Many times, people will say that their company is embarking on a LEAN journey. “Journey” is perhaps the most accurate way to describe it. LEAN is not something that you come in and do once, then go away and expect it to miraculously “fix” things. No, LEAN becomes a way of life. It is about continuous improvement, not just during implementation – but for all time to come.
“In February 2005, Hytrol began its long term strategy for growth by implementing LEAN principles. For this to be successful, there is much for everyone to learn.”
This is one of the ways that Hytrol, long-time IBT supplier and a leading manufacturer of conveying systems, began to explain how the company was installing a culture of LEAN Manufacturing in their Jonesboro, Arkansas-based company.
To introduce the program, the company held a meeting. Hytrol employees were given a look at “Power LEAN” when Hytrol President, Gregg Goodner and Manager of LEAN Enterprise, Mark Sutterfield, held a meeting of all associates.
At the meeting, Goodner spoke of the growing concerns of workers as more and more companies are moving their factories to other countries. Cheap labor was the motivating factor behind this trend. Sutterfield then explained LEAN Manufacturing and what it can do for Hytrol and Hytrol’s customers. He stated that one major benefit of embracing the LEAN program was the elimination of waste.
Both men talked about the changes Hytrol must make to not only keep Hytrol moving ahead of the competition, but to keep Hytrol strong in America. They stated that each employee will become involved in the LEAN program and discussed how this will be done.
LEAN production is aimed at the elimination of waste in every area of the factory, including customer relations, product design, supplier networks and factory management. Its goal is to incorporate less human effort, less inventory and less time to develop products – and less space so as to become highly responsive to customer demand – while producing top quality products in the most efficient and economical manner possible.
Hytrol sees employee involvement in the LEAN Enterprise program as a win-win situation for company and customers. LEAN Enterprise is designed to insure that Hytrol continues to lead the way in the conveyor industry.
In a sense, LEAN is about eliminating waste. With LEAN, manufacturing firms rearrange their areas into individual work cells and set up these cells to manufacture only what the customer consumes. In this way, there are few wastes incurred.
One of the LEAN principles is to get everyone involved. Each individual is a major part or the company’s decision making process. Who better to tell someone what goes on in a work area than the people who work in it? LEAN empowers each employee to make suggestions for improvement and to take action to see that these improvements come about. This kind of involvement helps to improve morale and performance.
One thing that has been a key to Hytrol’s LEAN transformation is the creation of work cells. This has meant analyzing the work in an area, then rearranging the machinery in a way that makes the work flow better. But it is more than that. Work cells also give those in the area an opportunity to learn several tasks, not just the one job they may have done for years. This makes things more flexible and gets rid of the monotony of doing the same thing all day, every day.
With this new work flow comes a new way of thinking. Instead of trying to get as many pieces of product made as possible, Hytrol learned that they should produce only What The Customer Wants, When The Customer Wants It, in the Quantity That The Customer Wants. Hytrol focuses its work to meet customer needs.
Many manufacturers use the “Mass Production” method. Mass production is the production of large amounts of the same product on assembly lines. A machine operator stands at a machine all day, turning raw materials into one product. These individual products are then used in other parts of the assembly line to create the company’s final product. It provides for high rates of part production per worker and this results in making inexpensive products. There are, however, drawbacks to the mass production system.
With a production line set up to make a certain part or product, it provides little or no flexibility in product creation. This means making the same product over and over, with little ability to meet the changing demands of consumers. Also, to make it worthwhile, mass production requires mass consumption. A company must predict, based on past consumer needs, how many items they will need to produce. This requires having great amounts of costly raw materials on hand at all times. Simply put, mass production lends itself to many kinds of wastes.
And that is where LEAN comes in. LEAN thinking means reevaluation of a business’ entire processes. It means looking at a product through the eyes of a customer. It means getting everyone in the business involved in the transformation. And it means having to question “the way we’ve always done it” and doing something to make the best product possible, with less waste and higher quality products.
To help further the understanding and integration of LEAN into Hytrol’s way of life, graphic artist David Snow introduced a new character in the “Captain Hytrol” comic. “Power LEAN” became part of the Hytrol family when he answered Captain Hytrol’s call for help in explaining basic LEAN concepts. The comic begins with examining a few areas at Hytrol and showing where there is room for improvement. Throughout the book, Hytrol’s processes and methods are transformed into the LEAN Manufacturing system. Along the way, LEAN terminology is explained in detail, making it very easy to understand. Concepts such as Value Stream Process, Cellular Manufacturing, 6-S, One Piece Flow, Seven Deadly Wastes, Dynamic Visual Factory Systems and many more are taken from abstract concept to comfortable reality through the pages of this valuable tool.
If you would like more information about Hytrol’s LEAN Journey, contact IBT Material Handling.