HARRIS PRODUCTS GROUP | Value Stream Mapping
Harris Products Group, a subsidiary of publicly traded Lincoln Electric Co., produces a variety of products used in the metal brazing, cutting and welding industries, as well as an array of gas-control equipment used in industrial, medical and laboratory applications.
The company’s 70,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Gainesville, Ga., is home to 125 employees and is one of five such plants the company has around the globe. The Gainesville facility produces oxy-fuel cutting and welding equipment as well as compressed-gas pressure regulators.
As part of its continuous drive for improvement, Harris wanted to see if it could improve its process for readying chrome-plated components for assembly into its gas-pressure regulators.
To fine-tune this portion of its component-production process, Harris turned to the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech, with which the firm has a long-standing relationship. GaMEP previously helped Harris obtain its ISO 9001 and 14001 certifications.
In early 2011, Bill Nusbaum, the Northeast region manager, and Tara Barrett, a lean services product manager for GaMEP, visited the plant for a day and a half to perform a value-stream-mapping analysis for Harris. The value-stream-mapping tool provides an analysis of the flow of materials through a production process to pinpoint areas for improvement.
The analysis by Nusbaum and Barrett revealed that Harris could ensure a steady flow of these components through the production process by placing “supermarkets” – locations in which a standard amount of inventory is stored – at various points along the production chain. When employees see the supermarkets are running low on materials, they simply restock them.
Harris officials also used the feedback from the value-stream mapping to establish a standard weekly schedule to produce these components.
- For the past 18 months, there have been no outages of these components for assembly into regulators every time they’ve been requested.
- After working with GaMEP – Harris realized a 75% reduction in WIP related to this component, by reorganizing their production process. This improvement has led to significant savings for Harris and freed up cash that was previously tied up in inventory for other purposes.
“Georgia Tech has done a very good job with us,” said Mike Hogan, process engineer for Harris. “It’s been extremely valuable for us to have them as a resource.”
Harris was so pleased with the results of this project that it has undertaken value-stream-mapping for other production processes, added Mike Brown, process engineer for Harris.