Keeping it lean
With supply issues, skills shortages and high demand continuing to put pressure on the sector, Quickslide’s managing director Ben Weber reveals how digital improvements are reinforcing its lean manufacturing principles.
Lean manufacturing is ultimately the pursuit of perfection, maximising both production efficiency and product quality. For Quickslide, the recent implementation of a bespoke, digital operating system continues to be instrumental in our quest for continuous improvement.
Tracked via barcode scanning, our performance monitoring system is integral to its operations. Based on both quantity and quality, performance monitoring allows us to gauge the throughput of individuals and measure their production efficiency.
No longer relying on paper-based records, which were susceptible to being lost, or completed incorrectly, the digitised system provides total traceability. Everything is live and visible, so any quality issues can be traced right back to the root cause.
Digital data ranges also allow us to quickly identify trends and deal with any inefficiencies or problems that might be exposed.
For example, the system flagged up an issue with hardware colours being wrong on the night shift. Once we’d realised this, the solution was as simple as providing better lighting in that area of the factory.
When it comes to inefficiency, downtime is a particular challenge. In essence, it’s something that we pay for, which has no direct value. Individuals scan their station when they leave it and must provide a reason for their departure.
If they leave the station to get components that aren’t ready, they end up waiting and that’s an issue. Downtime monitoring enables us to immediately identify any loss of throughput potential.
And with systems in place to drive lean manufacturing techniques, such as ‘first in, first out’ and ‘just in time’, Quickslide has ensured that this issue is addressed.
At 150,000ft2, our facility is huge, so it didn’t come as a surprise that one of the first things downtime monitoring showed us was that staff spent a lot of time looking for components. In particular, the glazing department struggled to find the right glass units. A new system now allows us to scan the unit and see its location, which means that those in the glazing department now know exactly where to go.
We have also implemented a fool-proof bespoke warning system for fabricators. Facilitated by the customer care team in response to customer feedback, fabricators will be warned if, for example, the restrictors and hardware are different colours. Alternatively, if the window is finished in a bespoke colour, the system will ask the fabricator to check the colour before assembly.
In addition, machines have been programmed to reinforce the safety net, by only permitting what is meant to be processed on that machine.
If, let’s say, a seamless Graf-welded VS has been ordered, then that window can’t be processed on the standard welder. The welder will simply refuse.
When it comes to deliveries, the new scanning system has also revolutionised the efficiency of the delivery process. Full traceability means that loaders know the location of the products they need to deliver, saving valuable time, while scanning the products as they leave the vehicles ensures full accountability for an order, from initial enquiry through to delivery.
And with a motivated workforce an essential part of any successful business, we ensure staff are incentivised. Measures include a performance-driven bonus system to reward employees financially for optimum efficiency, and dashboards publicly displaying targets – and a production team’s proximity to reaching them – giving workers a solid goal.
Performance monitoring is integral to our operating system, but it comes from a place of honesty and transparency, to ensure that everyone feels like they’re on the same team. Our system is bespoke, it’s built by our in-house team of developers, giving us absolute control, and it alerts us to any issues as soon as they arise.
It’s this kind of proactivity that really helps us drive the continuous improvement of our operations, allowing us to offer an even better service to our customers.