Walton Trailers of Logan, Utah, has won Trailer/Body Builders' first Tip of the Month contest for the company's visual system for monitoring inventory levels of key items.
“At Walton Trailers, one of the most difficult problems that we have run into is managing our inventory,” said Jes Lundberg, director of operations. “We do very little cookie-cutter trailers. Because of that, the materials list to build our trailers is always changing, and it is hard to plan. We want to create control over our inventory while minimizing the amount of cash that is tied up in parts.”
The system involves ordering only the parts that the company would consume during the time required to fill the order — and then doubling it. Small parts are stored in two equally sized bins. When one bin is empty, it is a visual cue that triggers an order for more. The inventory that's left should be enough to cover the lead time. Large parts are stored in two locations, achieving the same purpose.
It is a kanban system, Lundberg says.
“The key components to making a kanban type of inventory system work is correctly calculating the inventory levels, making it visual, and ensuring that discipline is being used by those in the process,” Lundberg explains. “The last concept is the most important — making sure that the order is being placed as soon as the visual signal appears.”
Lundberg says this inventory control technique helps to give control to the shop, rather than to an inventory accounting system.
“It also is enabling the purchasing department to work as a better team member with the production group on getting them the correct parts at the correct time. We have only begun to implement these. As time goes on, we plan on involving our vendors more in the process as well as adapting the process to ensure that we always have the correct parts to complete the production schedule.”
In winning the Tip of the Month contest in November, Walton receives a Buyers Products LED light package valued at $300.
To enter next month's contest, e-mail Bruce Sauer at [email protected].