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They changed the layout of the production process.

They examined their quality delays and took steps to minimize them.

They modified their tooling and equipment.

They modified the locations and containers that were used in the production process.

During the first two weeks of production under the new system, 95% of orders were shipped correctly and on time.  During the first year, 98.5% were shipped on time, the major cause of delay being unavailability of the customer’s label.  Their WIP inventory decreased dramatically, and finished goods inventory was also released.

3M’s scheduling period was cut in half to one week, down from two.  They were able to regularly deliver small and large orders.  Even same day shipments were possible for smaller orders under the new system.

So what changed?  One key was that not every variation was needed all the time.  3M was able to schedule several high-volume repeaters in every schedule, and mix oddball orders in the leftover

Benefits

1.

Simplified production schedule

2.

Level demand for components

3.

Reduced lead times

4.

Reduced inventory     levels

5.

Flexibility

spaces.  This new approach allowed 3M to always produce enough to meet the regular demands, but also gave it enough flexibility to produce the less popular products in record time.  Ironically, by adopting a uniform schedule, they became more responsive to customer needs.

Benefits

So what benefits did 3M realize from switching to their new system?  Let’s define and measure some obvious advantages that were gained by switching to a uniform load schedule.

1.

Simplified production schedules.  Many firms have highly competent employees who specialize in scheduling production so that all demand is met.  Uniform load schedules drastically reduce the complexity of this process.  We don’t have to worry about market fluctuations over long periods; instead, we simply produce enough units every day.

2.

Levels demand for component parts.  Since we know how many

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