Lean Into It

Our first foray into Lean was to organize through implementation of 5S (Sort, Simplify, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain). While it was initially tricky to get everyone used to the idea that a 5S’d area is a happy area, people started seeing immediate benefits both in production and our offices. When a workspace on the production line has all the tools needed in a sorted and standardized location on that line, people quickly noticed how much smoother the line moved when people aren’t searching for tools. We were no longer spending time looking for tools or parts. Efficiency started increasing and quality improved as a by-product.

Then, the next logical step was to start “leaning” out certain production lines and shutting down the line at the hint of any problem. While shutting down the line would have been taboo in the past, we adopted a “fix it fast and forever” mentality. Gone were the days of “It’s a known problem that we fix at such and such operation.” Our focus shifted to quality, quality, and quality. If the line is shut down for a problem, it can’t start back up until the problem is fixed – however painful. In that first few weeks of the lean lines we piloted, so many issues were fixed that had been issues for years (some even unknown for years), that we saw immediate improvements in quality numbers for assemblies built on the lean lines. The actual benefit then realized was, although shutting down the line to fix problems causes immediate tension, we not only save on doing rework on parts that would have been put to the side until later, but the overall savings of eliminating quality rejects that cost both us and our customers money (as anyone who follows the costs associated with rejecting a part on a production line and returning it to a vendor knows) is ever-increasing.  This will continue to benefit our customers as their products remain cost-competitive and reach world-class quality.

Moving forward, I’m even more excited to move all products to the lean mentality as it seems we’ve just gotten a taste of what is possible with this journey. We’re seeing it every day: Focus on quality: If your output is not good, shut the line down. Focus on waste – What is value added for my customer? Focus on savings – What improvements can I make that add efficiency and increase quality?

What we are seeing here is that although it’s a lot of work, we are seeing it as a fun challenge. Diligent problem-solving and relentless improvement have become part of our culture! What can I improve?  How much can I help the company with quality and costs? A simple improvement here can yield a savings for the company that lowers our next quote to the customer, and ultimately, wins us business that may have gone to a competitor.

We allow any employee to stop the line because we have faith in our employees’ ability to identify and solve problems. The look on an employee’s face when you praise them for shutting the line down and fixing a problem is priceless. All this poses a very bright future for The Morey Corporation.

David Seifrid is manager of Planning and Customer Support at The Morey Corporation.

Factory Simulation

We’ve just started to have training exercises with members of our different departments to simulate a lean facility versus a traditional manufacturing facility.  The results have not only been eye-opening, but have really helped people understand the benefit of moving to lean.

Essentially, we have pulled people together in a mini simulation where they have to build towers out of plastic blocks.  The first mode they go through is to set up a receiving line where they follow the current batch build process.  They are given “builds”, kits of material to build sub-assemblies similar to traditional manufacturers and then, when the “subs” are completed, they can build them into the towers.  All this is given through the standard manufacturing process of gathering parts from a stockroom and bringing them to a mock production area.  At the end of 30 minutes, we identify how much money they have made by looking at the amount of towers built and “shipped” vs. the remaining in process material, vs. the amount of “labor” that they put into it, and finally the cost of bad quality.  The results are always discouraging.

We then allow them to make whatever changes they want.  This usually leads to the traditional manufacturing approach of throwing more people at whatever operation(s) seemed to be lacking.  This usually results in hilarious consequences because rather than quieting, the chaos continues to rise.

Finally we re-set their line in a lean, one piece flow operation, and allow them to work off material stores.  I don’t want to spoil it, but there are noticeable differences in this method that extend beyond the money.  You don’t realize how draining it is on people when they can’t work because they are waiting and how this waiting leads to other problems, including human interaction issues.

David Seifrid