In today’s manufacturing world, companies must embrace Lean Manufacturing to be competitive and profitable. Economics have dictated that the traditional manufacturing driven principle of Cost + Profit = Price be replaced by a market driven principle of Price – Cost = Profit. That’s a key concept of Lean and it’s a win-win situation for both the Supplier and Customer. 2012 marked the beginning of Ideal Aerosmith’s strategic initiative to drive a continuous process improvement culture and its commitment to the never-ending journey on the road to become Lean.
In January, Ideal Aerosmith employees Barb Schultz, Darren Stinson, and Todd Johnson, participated in Dakota Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s Lean Enterprise Bronze Certification Program, consisting of classroom instruction, practical application and a final examination. The certification program provided a solid understanding of lean principles and tools and how to implement Lean to drive improvements and show measurable results in a work cell or value stream. In February, Ideal did a Kaizen Blitz (continuous improvement) event in the Grand Forks, ND Electrical Assembly department and in June, a 5S training and implementation event in the East Grand Forks, MN Mechanical Assembly and Integration departments. “The goal of these events was to identify and eliminate waste as quickly as possible at the lowest cost possible. It was really an eye opener to see how much time was spent just gathering tools and information before even being able to start the manufacturing process”, said Todd Johnson, Director of Quality Assurance. Problems were identified, solutions brainstormed, and many of the solutions implemented immediately at no cost.
Improvements in workplace organization and standardizing work methods by eliminating non-value added steps were important outcomes of the events. Ideal Aerosmith will save significant dollars annually from these improvements and also gained 300 square feet of floor space. And just as important it has improved employee morale by making work safer and simpler. Key to Ideal’s success was creating “buy-in” by having employees participate in the team events.
Continuous improvement is made in small incremental steps – a journey that never ends. Then why do it if it is a never ending journey? The answer is simple. Improved quality, reduced lead times, less cost, and employee engagement are all important to Ideal Aerosmith and our customers.