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Small Chart, Big Impact: How a Simple Spaghetti Chart Led to Huge Wins at Thrustmaster of Texas

by Lean Leaper
February 4, 2016

Small Chart, Big Impact: How a Simple Spaghetti Chart Led to Huge Wins at Thrustmaster of Texas

by Lean Leaper
February 4, 2016 | Comments (3)
Sometimes the simplest lean practices can reveal the most complicated problems. Take, for example, the humble spaghetti chart, used to plot “…the path taken by a product as it travels through the steps along a value stream,” according to The Lean Lexicon. A visit to the gemba, a simple drawing, and you’ve got your spaghetti chart. Nothing too fancy – yet what it can reveal can be staggering.
 
A great example of a company that had such an experience is Thrustmaster of Texas, a Houston-based manufacturer of marine propulsion equipment. As part of a lean transformation to combat high costs and low on-time deliveries, the Thrustmaster lean team - led by CI Manager Frank Montemayor and GM Jason Small - created a spaghetti chart of the assembly department where they build, test and package tunnel thrusters
 
None of them were prepared for what they uncovered, as you can probably imagine from looking at the chart above. Their calculations showed that getting a tunnel thruster assembled and ready to ship required an incredibly high number of steps. With technicians alone needing to take 110 steps each, the amount of walking (read: non value-added work) done by the workers added up to over seven miles. Translated into minutes, that meant nearly 10 hours were being wasted per unit of product.
 
With these results under their belts, the Thrustmaster team overhauled the layout of the Assembly area, while focusing on flow, elimination of waste and standard work, among other improvements. The results spoke for themselves – just 18 months later, Thrustmaster had achieved 100% on-time delivery and significant cost reductions. Thanks in no small part to a deceptively basic lean practice that anyone can use.
 
What basic lean practices do you use to reveal big problems?
 
To learn more about Thrustmaster's lean journey, stop by Thrustmaster's Learning Session at the 2016 Lean Transformation Summit in Las Vegas next month. More information on this and other Learning Sessions is available on the Summit webpage.
The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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3 Comments | Post a Comment
Ralph McDermott February 04, 2016
1 Person AGREES with this comment

For me, it is to keep asking questions - why, why, why.  Although it is not always "big" problems that are revealed, once a conversation is started where an operator is explaining how/why/what they are doing, work arounds and unrevealed problems start to surface.  Sometimes the problem is localized to the operator, but other times the problem is more far reaching and affects multiple departments.  As solutions are applied to these problems, and positive change is achieved, a shift in mindset can be seen where the same operators start to ask the questions on their own.  Then, depending on the problem, other practices and tools can be applied to fully understand the problem and discover potential solutions. 

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Virginia February 04, 2016
1 Person AGREES with this reply

Sometimes we get carried away with the new trends,when a value stream map can be very usuful and inmediatly detect the the principal critical points.

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Ken Hunt February 04, 2016
3 People AGREE with this comment

I like to use three tools: The Standard Work Sheet, Standard Work Combination Sheet, and the Percent Load Bar Chart.

BTW, and these tools are equally effective in a manufacturing environment, as well as the office. 

 

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