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Coupling cells slash lead times to days

19 March, 2008

The Hertford-based couplings manufacturer, Huco Dynatork, expects to slash leadtimes on its Oldham misalignment coupling products from weeks to days, using an approach known as "value stream mapping".

The mapping exercise was originally initiated to identify time and material wastages and excessive inventory, and it soon became clear that products were queuing at every stage of manufacture. Initial analyses showed that the typical lead time for a non-stocked item was 27 working days.

Huco had already taken some steps to iron out the production queuing by holding a large stock of pilot-bored Oldhams. But the market demands such a large inventory, that this was not producing a good return on capital.

"An inventory-based system can only be as good as your forecast," explains joint managing director, David Lockett. "The scope of choice we offer our customers means we will never be able to forecast accurately every item, so we have focused our attention on creating greater production flexibility."

Huco coupling cell

Huco has therefore invested in new, quick set-up machine tools (above) that will form a dedicated production cell for Oldham couplings. The cell will comprise four CNC turning centres and two CNC vertical milling centres. Cellular production will be introduced first for Oldham hubs from 25–57mm, followed by smaller versions.

Before committing to buy this equipment, the company undertook a further value stream mapping exercise that revealed a massive reduction in inventory, with the typical lead time for a non-stocked Oldham coupling plummeting to just 5 days.

"We would have been happy with ten days, but this is a great outcome," says Lockett. "The re-organisation will put us in phase with customer demand and enable us to achieve the twin goals of improving customer service and reducing inventory."

According to Huco’s analysis, lead times will be cut by 80%, work-in-progress by 82%, and average process cycle times by 49%.

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