Process Development Team
...evolves at YMI:
Advancements in manufacturing technology and constantly varying customers’ needs have helped determine the future at Young Manufacturing. With the addition of laser cutting equipment in 1999 and the acquisition of CNC press brakes in 2004, YMI experienced a paradigm shift. Parts being manufactured in the past were primarily crafted using traditional tool and die processes. Hard tooling can take days or weeks to create and the cost of the dies is hard to justify for small quantities of parts. The addition of laser cutting equipment and CNC press brakes has provided more efficient means of producing parts. The ability to react quickly, and the customers’ demand for shorter lead times, has prompted the company to examine how they had traditionally produced parts.
In order to see success in any area of work there needs to be a good plan. But sometimes recognizing a change in the business environment is just as important. At YMI, seeing customer needs continually changing, coupled with the availability of new technology, encouraged the company to plan in a new direction. This change brought with it some positive results for the customer. “Cost, lead time and quality usually drive the demands of the customer. These demands carried YMI to a new level of thinking that included continuous improvement in everything we do.” explained Jon Heffernan. “Without examining the process we could be missing a huge item when it comes to reducing cost.”
“With the addition of lasers, we saw that we could produce a part faster, and reduce or eliminate tooling costs, which is good for everyone,” explained Dave Young. “The addition of new equipment and skilled personnel helps us use our time and resources more efficiently, and it really helps our customers by putting a quality product in their hands quickly, at a reasonable cost. That‘s what it’s all about.”
Over the years YMI used different means of handling the work that came through the door. At one point, employees chose the jobs they wanted to run from a set of clipboards arranged in order of due date. All the customer/job information was handwritten in those days. Later, the computer made life easier by allowing for better job tracking and less handwritten paperwork. As the workforce grew, the jobs were assigned and tracked by supervisors to assure their completion.
The addition of CNC equipment required work to be scheduled around specific employees since special training is needed to run those machines. It also became critical to develop a specific system to move the work through the shop. Without a good system, paperwork could be lost or not completed correctly, delaying job completion.
Another issue that came up as the company was growing was the creation of work instructions. Some parts are run quite often and may have a life span of ten years or more. Setting the machines is simple when jobs are routine because of familiarity from repetition. Other parts may only be run every other year (or less often) and small details may be forgotten from run to run. To make consistent runs of parts year after year, instructions need to be complete and simple. Instructions also need to be understandable by employees with no prior experience with the job.
Over the years the responsibility for creating work instructions shifted from the toolmakers who designed the dies to setup personnel in the production department. Neither was fully effective because both were busy trying to keep ahead of the daily schedule and did not always have time to finish recording the proper information, leaving gaps in the information chain.
As the workload increased, while quantities of parts and lead times decreased, even more pressure was put on setup personnel, leaving even less time for paperwork. This led YMI to reconsider the flow of information again and to rethink who should be responsible to follow it through the system.
YMI soon realized that there had to be specific employees who could prepare each part for manufacturing and record the information required to make the part in a manner that allowed for little variance.
Thus the Process Development Team was born. A core group of employees with skills in several areas (tooling, setup, press brake and laser) were assembled together to develop and record the process and information flow of each new job. The Process Development Team is also adept at prototyping and specialty work. This team looks at every new part being produced at YMI carefully. They work directly with the production staff, quality assurance, and the customer to insure the integrity of the part being produced.
Process development begins with a customer print or CAD file to produce an initial sample for approval. After the customer approves the sample, the information required to make the parts is logged into the system and is passed on to quality assurance for identification of “criticals.” “Criticals are what we call the dimensions that must be controlled at each production station to ensure good parts consistently produced during each run,” explained Dave Young. After quality assurance is finished identifying criticals, the purchasing manager enters material information for the job. Routers can now be cut and the production department is ready to accept a work order to start making parts.
The addition of the Process Development Team has provided a means for YMI to be agile in today’s quickly changing manufacturing arena. Young Manufacturing is committed to responding to our customers’ needs and making it a top priority. The Process Development Team is now a key factor in the production of all parts at YMI. They can take a part from a simple drawing to a 3D drawing or a prototype piece ready for production.