Part 2: The Fork Truck Free Road to Efficiency Starts with Homework

August 12, 2017 0 Comments Fork Truck Free Info 3726 Views


Part 1  ( ) shared how safety considerations drove Poclain to a Fork Truck Free environment. That was the safety side of it, reported James Skyrm, Lean Manufacturing & Continuous Improvement Engineer at Poclain Hydraulics.

On the efficiency side…

James shared, “What we learn in lean is that we have to balance the workload of value-added processes resulting in smaller lot sizes and more frequent changeovers.  Some of our products are large in size, requiring palletized line side deliveries in assembly areas.  Consequently, we have to changeover over up to six palletized containers instantaneously to keep the line running. Although our value-added processes on the assembly line were balanced, the workload for our internal logistics team was feast or famine throughout the day, meaning that as soon as the assembly line had a changeover, they had to immediately react to keep the line from experiencing downtime. Thus we had to carry extra personnel and extra fork trucks, equating to a larger carbon footprint, extra cost, and additional safety risk.”

The company was not ready to completely eliminate fork trucks, as they still provided tremendous value when going, vertical with storage on the shipping docks. However, from an efficiency perspective James and the team needed to sit back and identify from a 30,000-foot level, how to piece together an internal logistics system which maximized the value of each individual component. Then the team needed to answer how each component would best interface with each other to capitalize on the efficiency benefits of the complete system. Unfortunately, it became quickly evident that the team didn’t have all the information we needed to answer those questions.

James acknowledged that, “We have thousands of SKUs and in order to get this new tugger system up and running smoothly; we had to have a plan for every part, also called a PFEP, so that we understood the complete flow from the supplier to the end customer.”

A lot of this information is in a company’s ERP, but often there are necessary details missing which are needed to make the right kind of calls to implement a tugger system successfully. This meant Poclain needed to systemically categorize the different levels of packaging (from large palletized formats all the way to the small point of use formats), understanding the specific volumetric dimensions, material types and quantities of each level. Also, Poclain had to know the flow path of each part throughout the building, understanding not only a SKU’s total rate of consumption at the macro factory level but also along each individual flow path.  “This sounds like a lot,” admitted James.  “But without that detailed level of understanding early in the project, you’re setting yourself up for a disappointing implementation and risking the overall ROI.  Our team did a great job doing their homework which set us up for success.”

The team then needed to decide how and when materials were going to be delivered within the plant.  There are couple different methodologies in the marketplace with each having different benefits. The Wisconsin based company chose a Fixed Frequency Variable Quantity approach, fixing their route frequency at a specified time à every hour for example. Then using the data previously collected in the PFEP they could simulate the internal logistics system, precisely calculating the exact dimensions of the line side racking and optimum delivery equipment.  The end result was generated efficiencies not only for Logistics but also Production.

Staffing with Tuggers

James and the team also had to consider more than materials flow. Using the same PFEP data, they were able to simulate optimal number of drivers and staff to support the new system.  Playing with different variables they were able to determine whether coupled delivery routes (practice where the tugger driver both delivers materials to and from value-added work cells and replenishes empty kanban triggers from the supermarket) or decoupled delivery routes (a separation of responsibilities where the tugger drivers delivers materials to and from added-value cells while another supermarket attendant replenishes kanban triggers) would better adapted for the organization.

Doing the Homework: Path to Fork Truck Free

James was very honest admitting, “We really had to sit back and realize we didn’t have enough data to get it right the first time, so we spent four-six extra months building our PFEP and really making sure we understood what we were getting ourselves into.  In the end, it pays off hugely when you go to the implementation part. The biggest challenge was that we didn’t know enough and had to admit we didn’t know enough before we could start cutting POs.

James Skyrm, Lean & CI Engineer at Poclain Hydraulics

James Skyrm, Lean & CI Engineer at Poclain Hydraulics

Topper Industrial

Information submitted by Jillian Burrow, Marketing Manager for Topper Industrial



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