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July 16, 1999

4 Min Read
Do sample boards get you down?  Try this design

Kaizen is a word you've read before in IMM. It's a Japanese term that means gradual, unending improvement to set and achieve higher standards. At Sumitomo Electric Wiring Systems Inc. (Bowling Green, KY), kaizen is the basis of a contest the company holds in which its suppliers develop strategies and techniques to take their operations to that higher level.

Participating in 1998 was Master Industries Inc., an Ansonia, OH-based automotive injection molder and recent developer of a creative sample parts display system that's made life on the molding floor much more pleasant. Les Crowell, quality technician at Master Industries, and leader of the Rack Attack Team, devised the new parts system, replacing the old version that was showing signs of deterioration.

For those unfamiliar with sample boards, they provide a way for molders to display and store sample parts, depicting not only acceptable or good parts, but also examples of parts that are unacceptable or otherwise out of spec. At Master Industries, when an operator is ready to start producing parts from a given mold, he or she retrieves the sample board for the mold. On it are the sample parts as well as setup and runsheet parameters. The board is posted at the machine for the length of the run for easy reference by floor personnel.

The company, which molds more than 200 different parts, used a system previously that made it cumbersome, time-consuming, and physically difficult to find and retrieve sample boards. Boards, says Crowell, were often misfiled, hard to find, and because there were no formal procedures in place to maintain samples, operators couldn't be sure that what they were looking at was accurate.

The Solution

The Rack Attack Team solved this problem by consulting this bit of wisdom from Masaaki Imai, author of Gimba Kaizen: "Every time an abnormality occurs in the current process, the following questions need to be asked: Did it happen because we did not have a standard, the standard was not being followed, or the standard was not adequate?"

The team implemented a standard by first flow-charting and formalizing the sample board process and its maintenance as part of its QS 9000 procedures. Now, certain employees are responsible for making sure that parts accurately reflect acceptability and unacceptability, and for integrating new samples when warranted.

Next, the team worked to redesign the boards, switching to a pegboard material. On one side, bordered in red tape, are unacceptable parts with examples of splay, flash, sinks, and other blemishes. On the other side of the board, bordered in green tape, are acceptable samples. The processing criteria, called operator standard instructions, which includes packing and label instructions, remain at the center of the board (shown above).

Then the team changed the board numbering system to make it easier for operators to find certain parts. They replaced the old board racks with custom racks, each painted a different color. Slots on the rack were numbered (i.e. blue 12, green 20, etc.), and each part number was assigned its own slot number and rack. All of this information was cross-referenced in a large matrix that operators refer to when they're ready to start a job. "Say the part number is 2204," says Crowell. "They go to the matrix and find out that the sample board is at blue 16. They pull it, take it to the machine and start running." When a part's retired or becomes obsolete, the board and matrix number are recycled.

By doing all these things in the last year Crowell estimates Master Industries saved itself 300-plus associate hours in time previously wasted hunting down and retrieving the boards. Time-and money-were saved on the floor as well. "By making sure the boards were totally up to date and all the samples were there," notes Crowell, "it saved the operator from questioning whether a certain part was good, or having to call an advisor or quality engineer to say whether or not what they had was OK."

Master Industries' Ansonia facility employs 125 people and uses 25 presses ranging from 60 tons to 500 tons. Machines are mostly from Nissei, with a small minority from Stokes. The Tier Two/Three supplier to Honda, Toyota, Ford, and Chrysler molds interior parts, including handles, covers, guards, and wiring harnesses.

Contact information
Master Industries Inc.
Ansonia, OH
Les Crowell
Phone: (937) 337-3511
Fax: (937) 337-3571
Web: www.master-ind.com
E-mail: [email protected]

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