APICS NoCo’s August Stay Connected Recap

Written by Bob Forshay, Master Instructor for APICS and ISCEA, Consultant and Business Coach. Photos courtesy of Woodward, Inc.


APICS NoCo held a tour of the new Woodward Inc facility in Ft. Collins in August where we hosted about 40 people from Denver to Cheyenne to see the new digs. Following the successful tour, we continued with networking at the Ft. Collins Brewery.

We had a chance to see some of the innovative ways Woodward has continued to apply lean concepts to not only the manufacturing processes but also the building design, the layout design, and workflow.  Having worked with several Woodward folks on process improvements over recent months, it was rewarding to see the application of what they are learning in our APICS NoCo training programs.

One of the innovations I was most impressed with was the shop floor planning to modularize all of the manufacturing assembly space with quick-change access to electric supply, air supply, network connections, and railings/racks. These allow for easy and fast redeployment of workbenches, tooling, and machine layouts. The materials handling, which for Woodward is often a big deal, with heavy parts and assemblies is now more flexible allowing for easier adjustment of workflow as needed. I lost count of the number of overhead cranes that are strategically placed allowing for nearly the entire Assembly shop area to have access to lifting service regardless of the future changes to layout. That had to take some planning and will certainly pay off.

Another impressive innovation, more quick-change set up capability, is what Woodward calls SMED test setup. Everyone who’s been in our APICS NoCo classes knows that SMED is the acronym for Single Minute Exchange of Die. This refers to reducing change over setup to something less than 10 minutes per change over. This releases valuable capacity back to the production operation and dramatically improves both productivity and flow as well as increasing factory flexibility with reduced lead time.

Woodward now has 8 test bays aligned to the ends of the various assembly production lines where the setup of flow and pressure testing is done external to the test room process. This has reduced their testing change overs by a factor of 5X or more. That is a LOT of capacity now made available for production output instead of change over time. Of course, it’s important to remember that if you are capacity constrained, then capacity is directly limiting revenue capability. Woodward reported they have reduced the typical test change over from 50+ minutes average to less than 10 minutes average for test setup.

Upstream, in the assembly process, essentially ATO, assemble to order, production jobs move as single piece flow, using customized workbench/tooling/mobile carts. These carts start as kitting trays for each assembly, continuing with the assembly all the way to test allowing for mobile work moving quickly between each subsequent workstation in the process. All the parts needed are moving on the cart with the job. This allows for repetitive process even though each job or cart has a different end item assembly in process. True Mixed-Model  scheduling with flexible labor and a fairly comprehensive investment in tooling/custom carts. Woodward is estimating significant reduction in overall customer delivery lead time with this new layout for all the assembly processes in production.

I mentioned building design was also a lean best practice. The plant site is built on a farm site that has a long-time community history. Much of the trees that were removed were actually harvested to become interior finish on accent walls in the facility. It is very beautifully done with lots of glass for additional lighting and community space for groups at lunch to aid in collaboration. Even the office layouts are more conducive to easier communication with an estimated 30% reduction in email amongst department members who are not co-located in pods and close to the shop floor action.

June’s Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of the Ft. Collins Lincoln Campus.

The manufacturing site is easy on the eye, effectively designed for more productivity and easier on employees in several ways as well. Plus, they already have the plan for duplicating this production format in a mirror image second building right next door when the need comes in the future. The old barn is also being restored to be repurposed.

If you or your employer is interested in learning more about operations, Lean Best Practices, or improving your Supply Chain, contact us to learn what kind of APICS training and education would be the best fit for you.

Interested in APICS NoCo education?

We will customize to fit your requirements. We’ll also help you align with several funding programs in the State and Federal resources.

See www.apicsnoco.org for more information.

Want to join us next time? See our full calendar of upcoming events!