Game Signs is a new product for catchers that aids in communicating pitch signals to the pitcher. They are colored stickers that are placed on the fingernails of the catcher’s throwing hand so the pitcher can better see the signals from the catcher when he/she is crouched behind the plate. This product is an upgrade over previous catchers’ aids such as fingernail polish or athletic tape (which restricts grip and dexterity needed for throwing the baseball).
The owners of Game Signs were in the booth next to mine at the Baseball Trade Show and they were giving away free samples of their product to passers-by. Teams certainly gave their booth a lot of attention, and they did a great job selling their product concept.
With so many team representatives walking by, they were continuously filling empty Game Signs packaging sleeves with sheets of stickers behind their table using the best way they knew how in order to keep up with the demand. They had the product and packaging, but needed to conduct assembly at their booth.
Their current assembly process they used back home in Davis, California was essentially the same one they used at the table. Unfortunately, their process wasn’t standard from unit to unit and there was a lot of inconsistency from user to user (they had three reps in their booth). As an outsider adjacent to their work space I saw some wasted motion with their process. They were using some unnecessary touches, twists, turns, rotations, and flexes with fingers, hands, arms, and their backs in order to complete assembly.
Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t doing anything incorrectly, as they were assembling their product the best way they had. The excess motion might have added up to an extra 2-5 seconds for each unit. However, when you’re assembling two, ten, fifty, 200, 1000 units, that time will add up significantly. That’s valuable time and energy that could be applied elsewhere for more value-added activities.
Advice for improving such a process would include creating a standard documented assembly process. It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate, just an order in which steps are completed. Creating a standard layout would go along with the assembly process, which also needs not be elaborate (sleeves go here, sheets of stickers go here, completed packages are placed here, and here’s the trash can).
To get to that standard assembly process and layout, the gentlemen should do time studies on their processes. Each assembler should videotape himself assembling 10-20 packages and identify non-value-added activities such as extra touching, twisting, moving, and so forth. (I gave them copies of my brochure that outlines the 8 lean wastes.) By standardizing their process with reduced non-value-added activities and a standard layout, they might be able to save themselves a lot of time and exertion.
We were both busy with happenings during and after the trade show, so even though I offered to work with them on an analysis of their process we couldn’t tie down free time. They also indicated they weren’t going to be assembling going forward, but were going to contract it out to an assembler back in California. That said, implementing a standard process for their outside assembler would provide a great benefit.