In the fall of 2011 the upper management team at Bull Metal Products attended a one day seminar about Lean Manufacturing. It really opened management’s eyes to a different manner of manufacturing. The group was very excited about the concept and how it could help improve the entire company, not just the shop floor.
During the winter of 2011-2012, we searched out and interviewed a number of different Lean Manufacturing consultants that we might consider to help guide us in implementing Lean at Bull Metal Products. Prior to contracting with a consultant, at the suggestion of one of the interviewed consultants, our upper management team read the book “The Goal”, by Eliyahu Goldratt. It further infused our team with enthusiasm for the potential changes and improvements that Lean Manufacturing could bring to Bull Metal Products.
In the late winter/early spring of 2012 we selected and contracted with Leanovations International to be our consultant. Over the first month or so, with the help of our consultant, we educated all of our employees about Lean and how it would help Bull Metal Products to grow. We believe very deeply that Lean Manufacturing is a growth strategy. We also know it takes everyone’s commitment to the concept of Lean to make it a successful strategy. Upper management is firmly committed to the concept. It is the current and future way at Bull Metal Products.
Lean is a process of continuous improvement and is defined with the Japanese word “Kaizen“. First, an area of our operation is identified as needing some improvement. The goal is clearly defined, and through the convening of a small, varied group of employees, the solution is determined and implemented. These improvement projects are called Kaizen Events. The group of employees is known as the Kaizen Team. Kaizen events are intense. They are completed in 5 days. Members of Kaizen Teams are different for each Kaizen Event. This engages all of our employees in the continuous improvement of Bull Metal Products.
In implementing Lean, beyond our continuing education about Lean philosophy and processes, we scheduled our first Kaizen event in June of 2012. We picked one very limited and defined area of our production process that we saw a need for improvement. We then selected and convened a Kaizen Team to assess the current situation and create the solutions necessary to attain the defined goal.
The goal of our first Kaizen Event was defined; “create a small box welding cell”. In one week this Kaizen Team very successfully implemented a working production welding cell unit that reduced production costs by eliminating waste while increasing through-put significantly. This effort required long hours by our Kaizen Team during the event week. They did many things during the week to come up with the planned solution and implement the plan, including; assessing current welding times and techniques, relocating equipment, re-wiring areas of the production floor to accommodate the relocated equipment, testing the new cell set up, and did a company-wide presentation explaining what the goal was, what they did, why they did it, and how they accomplished the goal.
Our first Kaizen event was extremely successful. We have now been on our Lean journey for approximately 12 months. We have had about a half dozen Kaizen events to date (some small, and some large). In addition to the efficiencies created by Kaizen events, our company moral is significantly improved as we are all part of the successful and ongoing implementation of Lean Manufacturing at Bull Metal Products.