We’re constantly told that change is a good thing, and, depending on the details of your current operation, most lean experts would also agree with that sentiment. Take the concept of Kaizen, for example. Kaizen is the environment of constant improvement and elimination of waste – in both time and materials – that lean operations seek to promote. Kaizen is generally achieved, or at least pursued, through the implementation of other lean principles.
Chaku Chaku is Japanese for “load load” and it’s meant to make your production line about as rapid fire as the English translation implies – it’s one thing right after the other. Chaku Chaku is about setting up your production floor, usually applied to assembly lines, in order to make the production of a final product as streamlined and efficient as possible. This is generally achieved by making every single stage of production and smaller sub-parts of the finished product as tight and efficient as possible.
In its most common form, the Chaku Chaku assembly line is setup like a U-shape, as in the image above – Each stage of production is right next to the one before it. All the operator needs to do is move the piece from one machine to the next and go. This has several advantages over other types of assembly setups. For example, the standard straight line assembly line keeps the steps of production close together, but has one major shortcoming: The end of the production line is far away from the beginning. This means that an operator must walk further and further from the point where he’ll start his next piece as he completes the one before it, creating inefficient walking time between each piece.
Even worse than the straight line setup, however, is one in which various stages of production of a part are located in different parts of a warehouse. This is all too common with many work-floors even today and is highly inefficient. The “load load” idea of Chaku Chaku really means that all the operator or worker should have to do is load the piece from one machine to the next, without having to walk in between them and waste time.
Making The Switch
One of the biggest barriers to entry for any lean principle for most businesses is the changeover time and costs associated with completely redoing your operation. The simple fact is, however, that the upfront time and money associated with changing an inefficient work-floor is nothing compared to your increased efficiency, production, and potential for growth when finished. A better streamlined Chaku Chaku assembly process can take on more orders in the same amount of time and without overworking employees.
Kaizen Guide: Better your business with continuous improvement
To be successful, you can’t make an improvement once and forget about it. Effective lean businesses use kaizen, which means “continuous improvement”. In kaizen, everyone looks for ways to improve processes on a daily basis. This Kaizen Guide explains
the kaizen mindset, basic kaizen concepts including the PDCA cycle, and real-world examples.
Depending on how busy you are and what your process currently looks like, it can be difficult to switch over, so here are a few tips on making a smooth transition.
1. Take it in steps: If you have multiple assembly lines, only changeover one at a time to a Chaku Chaku setup so that you can continue production on the other(s).
2. Let people know: Everyone involved, from your employees to your customers should know that there may be delays for a couple weeks while you get situated. How well this goes over depends on how your present it – make sure you let them know that your operation will be improved in the long term.
3. Recycle: Always look for ways to re-purpose new machines and to re-train employees for new roles in order to cut your costs. The cleverer and more innovative you and your employees are, the cheaper and easier any major transition will go.