The Toyota Production System (TPS) is commonly thought of as the most powerful model for efficient design and management of large scale production environments. TPS has helped develop Toyota Motor Corporation from a struggling, small truck manufacturer after World War II to the world’s largest manufacturer of cars by April of 2007.
In order to produce world-class, quality automobiles at competitive price levels, Toyota has developed an integrated approach to production which manages equipment, materials, and people in the most efficient manner while ensuring a healthy and safe work environment.
The Toyota Production System is built on two main principles: “Just-In-Time” production and “Jidoka.”
“Just in Time” – The conveyance of only what is needed, when it is needed, and in the amount it is needed.
“Jidoka” – The ability to stop production lines, by man or machine, in the event of problems such as equipment malfunction, quality issues, or late work.
Toyota’s Business Problem: Print Related Problems Were Negatively Impacting Takt Time and Continuous Flow Processing
Printers located on the assembly line throughout Toyota’s North American Assembly Plants had been installed to print instructions for production line teams. These instructions (known as Kanban) ensure that the production line teams can correctly install parts and components on a vehicle as it moves into their production station.
In order for the Toyota Production System to be successful, a concept known as Continuous Flow Processing, which is based on “Takt Time,” must be maintained throughout the entire production process.
Takt time is the time which should be taken to produce a component on one vehicle. The Takt time allows Toyota to produce numerous parts of many different types for use in vehicles on the production schedule and to supply those parts to each process on the assembly line at the proper time. This keeps production on schedule (Continuous Flow) and permits flexible response to changes in sales.
Print Spooler Process Problems Required Jidoka
Process breakdowns are not an option in order to maintain the proper Takt time required to ensure Continuous Flow.
However, we all know that printers will fail from time to time. Whether the printer problem is a print spooler problem, a paper jam, a media shortage, or a print job management or delivery problem, print problems do happen.
When a print process breaks down, Jidoka (the ability to stop production lines manually) occurs until the problem is resolved. This prevents quality issues or late work from occurring; however, it negatively impacts Takt time and greatly impaired Toyota’s ability to maintain “Just in Time” Continuous Flow production.
Defining the Business Problem through Kaizen
Improvements and suggestions by Toyota team members are the cornerstone of Toyota’s success.
Using the TPS system of Kaizen (continuous improvement) the Toyota IT team began to spec out a solution to their print process problems.
The IT team determined that a solution was needed to eliminate print problems altogether to prevent negative impact on Continuous Flow and Takt time.
The print spooler solution would need to:
- Notify their Manufacturing (MRP) Application Help Desk within 60 seconds of any print job delivery failure. That notification must contain enough information for the problem to be fixed quickly and easily. a. This needed to be done by translating SNMP error codes from printers to Error Codes used by their MRP Application. b. This could not require any changes to their Manufacturing and Production Application.
- Be able to re-route the failed print job to an alternate printer at the production station so that Takt time would not be impacted nor would Jidoka be required.
- Replace the limited print spooling functionality they currently had. (They knew from experience that neither the HP-UX environment that produced the Kanban text data nor the Windows system that merges that text with an electronic form had a print spooling system capable of solving their print job delivery failure issues.)
- Work with virtually any network attached printer from any vendor.
OM Plus Print Spooler Solution from Plus Technologies Eliminates the Print Problems
As a result of the shortcomings in their native print spooling systems, the Toyota IT team determined that they needed to augment their current system. Relying on the native print spooling systems on their servers just was not up to the standards by which Toyota runs their production system. There were too many cases of print job failures causing production line shut downs which translated into production delays and large costs.
The IT team approached Plus Technologies regarding their business problem, and we implemented a print spooler solution based on our OM Plus Advanced Print Spooler, Document Delivery and Printer Management software.
The OM Plus advanced print spooling system is installed on the Windows System, along with their Electronic Forms package, augmenting the functionality of the Windows server print spooling system on that system.
OM Plus receives print jobs from the Electronic Forms software (without requiring changes to any form or the application), and then OM Plus delivers the kanban print jobs to the printers all around the production floor.
Assured Print Job Delivery
During the print delivery process, the OM Plus print spooler solution opens a bi-directional communications session with the primary printer at each production station and requests SNMP status information from the printer, which provides a detailed status of the printer. OM Plus then waits for the “job complete” status to come from the printer (indicating the job was accepted, printed and the pages were sent to the tray). If printing is successful, OM Plus marks the job status as “printed” and no further action is required.
Print Job Failure Notification
If OM Plus does not receive confirmation from the printer that printing was successful within one minute, or it receives bad status via SNMP from the printer, it updates the job status as “failed”, converts the SNMP status codes to the appropriate MRP Application error status codes, and then updates the MRP Application Help Desk regarding the print failure, in real time.
Automatic Print Job Re-Routing
Once the notification of a problem occurs, the OM Plus print spooler solution directs the print job to the alternate printer at the production station. The alternate printer now becomes the primary printer from that point on and no production line shut-down occurs. Production continues and Takt time is not impacted.
Easy and Fast Problem Resolution
With the information gathered and provided by OM Plus, the MRP Application Help Desk knows when a printer has failed and they know the nature of the failure. This enables them to rectify the situation very quickly and get the printer back online as the alternate printer at the production station, ready and able to take over when the new primary printer has a problem in the future.
The first and most important business result that was delivered by the Plus Technologies OM Plus print spooler solution was that Continuous Flow was maintained. Print job delivery problems no longer occur that result in production line shut downs, stopping Continuous Flow and impacting their ability to deliver vehicles to customers.
Costs are significantly reduced and production processes are not impacted any longer when a print job failure occurs.
The MRP Application Help Desk team is now able to provide much faster resolution to printer errors. They know within one minute of a print failure and they receive error status information so they know what is required to resolve the problem quickly.
Finally, as part of the OM Plus print spooler solution, Plus Technologies recommended the installation of a second printer at each production station to permit an alternate delivery option to OM Plus if the primary printer had a hard failure. This ensured a much higher probability of a print failure not impacting the production line.