In 2004, the Flextronics manufacturing plant in Creedmoor, N.C. began the design, creation and assembly of each of the 26,000-plus redbox DVD-rental kiosks that are now installed across North America.
But before consumers saw any redbox in their corner supermarket, the team at Creedmoor had to design a box, determine the feasibility of building such a device and shipping it around the country, find suppliers and purchase the parts needed for such a device, and finally build the physical kiosk.
The version of the redbox now seen everywhere began as a request for modification of an existing device by a client who wasn’t satisfied with the product, said Eric Fiest, director of engineering.
McDonald’s Corp. about a decade ago became one of the parents of the redbox, as it sought to operate a revenue producing, small-footprint device that would appeal to its burger-and-fries customers. Early on McDonald’s tried a kiosk with DVDs, apparently it held as many as 1,000, but it also offered music downloads and various consumer products.
The concept was good but it just wasn’t setting the world on fire.
“Sometimes firms come to us and they’re not exactly sure what they want,” said Fiest. “We help guide the process before we get to a finished product.”
After hearing McDonald’s request to refine the device, Creedmoor’s manufacturing engineers met with leaders of the design group and the in-house model shop to determine an answer. That included reviewing manufacturing and production, the supply chain, pricing, design, distribution, and other aspects of mass producing a kiosk.
After the discussions, it was decided to build a smaller kiosk that would offer only DVDs, with a capability of holding about 650 movies and games, primarily the top new releases.
It took 10 weeks from drawing the revamped design to the actual finished, working kiosk, a period that overlapped the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Today, one of the kiosk prototypes, Number 5, sits in the Creedmoor employee cafeteria/break room.
The in-house model shop, central to the creation of the early redbox, is one of those “differentiators” that set the Flextronics’ plant apart from many competitors, said Fiest.
The shop gives designers and engineers the capability of creating and building their own parts for the assembly line, said Fiest, a feature unusual in manufacturing where it’s common to build strictly from supplied parts. The shop has a full complement of machine shop tools including lathes, grinders, welding materials, and inspection gauges, along with a painting area.
The model shop contributes to the Flextronics plants Kaizen manufacturing style, the Japanese method where workers, designers and administrators meet regularly to discuss changes in the assembly process with an eye toward improving work flow and design. Kaizen calls for continuous, incremental change leading to tighter production, the elimination of defects and the best product.
At one meeting it was determined that improvements could be made to the door in the redbox where DVDs are dispensed and where consumers return the DVD. To the naked eye, it wasn’t a major change in a part that fit into the door piece. But a remake would ensure that the door would completely close after the consumer slides in a DVD.
Designers used the shop to build a new piece and test it, and it is now part of every redbox.
The model area may also contribute to “after-market triage” on redboxes that have been damaged by floods, car crashes and mischief by vandals. The banged up devices are shipped to Creedmoor, and the plant determines if the device can be fixed. If so, the device is repaired and shipped back out.
One cloud on the horizon for Flextronics is the possible end of production of the DVD rental kiosk. There are an estimated 26,000 redboxes now installed and Coinstar, redboxes’ parent, has said its goal is 30,000 installed.
In addition, there is the widely-reported advent of digital downloads of movies and games which could severely impact the need to visit a kiosk for a DVD. No one knows when or if that will reach mass acceptance but analysts have said digital downloading of entertainment by most households is still more a concept than an everyday occurrence.
Still, what happens when and if redbox doesn’t need anymore redboxes?
Like any supplier, the Creedmoor plant is dependent on its client and its needs, explains John Mainey, general manager. Until those needs change, the plant’s job is to deliver the best product it can as long as the client demands it.
Meanwhile, Mainey seeks out new customers to join redbox and Genband, a second client at the Creedmoor plant. Flextronics supplies Genband with computer server racks.
In addition, Fiest and the engineering group meet with firms seeking Flextronics’ design expertise.
“Often, their ideas are marketing-driven, not manufacturing-driven. They may not be sure how the product should look or how to offer the product,” said Fiest. “We pin down those aspects, and contribute ideas on cost impacts and the manufacturing of the device.”
Source | Selfserviceworld.comSometimes if you want to do things right you have to do it yourself.