So you’ve built something. You’ve tested it extensively. It works, better than you ever hoped! The next step is to build more of them. Lots more. Time for PRODUCTION to finally kick off.
That means you have a whole new set of challenges. They aren’t necessarily easier or harder, they’re just different. You’ve got to take everything you learned from the prototype, and figure out how to build many of them. A prototype might take months to build, even once you know the exact design. What a change! But here are some of the steps to take to get you there:
- Multiple production shifts per day. That means having a morning shift and an afternoon/evening shift to better utilize space and equipment. To fill out both shifts we’re bringing on more people, and giving them the tools and training to do the job.
- Standardized components. Components and parts across a properly designed machine are standardized whenever possible, minimizing complexity. There’s no need to design two parts when the same part can be used in two places. For example, using the same type of screws from one sub-assembly to the next. When you standardize your components you can also standardize your tools, making assembly quicker, easier, and less prone to mistakes.
- Assembly jigs and fixtures. An assembly jig is a frame that helps you build something. For example, we created an assembly jig we call The Trident. (because it looks like Neptune’s famous weapon.) It holds components in perfect alignment, making it easier and faster to bolt everything together. It even brings the working area up to chest height to reduce strain on the back. The more assembly jigs you can include in your production line the better.
- Automate as much as possible. We’ve built special equipment and tooling to automate as much of what we do as possible. For example, we have six robotic welders, and the machining of our extrusion components is automated. Not only does it speed things up, but it decreases the likelihood of employee injuries by removing them from some of the more dangerous parts of production.
- Organization. Every component and every tool has a proper place to improve efficiency. We have a Kanban system in place (a signaling system that keeps our supply chain running smoothly). We also have custom-made but standardized crates and bins for parts replenishment and storage.
Getting production up to quota is an ongoing process in any production line. The inefficiencies that need to be found, then corrected, don’t always appear right away. Sometimes it takes months of gradual small tweaks to add up to substantial gains in speed. You just must keep chipping away at it.