Reinventing the Factory

McCormick Place will be transformed into a wonderland of machinery and tooling this weekend for the 2016 version of the International Machine Tool Show. IMTS will attract visitors from all over the world to see what new technology can do for their business. Many of the machines on display will have signs on them identifying their new owners. Other machines will be looking for a home once the show packs up later in the month.

Some of my employers bought equipment off the show floor after seeing the productivity advantages they offered. We often had just days to find a place for the machine and to prepare a foundation for it. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight it is clear that we often handicapped the new widget with a poor location and outdated support equipment, simply because there was no other open spot in our crowded facility.

This became more obvious after we moved into a larger building with a mandate to set up the best possible material flow. Nothing is scarier than a clean sheet of paper as it eliminates so many factors that become excuses down the road. After moving over one hundred machine tools in less than ninety days, I know we made considerable improvement but still had plenty of quirks to overcome.

My recent China trip included several shop tours of newly opened factories dedicated to producing specific parts or families of parts. It was interesting to see highly touted productivity like Five S and single piece flow implemented on a blank canvas. While it is certainly easier to do this in a dedicated environment as opposed to a job shop, that does not mean we should give up trying to get the most out of our equipment and processes.

So even if you do not have a budget for the latest machinery, IMTS 2016 is worth a visit. You will see plenty of great ideas for layout and ancillary equipment that can make your existing tools perform better.

About Charles D. Schultz 672 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.