When a company is growing quickly, everybody jumps on board to keep the ball rolling. But at some point it makes sense to stand back and have a look at how the work is getting done to make sure it is as efficient and safe as it could be.
That's what Brad Van Brunt and Chris McLear at Schluter Systems were thinking about this fall when they called CITEC to facilitate some kaizen events to focus on workstation 5S, design and layout at the warehouse pick and pack operation.
Schluter's "big truck" packing area assembles large shipments, for Home Depot warehouses for example, that can take two or more shifts to put together. As the operation grew from one station to two stations and then to five stations, it became important to standardize the work areas and consolidate strategies to optimize efficiency. CITEC business advisor George Mauch worked with the whole team to develop and execute a three day kaizen.
The team designed new material storage and waste boxes, new tape handling devices, and new banks for banders and pallet jacks and standardized the stations so they were all the same. Tape marked the layout areas for different sized pallets, and shadow boards were created for shared tools. The work resulted in some changes in worker roles, reduced floor space needs for box material, time savings for packers, and two additional storage lanes in the staging area.
The effort was contagious. The robo pack operator, who runs the next area down the line which robotically shrink wraps the packed product for shipping, realized the benefits of 5S and worked on eliminating the same problems in his area.
Schluter Systems understands the benefits of these kinds of events that involve the whole team to not only improve the work area, but develop the worker buy-in that builds the continuous improvement culture in the company. Two more kaizen events are scheduled in the facility this fall.
Kaizen is a Japanese word for improvement. Although Lean systems work to incorporate continuous improvement every day, a kaizen event, led by an expert facilitator and involving a whole work team, creates a step change improvement in a short space of time, usually within a day to a week.
CITEC is a not-for-profit business consulting organization serving the seven counties of Jefferson, Lewis, Clinton, St Lawrence, Essex, Franklin, and Hamilton. We are driven by a mission to help the small and medium sized enterprises in northern New York to thrive. The depth of our consulting team's expertise and an unbeatable nationwide network of resources will deliver the impacts your business needs to grow strategically, improve profitability, and create the competitive advantages you need.