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Production Bottleneck

Post by Pat O'Neill, May 29, 2020, Tech Tips, Tips

A Process Bottleneck is when a flow gets impaired or even stop completely. It happens because of a lack of capacity (out-of-date equipment, scarce resources, people) to handle all tasks in the information/production flow. Bottlenecks usually result in a stall in production, an increase in resource idle time and/or pressure from customers.

Most times, it’s easy to spot your shop’s biggest bottleneck, and many times, as mentioned earlier in this article, you’ll find it in front of the paint booth.The paint booth is a great example of a physical bottleneck. Mostly every repair needs to visit the paint booth. The paint booth is a bottleneck because it can only accommodate a finite number of repairs on a certain day. There is a minimum time that one full paint cycle takes. In other words, from the doors opening and loading a vehicle, to doors opening again and unloading the previous vehicle and loading a new vehicle takes a set amount of time. If there are only eight hours in your workday, then you can only have a set amount of booth cycles. So if you want to deliver 10 vehicles per day, but your paint booth can only accommodate five, then you can only deliver five.

Since we’re on the paint booth topic, what can you do to try to fix or alleviate that constraint or bottleneck?

Depending on space, funds and need, you could decide to purchase another paint booth and begin to run two paint booths instead of one. That should double your capacity in that area. If that’s out of the question, there are a few additional things you can do.

Keep in mind that the paint booth is for painting. How many other things are you doing in your booth? The booth is not for repairing, priming, sanding or even masking. You need to try to get your booth cycle down to the shortest possible time.

How long is your current booth cycle, and how many booth cycles per day are you getting? You need to find out. You may be able to squeeze an additional booth cycle or more per day out by using the booth simply for what it’s intended for and what can’t be done anywhere else, i.e. painting. Ideally, you should have a vehicle masked and ready to be pulled into the booth, and the colors mixed, checked and ready to go as soon as the previous bake cycle is done.

Speaking of that previous bake cycle, as soon as it ends, undo the masking only enough for you to be able to safely pull the vehicle out of the booth and close the doors behind you. Full unmasking and disposal of paper and car covers should occur outside the booth after the job is inspected and denibbed where needed.

Another great way to get more vehicles through your booth is to batch different jobs together. How can you fit six vehicles in the booth? Simple: take them apart when you can and batch parts runs together. It equals one booth cycle, but several vehicles through the booth as one. Schedule bumper-only jobs so you can fit five or six or more bumpers in the booth at once.
Any vehicles that are just bumper jobs or already have the parts off the vehicle should be painted in batches. This would be the only way to beat the system and paint more vehicles than the booth will physically allow in a day.

Don’t be afraid to stuff the booth; I’ve seen six or more bumpers put into a single batch with no problems. Initially, there may be push-back in aggressive batching, but everyone will soon see the benefits in easing the bottleneck at the booth.

You can also ease the bottleneck by sending resources from other departments. Can someone in a less busy department come and help sand, prime or mask to keep the painter painting in the booth? Is the painter using the proper materials for the weather conditions? Or are the wrong products for these weather conditions taking a long time to dry and giving us longer booth cycles? Are things drying too fast, causing quality problems? Or too slow, causing extended time?

Another easily identifiable bottleneck is the frame machine.
The frame machine is not a parking space or a welding jig. Get the vehicle up there, secure it, measure it, correct it and get the vehicle down from it as quickly as possible. There is no reason, if you did things right, for the car to stay up there. Have a process, do it right and get off of there. Break the habit and you’ll see the bottleneck ease.

Sometimes shops will have too many frame machines taking up unnecessary space. When a frame department is inefficient, you need more frame machines. When a paint shop is inefficient, you need more paint booths, and when a shop is inefficient, you need more space. I’ve seen six-plus A techs work from two frame machines with no problem whatsoever.

There can be various bottlenecks, some natural like the frame machines and the paint booths and some human like everyone who works in the business. That’s right, a bottleneck can be a person, too.

The point is that each position in the line is important and interdependent upon one another. The estimator can’t write five estimates if the CSR can’t get him five folders. The production manager can’t dispatch five cars if the estimator can’t get him five folders. The body tech can’t fix five cars if the production manager can’t get him five cars and on and on and on until the folder lands on the office manager’s desk. If the detailer washed five cars today and the office manager could only close three, what good was it? We’re only done on the production end when the folder is closed and we get paid. So, from the first position to the final position, they’re all equally important, and your success is tied to the people behind you and in front of you in the line.

Blog curtesy of USI North America


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