Plastics News reporter John Couretas gathered the following reports from the Aug. 7-11 University of Michigan Management Briefings Seminars.
Black & Decker Co. is moving rapidly to change its manufacturing operations from a traditional build-to-forecast system, tied to seasonal sales, to one where it must deliver small-lot shipments of products within one week of orders by major retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Home Depot.
Black & Decker's program emphasizes flexibility and quick response, said Albert Strumer, retired vice president of advanced manufacturing technology.
The company is moving away from highly focused, or dedicated, manufacturing systems toward continuous-flow processes, state-of-the-art computer numerically controlled machining, new techniques for high- and low-volume assembly, automated material handling systems and new factory scheduling concepts.
Compouters enhance design of new 777
In designing its new 777 commercial airliner, Boeing Co. made extensive use of computer technology to design, test and build simulated mock-ups of the $120 million aircraft.
Computer graphics even allowed designers and engineers to make a simulated walkthrough of the 777, checking for such things as headroom and ease of maintenance, before a single plane was built, said Jim Veitengruber, flight deck unit chief for Boeing Commercial Airplane Group.
The plane, introduced in June, has 3 million parts. But the computer design tools were so successful that rework of parts and components was reduced by 60-90 percent, he said.
Don't use automation for wrong reasons
Automation of general auto-mobile assembly processes, sometimes undertaken to show off a firm's technological prowess, can be a mistake, said Mikio Kitano, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing U.S.A.
``My philosophy is that the most important thing is not to compete to see who can install the most automation, but rather to strive to use automation to the best advantage for the workers,'' he said.
Kitano said assembly line workers, because of their familiarity with cars, are skilled in evaluating new models and can act as ``representatives of the customers.''