Lean Name Badge Manufacturing at Imprint Plus
As any one of the hundreds of books on “Lean” will tell you, “Lean” is a manufacturing philosophy that focuses on delivering value to customers by minimizing waste. Value can be defined as anything the customer says it is, or rather anything the customer would be willing to pay for. Waste is everything else, or the stuff the customer won’t be willing to pay for. The concept of preserving value with less work is the backbone of Lean, and the goal we set for ourselves at Imprint Plus.
Imprint Plus was introduced to Lean in the summer of 2010 through the Canadian Manufacturer’s & Exporters Pull Ahead BC program which provided basic training on Lean concepts. In the fall of 2011, we were mentored by another company, Moulding & Millwork, who had been applying Lean in their workplace for several years. Hands-on training in improvement activity resulted in an immediate impact on Imprint Plus. In a one week period, Kaizens were carried out in our screen-printing, packing, storage, and shipping areas! As a direct result of these activities, we carted out 5 tonnes of junk, 145 cartons of paper, implemented two Kanban systems, 3 Standard Operating Procedures, and made some initial layout changes. More importantly, we started to understand the concept of Lean as it was applied to Imprint Plus in a tangible way, and to see opportunity in terms of small, continuous improvements. From that exercise came an in-house Lean steering committee, an active calendar of Kaizen activity, and an ongoing training program that has resulted in one black belt, two green belts and twenty yellow belt lean practitioners with plans to train the entire company by the end of 2012.
Waste reduction thinking is now an integral part of Imprint Plus’ corporate culture. Today we’re continually looking for, finding and removing waste from our processes, systems, space, activities, materials – everything we do.
History of Lean
Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System. “TPS” is renowned for its focus on reduction of the original Toyota “seven wastes” to improve overall customer value, but there are varying perspectives on how this is best achieved. The steady growth of Toyota from a small company to the world’s largest automaker has focused attention on how it has achieved this.
For many, Lean is the set of “tools” that assist in the identification and steady elimination of waste. As waste is eliminated quality improves while production time and cost are reduced. Examples of such “tools” are Value Stream Mapping, Five S, Kanban (pull systems), and poka-yoke (error-proofing).
There is a second approach to Lean Manufacturing, which is promoted by Toyota, in which the focus is upon improving the “flow” or smoothness of work, thereby steadily eliminating mura (“unevenness”) through the system and not upon ‘waste reduction’ per se. Techniques to improve flow include production leveling, “pull” production (by means of kanban) and the Heijunka box. This is a fundamentally different approach from most improvement methodologies, which may partially account for its lack of popularity.
The difference between these two approaches is not the goal itself, but rather the prime approach to achieving it. The implementation of smooth flow exposes quality problems that already existed, and thus waste reduction naturally happens as a consequence. The advantage claimed for this approach is that it naturally takes a system-wide perspective, whereas a waste focus sometimes wrongly assumes this perspective.
Imprint Plus Waste Reduction Effort: Motion
Motion waste is unnecessary movement of people. We had unnecessary movement of order packers looking for specific sizes of our insert sheets. We have 66 different types of insert sheets but, as you can see on the before picture below, we had not set up the inventory in a way that made it easy for the packers to find and identify the specific insert sheets required for any particular order. Further, multiple cartons of the same item were opened at the same time, making inventory management and control a challenge. As a result, the packers spent non valued added time climbing and searching through different boxes looking for specific items. The after picture shows the inventory clearly labeled and organized by item, with a circle sticker identifying which box to draw from. This improvement allowed the packers to pick insert sheets for orders using less motion.
Imprint Plus Waste Reduction Effort: Overproduction
The waste of overproduction is producing more inventory than you need to satisfy customer requirements and making it before you truly need it. Excess inventory uses up resources to finance, store and administer and sometimes, excess inventory can be held so long that it becomes obsolete and has to be thrown away altogether. We had excess inventory in some of our screen printed products and implemented a pull system (known as a “ kanban” system in Japanese). Production of the screened printed products is now determined by their use. The items are replenished only when they reach a certain level as indicated by the kanban card (white card in the AFTER picture), thereby reducing excess inventory.
Additional Waste Reduction Opportunities
There are 6 more types of waste that Lean practitioners look for:
- Transportation: Moving products that are not actually required to perform the processing
- Re-work: Redoing work that was already done by someone else
- Untapped Human Potential
- Inventory: All components finished product not being processed
- Waiting: Waiting for the next production step
- Defects: The effort involved in inspecting for and fixing defects
print Plus we have the opportunity to to discover and address all these types of waste. Once you have your Lean lens on, everywhere you look in your business you will see an opportunity to address waste.
Imprint Plus Director of Operations and resident Lean Black Belt Kristin MacMillan will be sharing more Lean stories and tips as part of the Imprint Plus Badge Blog. We hope you’ll follow her there, and be as inspired by Lean as we were!