Monday, August 8, 2011

Backpacks or Worksacks, CiloGear makes them the Lean way.

Interesting video showing the assembly of CiloGear backpacks. I guess technically they're called worksacks, but no matter what you call the product, you can definitely call the company Lean. They work out of a tiny work space that is smaller than the CEO's office of most major corporations.

It's a great example of what a small shop can do with the Toyota Production System. There's no fancy technology or sophisticated automation here. Yet cilogear assembles their packs to order, holding no finished goods inventory.

CiloGear is based in Portland, Oregon. From their website:
We are a lean manufacturer: we build packs when ordered. This doesn't mean custom, this means that we manufacture based on demand. "In Stock" means that we have all of the sub assemblies of the pack. Depending on how many packs we've got in the production queue, production time for an order can range from one day to three weeks.
When a pack is ordered, the order will trigger the system, a fancy dry-erase whiteboard. Each order has it's own box with a kanban card. The order picker draws parts from the supermarket (cardboard boxes). Some packs have over 300 components. When a component runs our, the kanban card is put into an empty box triggering replenishment.

Once all the components for the order are kitted in the box, the order is sent to assembly, a small room, where the pieces are stitched together into a backpack.

The assembled box is sent to final QA and for packing and shipping. A simple kanban system that just works.

No finished goods inventory!

Although this simple system works for a low volume, niche manufacturer making high end products,  the process can easily be scaled up if necessary, due to the solid base that their kanban system provides. A little 5S in the office might help, but it's clear that the system is visual and working for them.

Take a look.


Graham Gives Kyle a Tour of CiloGear from CiloGear on Vimeo.


This post has been added to my growing list of Lean videos.

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