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3P Prepares Royal Power for Peak Production Performance


Abstract:  For the third time in as many years, Royal Power conducted a 3P exercise to optimize design and create a layout for a new manufacturing cell. Learn from OPEX Manager Chad Scheve why our employees recently constructed life-size cardboard models to help Royal achieve transformational change.

Introduced in the mid-80’s by lean manufacturing pioneer Chihiro Nakao, 3P – which stands for Production Planning Process – is a continuous improvement method ‘to achieve breakthrough changes through rapid, integrated prototyping of both products and processes.’

At Royal Power Solutions, we recently utilized 3P to plan our new RigiFlex manufacturing cell. Our goals were to create a turn-key production line, optimize machine placement, deliver one-piece flow, standardize systems, and maximize environmental safety for our associates.

Team members prepare to construct “cardboard city,” the true-to-scale production line from cardboard boxes.

3P Process in Action

A cross-functional team of operators, managers, engineers and maintenance technicians participated in the two-day exercise. We brought in an outside consultant to lead the event and train our team. (Regardless of expertise or experience, Royal begins every project with team training to ‘clean the slate’ and give every member a strong foundation.)

Three teams worked collaboratively to develop an optimized production cell layout for RigiFlex. Teams were number 1, 2 and 3. Team #1 is shown above.

To start, we broke into three teams composed of diverse subject matter experts.  Each team collaborated to create the most optimized layout by evaluating the strengths of relationships between equipment and operator as well as single piece flow. Using yarn and cardboard, they illustrated material and part flow, operator flow and efficiency.

Teams 3 (left) and 2 (right) evaluate their respective ideas for production flow. Royal’s value stream maps on back wall (left) reinforce continuous improvement process while a satellite image reminds associates that our guiding light – and priority target - is improving planet earth.

Once we narrowed down the top three layouts, we went to the next stage  -- “cardboard city” -- where we used tape to mark and label equipment placement on the plant floor. We then built equipment models with cardboard to produce a 3-D, life-size production cell to help define any additional modifications.

Close up of a layout rendition showing material and operator flow.

We evaluated the ‘proto-type’ layout against specific success metrics. They included: Optimizing floor space; engaging operators’ expertise and insight; creating peak environment for safety and quality – zero accidents and defects respectively; saving resources by eliminating scrap; maximizing efficiencies through one-piece flow; and delivering an exceptional customer experience through a state-of-the-art operation with visual management and standard work. The final design reduced the planned footprint from 6,700 sq. ft. to 3,000 sq. ft. – a whopping 55%!

Final decisions are debated by teams 2 and 3 as they get ready to present their plan.

POWER Drives Continuous Improvement

Rooted in the Kaizen business philosophy of ‘change for the better,’ 3P is a continuous improvement tool that involves all employees. It’s a highly valued principle here at Royal where continuous improvement drives everything we do. I was tapped to facilitate the process because one of my responsibilities is overseeing Royal’s POWER (People Optimizing Waste Elimination Relentlessly) initiative, our signature continuous improvement program.

After two-days of intense planning, the teams put forward three production line scenarios.

We utilized 3P in 2018 to design our Honeywell Cell. The results were incredible including: 100% Operator ownership and engagement; 80% inventory reduction; 100% on-time delivery; zero safety incidents; and $1.4M in working capital.

When we opened a second manufacturing facility in Queretaro Mexico in 2018, we completely changed our original plant layout after a 3P process. Creating one-piece flow delivered a more ergonomic production line for our operators.

View of plant floor area dedicated to the RigiFlex production cell prior to layout.

3P has been a strong and successful strategy in Royal’s growth the past few years. And, it’s a great way for our operators - the established subject matter experts - to play a major role in the design and layout of their area.

Using less than half the anticipated floor space, the cardboard city is ready for the team to walk through.

Thanks to 3P, the RigiFlex production cell plan is complete. Over the coming weeks, specialized, state-of-the-art equipment will soon replace the cardboard models.

Almost ready for prime time! Associates gather to walk through the production line one last time to solidify location and placement for RigiFlex’s state of the art equipment.

Scheduled for completion by year’s end, we look forward to soon welcoming customers to Carol Stream to see for themselves how Royal’s people, processes and products work together to achieve our top priority: Improve planet earth.

If you’re interested in seeing for yourself how we’re designing power connectivity solutions for a more sustainable world, please email Chris Pepoy or call us at (630) 384-5500.

Royal Power’s 3P participants included two dozen employees representing three cross-functional teams. Seated in red shirt at center is COO Tom Ross.