How Lean Manufacturing Changed One Fabricator’s Way of Thinking and Doing
by Ellen Giard
“It’s like flipping the company upside down, letting the pieces fall out and then putting everything back in. It changes the way everyone thinks,” says Carey Mobius, president of Burnaby, British Columbia-based Garibaldi Glass, about becoming a lean manufacturing operation. “You cross that line in the sand and there is no turning back.”
Garibaldi is a family-owned company managed by three Mobius brothers: Carey, president; Chris, vice president; and Craig, who is involved heavily in the company’s sales in both local and non-local markets. Operating in 80,000 square feet with more than 160 employees, the company fabricates a number of glass products including tempered, insulating and ceramic frit glasses, as well as shower doors.
“We produce more than 350,000 square feet of finished product a month,” says Carey.
The company primarily serves the glazing needs of the Pacific Northwest, but also does work in other parts of North America, including Florida, New York and Hawaii. And, while the company has worked in Asia, it has yet to venture into Europe due to logistics.
During the past three years Garibaldi has been making the transition to lean manufacturing. The process is long and requires absolute, total commitment.
And what exactly is lean manufacturing? Generally speaking, it is a management philosophy coined by Toyota that focuses on reducing waste of any kind (see wastes sidebar page 131). The philosophy teaches that quality is improved, production time is reduced and cost is reduced by eliminating waste.
Defining the steps that go into creating a lean organization is not easy. This is because lean manufacturing is not a one-size-fits-all process; it is just as company-specific as it is product specific. It begins with 100-percent commitment from owners and managers, who then communicate the basic lean manufacturing principles to employees. Principles include preparation and motivational people; encouraging employee involvement; sharing information and managing expectations; creating an atmosphere of experimentation in which mistakes are tolerated and patience is displayed; and establishment of achievable performance measures, evaluation and reward systems.
Once everyone in the organization understands that lean manufacturing is for the good of the company and customers, and not individuals, the next step is to learn about the many lean manufacturing tools (see sidebar page 134 for more on lean tools). Chris explains that most companies often begin with the 5S tool (the Japanese concept for housekeeping) because it is applicable to the entire business and because results can be seen and felt almost instantly. The 5S tool begins with sorting.
“Look around you right now and notice all the things that you never touch and don’t need,” says Carey. “Ask yourself, how much of what is around me right now do I not touch every day … and just don’t want to get rid of?”
Next is stabilizing, meaning to straighten the area and get it into working order. Shining follows. This means cleaning and eliminating clutter. “It brings pride to the area,” says Chris. Standardizing comes next. “This is where you come up with your standard operating procedures (SOP),” says Chris. “Then there’s sustaining, and that’s the hardest one. This is based on follow-up and making sure that what’s in place remains alive,” adds Chris.
Consider the following example of the company’s glass-cutting operations: “All three shifts work off of a visual SOP to which all workers have agreed. This way the pressures are the same, the oils are the same, the breakout procedures are the same, etc., and they all constantly work together to try and improve the way that the job is done,” says Chris. Garibaldi also added a sixth S: safety.
Another step is creating a strategy for implementation of lean manufacturing principles that will be attainable without putting too much added pressure on employees. Additional steps include building internal and sourcing new “champions” (business leaders and senior managers who ensure that resources are available for training and projects and who are involved in project reviews). External training courses can also be taken so that staff members can learn
from others and form networks through which they can share knowledge and experience.
Aside from reducing costs, the shift to lean manufacturing can bring many benefits, including better relationships with customers and vendors. Carey says customers have been very receptive to the changes.
“Our on-time delivery and defect reduction has improved by 10 percent; we’re averaging 99.3-percent on-time delivery and we measure that daily. We’ve gone from a low 90 percent to 99.3 percent,” says Carey. “And that’s where we’re making the gains now. We can give them support and make them more cost-efficient because they’re not waiting for something that’s even later to show up.”
Chris agrees. “It’s very effective to go in when you have a lot of information and history that you’ve tracked. If there is a problem, we’re not just masking the symptoms and giving them an excuse. We’re actually saying, ‘why did this happen and how do we eliminate this from happening again?’”
Sunview Industries in Summerland, British Columbia, has been a customer of Garibaldi’s for the past ten years. Kent Miller, vice president and general manager, says he has seen a number of changes.
“Most important, we saw a decline in non-conformities, in defects,” says Miller. “We also now have single points of contact. For example, we’re about four hours from them and we pick up our own glass. About an hour before our truck driver arrives he speaks directly to the shipper. This minimizes any confusion. Also, our [order] is almost pre-loaded before our driver arrives.”
Miller says the relationship with Garibaldi has been a positive one, especially since at their organization they are beginning the lean manufacturing process. “It’s a great resource to have a primary supplier that’s both feet into the process.”
Suppliers to Garibaldi also say that they’ve seen the changes.
“Lately, we’ve had vendors want to do business with us because of our methodology in business,” says Carey. “A lot of businesses (i.e., glass manufacturers) are very familiar with lean manufacturing concepts, including the Toyota production system, because they are suppliers to the automotive industry, so they know what we’re talking about and they appreciate that.”
Guardian Industries is one of Garibaldi’s suppliers.
“They [Garibaldi] are fully receptive to the technical help we give them,” says Bill Cody of Guardian Industries. “They ask for it, they expect it and are receptive.”
He says Garibaldi orders glass from three different Guardian plants and they work directly with each plant.
“As they’ve gone lean they have improved [their process] to order timely and receive timely so that they can produce just-in-time.”
Cody says he has seen more electronic communication. He explains that Garibaldi is a pilot test site for his company’s software program that allows users to have access to a database that will provide the energy performance of various types of glass.
“Lean manufacturing is getting the right information at the right time to make everything work and this program is part of the way to do that,” says Cody. “They have cultivated their skills and abilities to do that.”
It’s now been nearly three years since Garibaldi Glass began its lean manufacturing journey. But what started it all for them?
“I think what happened was that we kept taking on more space and our efficiencies were not improving,” says Carey. “As we were growing, my first instinct was that we should be making more money—we have roughly the same overheads; what’s going on? We found our defects were greater and we were rushing things through so we were not able to make the same quality we wanted to as we were growing and we started to slide in some of our delivery times.”
The brothers first learned about lean manufacturing while attending a meeting of a local manufacturing/exporting organization, to which they belong, which was sponsoring a lean consortium of companies. From there, two of them signed up for lean manufacturing training and earned their green belt certifications.
“This is an understanding of lean tools,” says Chris, who adds that seven people from the company have now gone through green belt training. Chris has also gone through black belt training.
Much like martial arts, different belts can be earned based on levels of achievement. Lean manufacturing belts are not the same thing as Six Sigma belts (see tools sidebar below for more about Six Sigma), and are typically customized to different consultants and agencies that offer lean manufacturing training. The belts (specific to the lean manufacturing consulting agency with which Garibaldi works) are:
- Yellow Belt: Basic training (a few hours to one day) on lean manufacturing principles.
- Green Belt: More intense training compared to yellow; about 100 hours of classroom time and performing blitz activities in other students’ plants (as well as within a student’s own plant) that target specific improvements to processes such as inventory, space or defect reduction.
- Black Belt: Involves more classroom and hands-on training as well as learning how to select projects based on customer needs and return and the best use of the investment of time and resources. The black belt focuses on facilitation (soft) skills to be able to carry out improvement and change through teams in virtually any process or company that may be encountered and also being able to teach green belts internally.
- White Belt: This involves a trip to Japan to tour factories where students can see lean manufacturing in action, not only in the factories, but also in the country as a whole.
- Master Black Belt: This stage is focused on the end result of being able to train anyone on any belt level.
“The first thing we did was hold quarterly town hall meetings. Then we introduced what we call a five-minute huddle, which lets us communicate really quickly with everyone what each person is doing,” says Chris. During the town hall meetings, which lasted 60 to 90 minutes, the brothers shared with employees their vision for the company, trying to boil it down to quarterly themes. They wanted everyone to have a basic understanding of lean manufacturing and would often provide practical lessons.
“You can’t PowerPoint your way to lean,” says Chris. “So we had times where we would take our worst [work situation] from a performance or quality standpoint and turn it into our best one, just so we could prove to ourselves that this stuff works.”
The company also began using metrics boards to measure key indicators so employees would know what
needed to be done. “It gives us some visibility into the past and future,” says Chris.
Any time anyone tries to make changes to an established way of doing things, challenges are certain to arise.
“When you’re trying to do anything in business the first step you face is hearing everyone, including yourself, say ‘I don’t have time.’ They are always so busy and they are always reacting to what is coming at them. We have worked very hard to change our business from being reactive to proactive,” says Chris. “Typically, 80 percent of the people will, with time, accept it [the change] and 10 percent will think it’s the greatest.” He says it’s the last 10 percent that can pose the biggest challenge; often, these are any company’s “go-to” people. “And those are the ones you have to work really hard on trying to work with [still using] their knowledge without them feeling threatened because … you are no longer dependent on one person. It’s taking the whole idea of being dependent on one person or one thing and spreading it around so that it’s much more leveled.”
“It’s a cultural change,” adds Carey. It takes a while for employees to appreciate that this is a different place. It took almost two years for the culture change to say, this is who we are today. Now it’s gained its own momentum and people are starting to find corrections on their own. We’re seeing improvements daily; and now all they are doing when they have a moment… is looking for ways to make life easier.”
“The most important thing is knowing it’s OK to make mistakes, as long as they are not big enough to hurt the company—that’s how we learn, making mistakes; then you start to see what works and what doesn’t,” adds Chris.
Trust is another big issue.
“People are hesitant to change and what we heard a lot upfront was, ‘what is this going to do for me? If we’re going to lean this place out, when am I out of job?’ It hasn’t been by lean that we said ‘now we can do twice as much with half the people;’ now instead we take our existing people and we can do twice as much with the same amount and better, and better quality,” says Carey, who adds, “The breakthrough is when there is trust; when everyone knows they can give their two-bits and no idea is a dumb idea.”
Working Through it All
Sometimes suppliers and even employees are unable to adapt to working with a lean manufacturing operation.
“As our customers must come first, we have to find ways of getting them what they need, on time and on budget,” says Chris. “If suppliers can’t deliver the quality and quantities we need, when we need it, we try to work with them to find out why. If that fails we have to find suppliers that give our customers what they need. We have found that hard cost is not everything; bad quality and late deliveries can cost a lot more.”
Lean manufacturing may also mean losing employees.
“Employees who can not work with the change generally don’t fit in and typically leave on their own,” Chris adds.
“We witnessed firsthand the difficulty [that some people had to adjusting to the change]. These are people who, in a traditional setting, are able to cope [with challenges] and even excel at what they bring to the table,” says Carey.
“Unfortunately, we saw many of those same people find out that what they were doing was both not sustainable and not scalable. The downside is that very long-standing, trusted people part ways from the company. On the other hand, people who often fly under the radar because they are not able to make change,
absolutely rise to the occasion and discover strengths they didn’t even know they had.”
Carey continues, “The other initial downside of the first few years is the false expectation that the improvements will fall immediately to the bottom line. This is just not the case; expect to invest before you realize return.”
Speaking of investments, the price to implement a lean manufacturing program can also be high. Chris explains that while lean manufacturing was an expensive investment, his company was committed to the change.
“The cost of training and education is a hard cost. Initially we increased our quality expectations to show we were serious and we threw out a lot of materials that were well within industry standards and even much better just to establish the quality we wanted to achieve. The soft costs are the big ones such as losing time and energy, as well as staff, along the way. It was a very difficult thing to get through, but good things usually come with a high price,” he says.
What the Workers Say
Though there were obstacles at the start, employees agree the transition has been positive.
“My biggest concern about starting something new was whether or not we, as an organization, would be committed to, and ultimately sustain, the changes we would implement,” says Nick Meissner, quality assurance and continuous improvement leader.
“The best part, though, is that so far we have been able to sustain these changes, and our lives and the lives of our customers are becoming easier through greater consistency in quality, on-time delivery and so forth.”
Some of the changes include implementing problem-solving meetings called “911s.”
“These create an opportunity for people with specific process knowledge and responsibilities to deal with problems immediately,” says Meissner.
Clean-up stations were also installed in all departments.
“They make it possible to sustain a clean, safe, work environment on a constant, ongoing basis rather than using large, costly blocks of time (at the end of the shift, week, etc.) to do large clean ups,” he adds. “Cleaning stations and tools are also color-coded relative to the department to help maintain tools in their rightful locations. The result is a consistently cleaner and safer facility.”
Roland Rossman, a project leader, says right away he recognized the importance of communication.
“With any new manufacturing philosophy, theory is delightful, but application can be arduous,” he says. “Communication is essential and from top management to the plant floor, all staff must understand the goal and the tasks required to succeed.
The start of a 5S project is daunting at the beginning; however, the process and the end result provides a clear answer—it works.”
Rossman has seen other changes that center on the overall workflow and processes that team members follow and implement each day.
“Lines were painted on the floors to create clear aisle ways—no more clutter. Each glass fabrication process throughout the plant is in a defined and designated area and flows logically into the next process; shadow boards at each workstation mean no more missed tools or parts,” he says. “With a clear process flow in the plant and incorporating tools such as process flow mapping, fishbone diagrams and Pareto charts, complex projects with multiple glass processes can be tracked easily. Production issues are dealt with immediately using continuous improvement methodologies and there are fewer quality issues, particularly in time-sensitive projects.”
“When people start lean, they call it lean manufacturing, but what we want to call it is lean enterprise. We’re trying to incorporate what we have under one roof—finance and accounting, sales and marketing, operations—under one umbrella so they are all tightly linked and we’re trying to improve the whole system [not just manufacturing],” says Chris.
The lean journey is one that is never-ending, because there are always ways to be leaner. So Garibaldi’s next step?
“Just a ton of little steps contributed by all; everyone finding ways to constantly improve what we’re doing,” says Carey.
By learning about lean manufacturing and incorporating the methodology into their operations, Garibaldi Glass evolved into a new company—more organized, efficient and producing a better quality product. But there were still lessons to be learned.
“The number-one lesson I’ve learned is that it is all about the people. Everything is done through people,” says Chris. “You can have all the tools in the world, but if you’re not able to empower your people to be able to contribute and put their ideas forth and implement those ideas, they don’t seem to stick.”
Carey says his biggest lesson was recognizing the importance of patience and understanding the wins and gains along the way. “One of the things that we do constantly is … a small celebration of the gains; and the gain could be something as small as two fewer defects than we [had] given to one particular customer … it builds the team like you wouldn’t believe,” he says.
The company has also learned to find opportunity in its mistakes.
“We put in place something called the ‘no-blame environment’ so if there is a problem detected anywhere we use it as an opportunity to make positive changes. Now, no-blame is deadly without accountability; I’m not saying you can just do whatever you want. No-blame would be to say OK, a dolly dumped over [without pointing blame at someone for making a mistake; and instead looking to change the process]. Then we start asking the questions, for example, what do we need to do so that this does not happen again?”
A Word for Others
For companies ready to make the plunge into the world of lean manufacturing, it’s important to know exactly what the process entails.
“You have to understand it. When ownership and senior management fully ‘buy-in’ … then you take it right to the machine operator … so it first starts top down and then you go bottom up to make sure everybody is there solely to support the machine operators and workers,” says Chris.
“North America needs to be as productive as possible,” adds Carey. “Most companies I look at as top-grade fabricators have some form of this going on in one way or another … it’s important that we always look to improve how we are doing things.”
Seven Types of Waste
The goal of lean manufacturing is to eliminate waste of any kind. The following seven types of waste are ones that lean companies constantly work to eliminate:
Transportation: Inventory moves; inventory handling resources; long travel distances; slow-moving material; lack of visual controls; and large lot production.
Inventory: Too much space allocation; material queues; complicated re-work; not using first-in/first-out; excessive working capital; and unbalanced operations.
Motion: Looking for resources; ergonomics; materials that are too far apart; inventory handling resources; constantly picking up and putting down things; large batch production; and unorganized plant layout.
Defects: Resources for inspection and rework; lack of proper tools; using out-of-spec material; and excessive scrap.
Processing: Lack of line balancing; requiring multiple approvals; excess information distribution; inconsistent work instructions; and multiple schedule points.
Wait Time: Watching a machine run; waiting for a person; planned and unplanned down time; unbalanced operations; inconsistent work instructions; using the wrong equipment; and using the wrong material.
Over Production: Excess inventory; unbalanced operations; complicated flow process; excess and/or unbalanced operations; and large lot production.
The Lean Toolbox
Lean manufacturing has been described as a set of tools in a toolbox. The following list details some of the most common lean manufacturing tools.
Waste elimination. Waste in a process is any activity that does not result in moving the process closer to the final output or adding value to the final output.
Visual controls are a system of signs, information displays, layouts, material storage and handling tools, color-coding and mistake proofing devices. These controls follow the saying: “a place for everything and everything in its place.” The visual control system is designed to make product flow, operations standards, schedules and problems instantly identifiable to even casual observers.
5S is the Japanese concept for housekeeping: sort (seiri); straighten (seiton); shine (seiso); standardize (seiketsu); and sustain
Six Sigma utilizes information and statistical analysis to measure and improve a company’s operational performance, practices and systems by identifying and preventing defects in manufacturing and service-related processes in order to anticipate and exceed expectations of all stakeholders to accomplish effectiveness.
Pull scheduling is the flow of resources in a production process by replacing only what has been consumed.
Value stream mapping is a paper and pencil tool that helps you to see and understand the flow of material and information as a product or service makes its way through the value stream. A value stream map takes into account not only the activity of the product, but the management and information systems that support the basic process.
Cell design is a manufacturing approach in which equipment and workstations are arranged to facilitate small-lot, continuous-flow production. In a manufacturing “cell,” all operations necessary to produce a component or subassembly are performed in close proximity, allowing for quick feedback between operators when quality problems and other issues arise.
Workers in a manufacturing cell are typically cross-trained and can perform multiple tasks as needed.
Kaizen Blitz is the Japanese term for continuous improvement, taken from the words ‘Kai,’ which means continuous and ‘zen,’ meaning improvement. The Kaizen definition has been Americanized to mean “Continual Improvement.” A Kaizen Blitz is defined as a sudden overpowering effort to take something apart and put it back together in a better way. What is taken apart is usually a process, system, product or service.
Sources: www.isixsigma.com and www.beyondlean.com
Reading Into Lean
If you’re interested in learning more about lean manufacturing hundreds of books are available both online and in your neighborhood retail bookstore. The following is just a sampling of some books that are available.
Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
Thinking Beyond Lean: How Multi Project Management Is Transforming Product Development at Toyota by Michael A Cusumano and Kentaro Nobeoka
Value Stream Management for the Lean Office: Eight Steps to Planning, Mapping, and Sustaining by Don Tapping, Tom Shuker and Don Shuker
Lean Manufacturing Implementation: Proven Step-By-Step Techniques for Achieving Success by Dennis P. Hobbs
Lean Manufacturing by William M. Feld
Build-to-order and Mass Customization: The Ultimate Supply Chain Management and Lean Manufacturing by P.E. David M. Anderson
Lean Supply Chain Management: A Handbook for Strategic Procurement by Jeffrey P. Wincel
Management: Meeting and Exceeding Customer Expectations by W. Richard Plunkett, Raymond F. Attner and Gemmy S. Allen
Lean Manufacturing That Works: Powerful Tools for Dramatically Reducing Waste and Maximizing Profits by Bill Carreira
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