If the current COVID-19 pandemic had happened three years ago, Chris Naugher believes the Laser/Thermal Electronics Branch would not have been able to meet their production schedule.
At the time, the shop was set up bay-style, with each employee trained on specific parts and processes.
With little to no cross-training, if an employee was out on leave, their work awaited their return.
Now, work areas are set up to minimize movement of both people and parts and employees regularly rotate through all production areas – from disassembly to testing – to ensure everyone is knowledgeable of all processes.
“It gives the branch a better mix of cross-trained employees,” said Ricky Meeks, chief of the Component Subassembly Division. “When employees are out on leave, the team is still able to make production.”
With greater knowledge, employees have found, greater responsibilities soon follow.
In the last three years, based on their skill set and the knowledge gained through cross-training, eight employees have received temporary promotions, 15 employees were selected for promotions through job openings and three term employees were promoted to permanent positions.
“I’ve learned 70 percent more of the items in here since we’ve begun to cross-train,” said Josh Smith, an electronic mechanic. “Everyone gets the chance to work on something they haven’t worked on.”
Naugher, the depot’s electronic integrated mechanic supervisor, said the training has also improved quality.
“Each area has gotten better at catching small problems, like loose screws,” he said.
To assist with a better flow of products through the shop, and assist with cross-training, the work areas were redesigned into zones, rather than bays.
Excess desks were removed as were many of the storage racks.
“To reduce injuries and touch-time and to become more efficient, we eliminated most of our storage,” said Naugher.
Prior to the change, employees would inventory a part, perform a visual inspection, then place it in a storage rack until it was time for it to be repaired or overhauled. It would then be sent for cleaning, repaired, sent for finishing or painting, tested and given a final inspection.
Now, as parts enter the shop they are inspected, cleaned, and prepared for repairs before they are brought upstairs to the assembly area.
The various parts, labels and tools needed by employees are located near their work areas.
“It’s made everything a lot more efficient and a lot more productive,” said Naugher.
A recent quick-win Lean event confirms this.
Man hours in the branch have been reduced by 2,768.1 hours over the last year, resulting in a savings of about $323,000. Over the next few years, it is estimated the shop flow changes and cross-training will save more than $970,000.