Lean and 5S

This month highlights one of the improvements that was started in January 2008. As with most improvement programs, they must be reported well after the process has been established. This is a big change for most companies, but with the help of Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC, Plymouth, MI) they created a positive learning environment that was very effective.

Lean Training
Lean program must start from the top and be supported from the employee foundation to be successful. Employees support an idea only if they can directly see the benefit. The first step was to educate managment in the expectation and overview of the process. Next, all the employees were trained. MMTC used a “hands on” method of teaching that involved assembling an electronic LED widget. Once, the theory is presented, a practical application of the Lean techniques is introduced. A Kaizen Event (Continous Improvement event) was performed by the employees. “Lean” is a little different way of thinking, in that employees are empowered. Employees improved product processes and optimal work conditions were created. Although it sounds like difficult change, the results with the “Widget” factory showed significant product throughput.

5S Training
In June 2008, we started our first Kaizen event, called “5S”. This is an organizational process that is based on placing tools, materials and equipment in the optimal location so all employees can be productive. This is done at all workstations and is based on the concept of: “Sort, Set In Order, Shine, Standarize and Sustain” (aka “5S”). Benchmarks are measured prior to and after the event and then confirmation of waste reduction is confirmed, thus accepting the changes or the Kaizen event is re-evaluated and improved.

It is working. It has reduced the waste, which is defined as defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talents, transportation, inventory, motion and extra processing. During this process, we benchmarked equipment utilization that was confirmed to have a 5.2% increase between 5/2008 to 3/2009. It does not sound like much, but this was a great performance increase.