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Garnering Better Shop-Floor Workflow

How five shops have re-arranged their equipment array, and people, to expedite the flow of materials

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By Jake Widman

The togetherness didn’t extend to everyone, however. "We went out of our way to screen the sales reps from the production floor," says McGhie. "We want them out selling. There’s a mezzanine for their offices, with windows overlooking the plant floor. The project coordinators can tell them what’s going on if they have questions."

And because of growth, there are challenges to maintaining that big open space. They’ve had to find space for cubicles for project coordinators, special project managers, and so on, sooner than expected. But they make sure to add them around the fringes of the workspace they’ve already defined rather than to infill. "It’s tempting to fill in idle space," McGhie acknowledges, "but you know that’s going to be taken by workflow as we continue to grow."

"Would we have done anything different? Sure. But we’re pretty happy. There’s a mental shift-everyone’s involved, everyone has access. The digital people’s mentality was, ‘I’ll just sit in this room until someone needs me,’ in the ‘sacred den of digital imaging.’ Now the production person will come to them and say, ‘Come see if you like the color on this.’ You see people interacting more than before."

Single-Piece Orientation
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Time at current location: almost 2 years
Size: 300,000 sq ft for entire building, 65,000 of which is manufacturing space
Equipment: 2 Inca Columbia Turbo flatbed inkjet printers; 4 multicolor in-line screen presses, including a new Thieme XL 5000 6-color screen-printing system; and several single-color presses.

Before its last move, Pratt Corporation was really departmentalized, says Mark Wallace, the company’s vice president of operations. Every task had its own area: screen printing in one place, cutting in another, and so on. Driven by a commitment to "lean manufacturing," however, the company’s new layout has changed all that.

"Lean manufacturing" is a term coined by management author James Womack to describe an idea that originated with Toyota. "In industries other than printing," says Wallace, "it’s pretty prominent. In the printing business, though, there’s not a lot [of it going on]." But both Wallace and director of manufacturing Russ Greene brought experience with the approach when they came to work at Pratt. "All lean does is try to get rid of waste," says Wallace. "Inventory is reduced, quality is improved."