Shop Spotlight: Stoplight Sewing At IPI Mitchellville Textiles

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By Inmate Parmer 

When approached to take the position of repairing sewing machines in the IPI-Mitchellville Textiles Shop, I jumped at the opportunity. I love to work with my hands and make operations flow smoothly. Not long after I started, I ran into a problem that did not meet our lean standards of waste. This is my story on how our textiles department fixed this problem.

As with most people, I had a day where I was absent from work. When returning the next day, I realized that there had been machine issues. However, I was unaware of these issues until I noticed that our process was slowing and causing a bottleneck. I then proceeded to fix the machine and got the flow regulated.

Later that same week, I was away from the Textiles Shop for 15-20 minutes answering a question in the panel department and using the restroom. During this time, I had another employee looking for me due to machine issues. This employee had stopped the sewing process to look for me, which, in turn caused slowing of the flow. When I returned to the textiles area, after not being found, I realized that there were machine issues and a slowing of the process due to the time it took to look for me.

At this point I decided that a better process was needed to acknowledge these issues while keeping the women working and the flow in a continuous forward motion. The Andon process we developed is called a stoplight process. Green, yellow, and red cards are clipped to each machine.

  • A green card facing out means that the machine is working properly.
  • A yellow card facing out means that there is something that needs to be looked at on the machine, but it is in working condition. For example, rare or random skips in the stitching, a re-thread issue, or a broken needle would fall into this category.
  • A red card facing out means that the machine cannot be used due to mechanical error. Examples necessitating a red card would be a ceased-up machine, timing is off, or fabric is wrapped up in machine. Red cards get priority.

Now when I have a day off, or just need to use the restroom, I can walk onto the Textiles Shop floor and have it speak to me. I can now quickly and easily identify machine issues!

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