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Baseline.com: HON Industries Furnished With Linux

Nov 20, 2002, 22:00 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Larry Barrett)

"When the system broke down in the middle of a production run, the line workers wouldn't always have an accurate job order to refer to. Desk chairs that were supposed to have black fabric on the seats and backs would go through the line and come out gray. Worse, because HON wasn't able to identify where the chairs or the cabinets were supposed to be shipped, they'd collect in a disorganized heap at the end of the line. Delayed shipments, misplaced orders and lost products were commonplace.

"'We'd get to the point where we didn't know what order was going where, and how many of this were supposed to go with that,' Fields says. 'It was a very low-tech situation that sort of ganged up on us all at once. It wasn't manageable and the downtime was simply too high.'

"Despite its decidedly low-tech roots, HON has always aspired to have a production-line process as flexible and efficient as the automobile industry. The idea is to be as lean and nimble as possible. One day you're cranking out metal shelves on the floor and the next day you're turning out chairs in the same exact spot. However, when your operation is dependent on serial cables connected to terminals and then to a Unix server, your flexibility is severely hampered. In HON's case, the accidental severing of a single serial cable would bring down multiple production lines..."

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