We’ve all heard stories of needles in haystacks. Chances are, many of us are familiar with a mystical drawer somewhere in the house filled with forgotten odds and ends, or a toolbox, perhaps, full of loose screws and drill bits. For the laypeople among us, such organizational skills — or lack thereof — will likely lead to little more than a minor inconvenience. For a manufacturer the size of ACTech, however, it would lead to unmitigated disaster, particularly with the short deadlines and high investment costs associated with prototype casting.
To truly understand just how crucial organization is on the foundry floor, it’s important to begin with a bit of context. CNC machining is the final piece of the process for almost every project. Every project requires anything from 55 to 215 individual tools. If the wrong tool is used, the part is likely ruined, and the entire project needs to start again. With 18 machines on the go at any given time, around 10,000 tools to choose from, and incredibly tight deadlines to meet, there’s no room for error.
Naturally, the ACTech team has left nothing to chance. Over the years, we have optimized the machining process and developed a high-tech tool management system to ensure every project runs smoothly. Here’s a quick breakdown of how we did it.
Lean management and the 5S system
Made famous by Toyota several decades ago, the concept of lean management has helped transform manufacturing departments in all sorts of industries. Since 2017, we’ve made sure to bring the practice into our own work, beginning with the 5S system - Sort out, Straighten Up, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. In essence, keep the place tidy, organized, and in logical order - and most importantly, take lessons from what we found in the process. Adopting the 5S system definitely helped us do that. We identified waste in seven key areas ranging from transport and motion to inventory and overproduction and set about trying to reduce it.