Becoming Fluent in Efficiency
Sometimes you need to follow specific steps to help you eliminate unnecessary steps you may have been employing. One well known and effective lean approach that provides this type of transformative guidance is kaizen. Kaizen combines philosophy and action (with solution-finding workshops referred to as events) to create continuous improvement. Part of the success of kaizen is that at the heart of its philosophy, it calls for creating a culture that includes all levels of the organization in the problem solving. The ultimate goal is that the kaizen mindset becomes second nature for all. Often, the solutions are right in front of us and follow common sense approaches. Kaizen events bring together the collective talents of various members of the staff—production and management—and help to create improvements for new standards and processes that have everyone on the same page.
We recently completed a workshop called “Kaizen Rapid Improvement Training.” This lean implementation training is part of the MassMEP’s (Manufacturing Extension Partnership) “Operational Excellence” programs. We recently completed two other workshops, “Principles of Lean Manufacturing,” and “Team Involvement Problem Solving” (TIPs) training. The goal of these programs is to add in-depth knowledge, expertise, and business acumen to the entire team, helping manufacturers grow by uncovering the elements of their business that can create opportunities for efficiencies and growth. The vision for this kaizen training is to accomplish performance improvements in days rather than months and “sustain the gains.”
Five people from our electro-mechanical production line, including the production manager, manufacturing engineer, and the group leader participated in this event. We followed a structured 10-step process enabling our team to achieve rapid, action-oriented improvements. This guided us in addressing individual problem areas identified by “Process Mapping,” using the industry standard “Plan-Do-Check-Act” problem-solving model. The goal here was to learn to:
- Solve priority problems identified by value stream mapping (VSM)
- Bridge current state and targeted future state
And to use intervention techniques to:
- Reduce production lead time, inventory, and cost
- Increase available capacity
- Decrease area footprint
- Reduce order lead time
- Reduce material and operator travel distance
We’re happy to say that at Fourstar, we have enjoyed great success with many of the lean initiatives we have implemented. This workshop helped reinforce our mindset. The training offered improved methods of breaking a production line down and removing wasted effort, as well as effective tools to implement line balancing. It provided us with additional tools to breakdown the existing flow and lay out the new process. The team now has a unified approach to how we will conduct this process in the future, thus offering consistency, uniformity, and efficiency. What has sustaining value moving forward is that this team now has a common language they are working on. With practice, they will become fluent.
Working through these continuous improvements with people at Fourstar, I’m constantly impressed with their ability to embrace change. Fourstar employees have gone from viewing lean training and concepts as an interruption, to appreciating the benefits to them personally on the job. “Practical Lean” adjusted to fit our company, people, and exposure levels has taken the fear out of trying new things. We respect our employee’s contributions at all levels. It just makes life better.
We’ve discussed the general benefits we experience in the training: the overall continuous improvement benefits, the efficient problem-solving steps, and the process oversight that has everyone “speaking the same language.” Some of the more tangible benefits of kaizen are:
- Reduction of production lead time, inventory, and cost
- Increased available capacity without additional capital investment
- Increased productivity and product quality at the same time
According to MassMEP, the 10-step kaizen process is a data-driven method of focusing on identifying and resolving specific problems related to the desired future state. Once these problems are identified and resolved, typical results produce:
- 50% improvement in productivity
- 85% improvement in quality
Customers Benefit, Too!
We like those numbers! Of course, every improvement we make gets passed on to our customers in efficient production time and delivery and even higher quality standards.
Fourstar’s ability to pivot internally to address the needs of our business and partnerships is an inherent part of our fiber. A constant in our business practice, continuous improvement programs and training—internally and externally—keep us in touch with our mission of helping us all find a better way!
At Fourstar, we apply our project management, manufacturing expertise, exceptional customer support, and advanced IT systems to provide customers with a comprehensive range of products and solutions—from cable assemblies to complex box build solutions. Having 30 years of experience, and offering a comprehensive portfolio of electronic services and solutions to tackle a wide range of manufacturing needs, Fourstar partners with leading companies to problem solve, innovate, and find better ways for new product introduction (NPI), and create design for manufacturing (DFM) initiatives. Contact us now about your next electronic services project!