Process Input Method - the beginning and the end

The beginning - Preparation method before start production

Before product can be transformed, a consistent method is required to ensure the necessary material is available for production.  A kitting process is deploy to ensure all parts are kitted properly In assembly process before start of production.   In this article, we shall focus on 2 types of material kitting, mechanical parts and chemical material.

The proposed guideline for kitting of mechanical parts :-

  1. A proper kitting method must be developed to ensure uniformity in kitting activities.
  2. It would be best if parts comes in packaging material point of use design which alleviate the kitting process
  3. For some mechanical parts which are sensitive to cosmetic defect such as external case must be pack individually.  Similarly ESD sensitive parts must be packed in ESD compliance material.
  4. Take into consideration of good handling techniques in kitting to minimize any potential part handling defect such as scratch, dent, broken .
  5. Use easy to clean and durable material storage bin
  6. Part storage bin must label with legible part #, photo and or bar code.
  7. It would be a good practice to have different identification storage bin such as different color bin for different part category.
  8. Specify the correct handling methods suitable for the product such as in battery pack assembly; operator must NOT use the dropped battery cells.
Kit Part Bin with label of the part #

If the production process is quite complicated and involve many parts in high volume environment, it is good to invest in kitting system such as pick to light system. 

Pick to Light kitting system 

The count of parts to kit must follow production volume and do not kit parts in big quantity. This will cause inventory in production and inventory hides quality issue.  A good system to use is Kanban system which has its prominent presence in lean manufacturing to control inventory level in production.

Chemical materials kitting/preparation recommendation:-

Expiry date control - Almost all chemical material will change or lost some of its effectiveness over time, therefore expiry date must be checked during kitting and before start of production. Beware some chemical material has 2 expiry date,   without break seal expiry date and used by date after break seal.  All expiry date must be recorded and controlled.

Break bulk for consumption - For bulk packed chemical material such as lubricant, the transfer method for smaller production batches must not contaminate the bulk material.  All transfer tools,  eg.hand pump, must be dedicated to one type of chemical material only.  It is advisable to buy single use packed material or smaller quantity suitable for low production volume.

Thawing process - If there is a requirement to store chemical material in cold storage, thawing for the material to return to ambient temperature is necessary.  Time must be calculated and tracked  which include time out from storage, time material ready to use, time break seal, and expiry time in room temperature if not break seal and time material must finished consumed.  An example would be solder paste material where time tracking should be very stringent.

Besides material, we must also ensure that other process input such as machine and method which directly use in the process is also ready before any transformation work can begin.

The end of the manufacturing process

In most manufacturing process, packaging is the last gate in production floor or the manufacturing entity. Although packaging process seems simple and does not transform product, it could become a process which create the most mistakes that will find its way to consumer. Mistakes such as missing, wrong and mix part are often associated to packaging process.  Sometimes damage parts are also associated to poor packaging handling method or poor packaging design.  These defects can cause high customer dissatisfaction as customer would immediately notice those defects even before they start using the parts!

Attention must be given when developing packaging process to prevent customer frustration of not is able to use the product. 

Packaging process must governed by a work instruction which call for 

  • Part number of all packaging materials and labels
  • How to put parts in packaging material and placing orientation in the packaging box
  • Defined a standardized location to paste the label on the box. 
  • Correct handling of the parts to prevent handling issue.

There must a verification process during packaging to check the following items

  • All items are correctly packed without missing or wrong parts, labels, acessories at customer site.
  • All option parts, instruction manual, required accessory are packed per requirement. 
  • All parts count are correct and no missing parts
  • Ensure all parts complete and pass all the process and test steps in manufacturing process

Besides focusing on parts transformation process methods in manufacturing line, manufacturer must take into consideration the preparation process method and final packaging process.  If all operators were to follow the same method from start to end and anything in between we would get a more consistent good quality product.  Another aspect of process which will be covered in next article would be parts transportation in between process.

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Continuous Improvement Program CIP - 6sigma Methodology