LAKE FOREST, Ill.—Shawn Durbin, Rahco Rubber Inc.'s new director of manufacturing, has been pushing for a visible change in how the company manages its projects.
For Durbin, that starts with a new flag system that helps his team manage a job's workflow with just a quick glance across the 65,000-sq.-ft. space.
Each machine has a series of flags in different colors ranging from green to yellow to red, indicating the status of that particular press.
"So as you walk through the factory, you'll see green flags," Durbin said. "Anybody within the factory from engineering to ownership can see what's going on."
An important part of making the system work is the understanding that a yellow or red flag doesn't mean something bad is happening. "It just means, 'I need help, for whatever reason.' It's a support call," Durbin said.
The system started as an hour-by-hour board, as a way to parse special cause compared to common cause variations, he said. With that kind of record, it was easier to determine whether there was a challenge at the startup of a particular machine, or if there was a special cause happening at some point in the day.
Supervisors are designated for each section of the floor per a particular number of presses, and they update the hour-by-hour "manufacturing excellence" board at the head of the area, he said.
Durbin started integrating the new system into Rahco's operations just a couple months after he started in the position, he said. As operators check in at a particular machine and keep it running smoothly through the day, the system gives them more control over the process.
"There's a sense of pride and ownership, in 'I'm responsible for this machine today.' In their interaction, they've been showing that they're getting to know me better, plus they're engaging with it," he said. "It makes them part of the process, rather than being dictated to."
The system eventually will be developed to include more electronic communication, but the excellence board already has had a big impact on the shop floor, Durbin said.
"I can walk out here and look at this push press here, and see what's happening. I can diagnose things and understand quickly," he said. "Along with that, we have our daily notes, and the priorities for the day. These are the things that need to ship."
The flag system and excellence board has brought together co-workers who were separated by their individual jobs and sometimes by language, said Dennis Askew, Rahco business development manager. A high percentage of the work force at Rahco is Hispanic. The board is a visual work plan that improves communication and interaction.
"Before this, everyone was on their own little island. Now it's company-focused, prioritized goals, who's responsible for what. It just tells a story in real time," Askew said. "That's where the ownership and the pride factor and accountability factor all start to meld."
The board and flag system are easily understood regardless of language, and has boosted efficiency, Durbin said.
"It's easily understood. Its interpretation is pretty black and white, there's not much to argue with. You can walk in here and tell, hey, what's going on in the mix area? Who's running X? We can see that," Durbin said. "Lead with data and not perception. That's been my goal."