Overproduction Example: Too Many Boxes!

Posted on February 23, 2012 | in Lean Wastes, Manufacturing, Overproduction, Sports, Standardized Work, Tickets | by

As a refresher, the definition of the lean waste overproduction is the manufacture/assembly/production of more than what is needed at the time.

An example of where overproduction can be a) disruptive, b) ineffective, and c) unsafe is found in the above photograph. ¬†One day at Thomson Plastics I was walking by a production process that incorporates container assembly into the cycle times so you’re only building one box at a time and as needed. At this particular moment I was stunned to see this great wall of unfilled boxes.

I approached the operator of this process in his work cell and asked what was happening. He was a new operator, having been on the job for maybe a couple of weeks. He informed me that his line had gone down due to a processing issue, so during his downtime he elected to get ahead on productivity by building up assembled box inventory.

Unfortunately his line had been down so long he had created a wall taller than most operators, which created a safety concern for passing forklifts in the already-narrow aisles.

Because safety is the top priority (if you or others feel otherwise, please explain yourself with a comment) and with no place to put the boxes and no clear timeframe in which those assembled boxes would be consumed, I instructed the operator to break down his work and begin cleaning/straightening his workspace until the line restarted or other instructions were given to him by a supervisor.

Is telling him to break down the boxes counterproductive? Sure, but I elected to trade the waste of excess assembled box inventory, safety concerns, and overproduction for excess motion (extra effort to get to zero assembled boxes) and overprocessing (he could have kept going had I not stopped him). How could this situation have been prevented?

  • Supervisors should have given the operator other responsibilities that would aid in productivity, such as moving to another work cell where production was occurring
  • Material handlers/suppliers should have only taken unassembled containers to the line in quantities that were immediately needed – the operator would have been limited to a smaller number of boxes to assemble at one time
  • Standardized work instructions could have provided guidance for the operator to work on other activities in the event of a downed line
  • Improved training on safety and productivity activities could have made a big difference in how this operator spent his down time

When you have an employee that is excited about doing a good job and wants to be productive, steer him/her in the direction of making things better – don’t be upset for their overzealousness. Excited and motivated employees are great assets – avoid demotivating them!

So where can overproduction be seen at a stadium?

  • Printing out game tickets before they’ve been purchased
  • Building up inventory of hot dogs and nachos in containers well in advance of customers arriving
  • Bringing too many cases of beer from the cold storage to the rolling concession beer stands that won’t be consumed within reasonable amounts of time

There are others – what do you think?

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