Figure 1: Anodizing process overview
Building a Lean Anodizing House: Lean Methodology and the Tools to Maintain it
Lean methodology involves the systematic use of lean tools to reduce waste. Let’s explore what building a lean anodizing house requires: the methodology, and the tools needed to implement and maintain it (see Figure 2). The foundation of a lean anodizing house is built with an ERP system, management, training, 5S, and standardized work; the supporting pillars are continuous flow, kanban, kaizen, and a push-pull system.
Figure 2: Lean anodizing house
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System
Lean methodology and tools application are data based, so a powerful, user-friendly central ERP system is mandatory to provide a good foundation for a lean anodizing house.
- Management Team
Management plays a key role in lean manufacturing and is part of the foundation of a lean anodizing house. Managers and top-level executives of anodizing companies should practice and communicate lean principles to all employees.
Continuous improvement of an anodizing shop can be achieved by adhering to a consistent and ongoing employee training program. At DCHN, for example, as a part of continuous improvement, the engineering department recently conducted company-wide training in the “Fundamentals of Anodizing.”
The application of 5S in a work area has been proven to increase productivity, quality, and reduce waste, such as unnecessary transportation, non-essential motion, and waiting, especially with multiple users involving multiple tools. By performing 5S, safety in the work area is also inherently improved. The 5S elements are: sort, set, shine, standardize, sustain.
- Standardized Work
Standardized work involves the best practice of work repeatedly used day in and day out. Standardized work is often called standard operating procedure (SOP), process map, or work procedure. Standardized work maintains consistency and reduces variation on the production floor.
- Continuous Flow Manufacturing
Here’s what continuous flow manufacturing might look like: anodizer receives an order (day 1), anodizer processes the order (day 2), anodizer ships the order (day 3). For this to happen, there should be no waiting, all equipment should be running smoothly, and each department should communicate effectively. Value stream mapping is the first step in achieving continuous flow manufacturing. Value stream mapping tells us the current state of process, detailing value-added steps (customer and product-focused) and non-value added steps (waiting, non-essential motion, etc.).
- Kanban (Signboard)
Kanban is a supply-chain program that initiates the re-stocking of items when needed. It should be noted that re-stocking is done only when needed, requiring no excess inventory to sit on shelves or in warehouses. At DCHN, we use the kanban program to produce and sell Sanfran, an anodizing additive. The effective inventory control of raw materials and finished products allows us to ship Sanfran to customers in a day.
- Kaizen (Improvement)
Kaizen involves incremental improvement of current processes (i.e., standardized work). Kaizen is initiated by a collection of individuals from all departments to rapidly identify problems and implement quick fixes. A successful kaizen event increases morale, teamwork, and employee engagement.
- Push-Pull System
Production systems in manufacturing can be push (based on forecast), pull (based on customer demand), or hybrid push-pull. The best strategy for anodizing is a push-pull hybrid system.
A Foundation to Build On
The elements discussed above can exist as single entities, but when incorporated together as part of a lean methodology, they provide all the building blocks for a successful operation. Building a lean anodizing house requires these elements for a solid foundation and supporting pillars. Employing these lean practices helps an anodizing house achieve high first-pass yields, low turn times, and low manufacturing costs.
Industry wide, if we make a conscientious effort to apply lean throughout the anodizing sector, exponential growth is a distinct possibility. Remember, all stakeholders become the beneficiaries of successful lean practices—C-suite, the production floor, employees, and customers all reap the rewards of eliminated waste, increased efficiency, and reduced costs.
DCHN continues to successfully incorporate lean strategies in our daily operations. We are able to increase efficiency and reduce waste and costs through continuous improvement of various processes and procedures. For further insights and examples of lean manufacturing in anodizing, read the complete discussion in the white paper, “Lean Manufacturing in Anodizing: Building a Lean Anodizing House.” Download it now.