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A lean kaizen conducted at Metalade created a color code system for punch press tooling. The system assists in preventing costly mistakes related to installing the wrong tooling, reduces repair cost and decreases machine downtime.
A set of picture work instructions for a punch press setup were also created to reduce machine downtime due to lengthy setups. The instructions are currently posted at the machine for easy reference.
Lean Kaizen: Just Do It!
Process Cleaning, Christopher D. Chapman
As the old saying goes, “That is a great idea, let’s talk about it!” For many companies, process improvement can be exhaustingly slow and bureaucratic. It can also be very difficult to move the team beyond talking about the problems to assembling the right people and executing an improvement plan. Unfortunately, with growing overseas competition and the increasing move towards automation, companies are being pressured to improve their processes quickly and efficiently or risk falling behind. One answer that has been developed to address this issue is the concept of Kaizen.
Kaizen is a team-based improvement approach adopted from the Toyota Production System (TPS) aimed at implementing significant improvement in a short period of time. Kaizen events are characterized as short bursts of intense activity, biased toward action over analysis, and driven toward resolving a specific problem or achieving a specific company goal. The process has been shown to have a positive impact on process improvement both from a targeted project perspective as well as in the aggregate, when the total Kaizen’s being conducted throughout a company are factored in.
One American manufacturer, Metalade, New York, Inc. a metal fabrication shop, recognized the positive impact this process could have and challenged their shop floor personnel to put together a Kaizen plan for their manufacturing processes. To assist in this process, the company brought in Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) Center for Excellence in Lean Enterprise to provide training to managers and personnel on setting up and conducting Kaizens. Through these work sessions, Metalade teams received education in a host of lean principles, including creating standard work procedures, establishing workplace organization (5S) and implementing setup reduction techniques. Managers and staff also learned how to implement these principles into individual Kaizen projects that would improve specific processes on the shop floor. But while training and education are important, Metalade learned that the most important concept in successfully completing Kaizen mirrors one shoe company’s signature slogan.
Nike’s “Just Do It” mantra urged consumers to take charge of their physical fitness despite the sweaty, pain-ridden, time-consuming exercise that lay ahead to begin an exercise regimen that would lead to a healthier leaner lifestyle. However, the “Just Do It” campaign was not only about sneakers, but about Nike’s own renaissance in the 1980s due to growing competition from Reebok (CFAR, 1999). Today, many companies find themselves in a similar crisis, trying to ward off stiff competition, increase productivity and lower costs. For a growing number of companies, conducting Kaizens is becoming an effective way of taking a team of “can-do” professionals with a “just do it” attitude and driving continuous improvement throughout a company.
Kaizen and Just Do ItNike’s Just do It stance is mirrored in the creation of key aspects of TPS. TPS’s original developer, Taiichi Ohno, discovered that by focusing the energy of the organization’s employees on continuous improvement, giving them the skills to bring about process change and to solve problems, and by quickly acting on their ideas and creativity, improvement projects were more successful. This teach-and-dophilosophy would ultimately become one of the key drivers of the Kaizen process. In this case, standard Kaizen development included basic training on lean concepts and principles, 5S workplace organization, Kaizen creation and implementation, and setup reduction techniques.
LeanAccording to Taiichi Ohno, “lean is simply looking at the production timeline; from the moment the customer gives us the order—to the point when we collect cash; we are reducing that timeline by removing the non-value-added wastes.”
The lean journey begins by taking a critical look at the production process and identifying non-value-added waste (i.e. transportation, inventory, movement/motion, waiting, overproduction, over-processing and defects) that could be reduced or eliminated. Teams are then created usually including employees from several areas of the shop floor, both managers and staff. These teams make first-hand observations of the “hidden factory” and all its non value-added activities. By combining lean with environmental and energy efficiency principals the process can also be used to enhance environmental quality and lower energy use while also improving overall productivity. For example, the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute hosted by RIT offers a Lean Energy and the Environment training program called LE2.
Viewing the business through ‘lean glasses’ helps break down traditional functional silos and speed the realignment of processes to customer demands (George, 2002). It also
helps determine whether a process is creating or destroying value (i.e. any activity that changes form, adds features or functions of value with which the customer is willing to pay).
5S Workplace Organization5S, which stands for Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain, creates a work environment that is disciplined, clean and well-ordered. Organizations where “there is a place for everything and everything is in its place” exposes inefficiencies and disruptions in the workflow and adds transparency to the process. It also allows solutions to be found quickly and easily. When 5S is properly implemented, it creates a “visual factory” that
allows quick determination of workplace status. At a glance, managers and supervisors
are able to see when things are out of order, when production has fallen behind or stalled, or when work-in-process (WIP) is not where it should be (Chapman, 2005). They also can reduce setup times and increase productivity through simple standardization and process modification.
KaizenOnce the team identifies problems and non value-added waste, they use the Kaizen methodology to quickly implement their improvement ideas. Kaizen— Japanese for “change for the better” or “continuous improvement—is a systematic approach and problem-solving tool aimed at quickly implementing low cost improvements that result in a measurable impact. A typical Kaizen event may last several days with a core team of employees reorganizing and standardizing a work area to create a safer and more efficient working environment. Through the use of repeated Kaizens a culture of continual small improvements and standardization develops which can yield large results in the form of compound productivity improvement.
Setup ReductionThrough the Kaizen process, teams are also able to identify setup reduction opportunities that can enhance the goal of individual Kaizens and improve overall efficiency. The setup time is defined as the time required to remove the old tools, dies or fixtures, attach new tools, dies or fixtures and run the machine until a new part, without defects, is produced. In other words, it is the time from last good part produced to the first good part produced (of the next product). Lean places a focus on this time between parts because it is a period of non-value added time and activity; that is, the equipment is idle and not producing parts.
Metalade, New York, Inc.: A case studyMetalade, founded in 1968, specializes in large complex weldment assemblies, and has their own in-house painting and silk screening departments. They have achieved dramatic growth over the last decade and are currently seeking to expand into new markets while retaining their high level of product and service quality. However, they are also beginning to experience enhanced competition, particularly from low cost, overseas competitors. The firm sees lean manufacturing as a method for both sustaining growth and proactively addressing competitive pressures.
The company first began adopting lean manufacturing practices in January 2007 with the goal of reducing costs, decreasing waste, increasing worker productivity and involvement, and improving production and energy efficiency. Since then, numerous cross-functional Kaizen teams of Metalade employees, with the assistance of RIT’s Center for Excellence in Lean Enterprise, have conducted waste analysis projects, dissected manufacturing processes, identified a number of nonvalue- added steps to be reduced or eliminated, completed 5S workplace organization and setup reduction techniques, and implemented visual controls.
For example, an initial Kaizen looked to address inefficiencies in Metalade’s turret punch press. The team first selected a leader and co-leader from the group of six shop floor associates. The group then brainstormed solutions to address the various time delays and inefficiencies in the process, came up with a set of solutions and implemented these into the manufacturing system. Through this effort they created picture work instructions, which demonstrated best setup practices and regimented procedures. They also coordinated many of the setup tasks such as getting materials and gathering tooling so they could be completed while the equipment was still running. This included the implementation of a blue flashing light that notifies the material handler to pre-stage the material for the next job. Historically these tasks had been done while the machine was down.
In addition, a setup cart was created to provide all the necessary tooling at the point of use prior to shutting down the machine for the setup thus reducing setup time and drastically reducing unnecessary walking and searching. Tooling holders were also color coded to help equipment operators easily distinguish between standard and metric, preventing costly errors and machine downtime. Finally, a backlog of tooling was also sharpened, repaired and pre-staged for the operator to quickly obtain when needed.
Because of these improvements, the Kaizen team reduced some traditional setup times by 80 percent, improved the overall equipment effectiveness of the punch press and greatly reduced costs associated with the process.
ConclusionWith the success of this first Kaizen, the company and team members were motivated to further the process of lean implementation throughout the facility and Metalade went on to complete seven more Kaizens over the next eight months. While lean implementation helped the company address inefficiencies in their production processes, thereby increasing efficiency, it also had the added benefit of reducing waste and energy use, which will ultimately improve the firm’s environmental performance.
In a short period of time, Metalade excited and empowered the workforce to implement significant change. Rother and Shook, authors of Learning to See, state that there is no end to the “future-becomes-present” cycle in continuous improvement. This constant effort to eliminate waste and a firm conviction to use lean principles is the key, coupled with a willingness to try, without succumbing to the fear of failure, and continuing to learn as you go. That said, in the spirit of Nike, Taiichi Ohno, or anyone in your life that has urged you to go out and give it your best shot, I say to you: Just do it!
Christopher D. Chapman is a senior program manager at the Center for Excellence in Lean Enterprise and the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute both at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, NC and is certified Management Black Belt. Christopher can be reached at (585) 475-2868.
• Mini-case Study: Nike’s “Just Do It” Advertising Campaign, Center for Applied Research (CFAR), 1999.
• Mike Rother & John Shook, Learning to See, Lean Enterprise Institute, 1999.
• Michael L. George, Lean Six Sigma, McGraw-Hill, 2002.
• Christopher D. Chapman, “Clean House with Lean 5S,” Quality Progress June 2005.