QUINCY -- Sixteen students taking a lean business and manufacturing class on Wednesday could easily see where a simulated manufacturing line had bottlenecks.
Rick Winkler, a technical specialist with the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center, known as IMEC, said the goal of the simulation was to find ways to boost productivity and reduce wasted effort.
"We were putting a small circuit board together" for the simulation, Winkler said.
As workers began to assemble the boards, the flow didn't work well. Some components could be added in five or 10 seconds. Another spot along the assembly line required several components to be added, and it took the worker 20 seconds or more to complete the task.
"That's where things started piling up. The plan just doesn't flow very well," Winkler said.
Although the class on lean processes appeared to be about manufacturing, it could be translated to other business models, said Steve Sandercock, IMEC's regional manager.
"We have three gentlemen from banks who are part of the class today, and they're finding the lessons useful, too," Sandercock said.
The class, known unofficially as Lean 101, was held at John Wood Community College's Workforce Development Center at 4220 Wismann Lane. It is part of a series on lean business process events that started with a February lunch session on the overall concept of cutting down on things that waste time or effort.
Sandercock said although the process is often called "lean manufacturing" it is applicable to different business models and even agency structures as well.
During Wednesday's class the hands-on demonstration got tweaked to speed production, with no additional workers. By limiting bottlenecks and improving the flow of assembling the circuit boards, Winkler said the system was greatly improved.
"By the last round, with a full system, when we sell a product we send a signal all the way back to the beginning of the line, letting them know to make another circuit board. At that point we were building only what the customer wants," Winkler said.
Greg Thompson, another IMEC specialist, explained lean processes as an effort to improve efficiency.
"The lean journey doesn't have to be perfect. You just need to embark on the journey and do it again and again," Thompson said.
Sandercock said future classes will involve value stream mapping in May, training in industry in July and productive maintenance in September.
Registrations for those events may be made through IMEC at 309-677-4633. Information also is available at the Workforce Development Center at 217-641-4971.