Operational Excellence Programs from MassMEP
We recently participated in a workshop that resides under MassMEP’s (Manufacturing Extension Partnership) “Operational Excellence” programs, which addresses lean methodologies. The goal of these programs is to add in-depth knowledge, expertise, and business acumen to our entire team, enabling us to position ourselves for continued success as part of the “next-generation” manufacturing community. Using a grant to fund the training, 35 of us participated in this “Principles of Lean Manufacturing” workshop.
At Fourstar, we’ve been working on lean manufacturing initiatives for a few years now. As discussed in a previous blog, we’ve successfully implemented a host of lean improvements that include:
- Freeing up space on employee workstations
- Cleaning, decluttering, disposing of material, equipment, old legacy piping, etc.
- Re-evaluating alternative layouts for the production floor and general environment
- Purging and re-organizing the stock room
Some of the simple questions we ask when looking for physical improvements we can make to our facility are:
- What do you need?
- Where it is?
- How do you get someplace just by looking around?
- Are there clear visuals to help me get there?
At the core of lean principles is a focus on continuous improvement, and this workshop helped to bolster our collective commitment to seek out areas that we can, well, continue to improve upon!
The workshop used a performance-based, simulated manufacturing environment that provided a hands-on, experiential model for participating in a lean transformation. The goal of this workshop is to teach people how to eliminate waste and increase productivity and profitability, focusing on cycle-time reduction or manufacturing waste—as opposed to “traditional manufacturing philosophies [that] stress high utilization of machinery and manpower.” Of course, the ultimate outcomes are focused on gaining a competitive edge.
In keeping with lean principles, the workshop covered the basics:
- Wait time
- Inefficient processes
- Production bottlenecks
The learning objectives of the training include having participants:
- Experience the frustrations inherent in traditional manufacturing environments
- Participate in applying lean principles in a simulated shop floor environment
- Understand the relationship between increased flow of materials, information, and products with increased profitability
- Participate in the financial impact of a Time Wise Lean transformation
It looks like the objectives are hitting their targets, because according to MassMEP, the statistics from previous participants of this workshop support impressive ROI results:
- 90% reduction in lead time
- 85% reduction in work-in-progress
- 85% improvement in quality
- 50% increase in productivity
- 50% reduction in floor space
One Dream—One Team
This workshop has helped to re-invigorate our lean commitment. It reinforces our overall approach at Fourstar, which is to address everything, but to start small and simple as a first step for every new initiative. Some things will naturally present themselves as you unclutter the space physically and unclutter your mind from what you couldn’t previously see as possible. In Fourstar’s case, in the last few years, we looked at signs, focused on inconsistent details, saw things like old tape that needed to be removed, cleaned areas and washed items, organized, kept what we needed, and got rid of what we didn’t. We created leaders, made capital improvements, and redesigned the workspace and workflow with a modular, mobile production model. Our drive to keep it lean has worked well for all parties involved—from the production floor, to C-Suite and business model focus, when developing new product introductions (NPI) and design for manufacturability (DFM) projects for customers, and in our supply chain relationships with suppliers.
Lean Is Simple
Lean may be simple when broken down into completing one element at a time, but depending on the task ahead of you, it can also be involved. To learn lots more about the lean mindset, principles, tips on hiring consultants, and more practical details about what we did here at Fourstar, download this eBook, “How to Start Lean Manufacturing Improvements in Your Factory.”