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Lean Production2-CASE STUDY


CASE STUDY Lean in action Although they are just hitting stride, a leading injection moulder is well en route to lean. by Peter Fretty, contributing editor ABOVE: Cascade Engineering is using

all the tools in the lean toolkit to tighten up their enterprise and go lean. For many managers, lean manufacturing is something that looks great on paper and sounds wonderful in theory, but they want proof that it really works in their ever-changing manufacturing environment. Now two years into its lean journey, the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Cascade Engineering, is trying to avoid the common mistake of just implementing lean on the shop floor. The 1,200 employee plastic components provider in the automotive, home and office, and container industries is implementing lean throughout its enterprise. Top level support One thing that becomes clear after you tour Cascade's facilities, is that the company is striving to adopt lean as a way of life for the whole company, rather than just in the manufacturing plants. The company's leaders recognize that to reduce waste and create customer value, everyone has to actively take part in the process. Cascade's founder, chairman and CEO Fred P. Keller, sent a message about how important lean was for the company as a whole when he hired G.L. Brown as the company's director of lean manufacturing. Keller is making sure all of the necessary resources are available to make the gains of lean stick. “If this company wants to remain an active leader in the upcoming century, it is crucial that we eliminate waste and dedicate ourselves to becoming a lean enterprise,” says Keller. To further demonstrate his dedication to the employees, Keller stressed that some job responsibilities may change but no employees will be laid off as a result of the company's lean initiatives. Their dedication to employees and their superior performance have not gone unnoticed. Cascade has been recognized nationwide for their commitment to people, most notably by recently winning a Ron Brown award and the Michigan Manufacturers Company of the year award. G. L. Brown knew that one of the hardest parts of lean was going to be creating the right environment for Cascade employees. To ease the transition, Brown started a series of training and support sessions. With many years in operations management during his 34-year tenure at General Motors, Brown understood that the employees must have a firm grip on three crucial aspects before initiating the conversion to a lean enterprise: ? everyone must understand why the company is dedicated to the lean philosophy and what's in it for them; ? the employees must understand the system;

? they must understand that there are a number of techniques in the toolbox to implement the system. Cascade's training consists of lean manufacturing orientation, eyes for waste and eyes for flow, takt time, standard worksheets, the 5-S processes, natural work groups, and value stream mapping as well as other aspects of the "lean enterprise system." Cascade also invites customers and suppliers to training events and kaizen events as they relate to their products. This has helped Cascade emphasize to employees that the value stream extends outside of Cascade. Model cells Rather than trying to immediately convert the entire multi-plant operation to the lean manufacturing strategy, Cascade adopted the less obtrusive method of implementing model cells. In each plant the company has instituted a model cell concept to be used as a teaching and learning tool for employees to learn and try out the tools. A definite pattern is apparent when introducing each model cell. Initially Cascade implements 5-S, Total Productive Maintenance, and standard worksheets, then expands the learning by using other techniques. The labelling of all aspects of the equipment makes for easy maintenance and identification. For example, when a rear hydraulic assembly is leaking, an operator calls maintenance to let them know exactly where they noticed a problem, eliminating guesswork and yielding shorter downtimes. Systematic checks are identified on the machine in red or yellow lettering identifying the necessary order. For instance, weekly check Step One would be written inside a box with red lettering. Model cells are paying off. Teams in adjacent cells are continuously improving their work areas without prompting, i.e. moving their equipment to resemble the model cell's set-up. Each model cell has shown that the employees as well as the company will benefit when the entire plant is using this lean enterprise system. The company's Home and Office business unit, for example, produces a seat frame in their model cell, which has experienced an 85 percent reduction in scrap, a 75 percent reduction in downtime and 75 percent less motion for the operator. The 5-S processes have helped the Cascade Engineering team members keep everything in its place. It is a visual management tool that aids the flow of product and information, through the application of standard practices. 5-S sets the stage for all continuous improvement activities and is considered a prerequisite for implementing and supporting flow manufacturing and the other elements of the lean enterprise. Using colour-coded tape; Cascade has been able to keep the operations organized and efficient. TABLE ONE Five "S" Processes 1. Sort – Clear 2. Straighten – Organize 3. Sweep – Clean 4. Standardize 5. Sustain – Maintain

TABLE TWO Tape Coding Scheme COLOUR Light Blue Dark Blue Light Green Dark Green Red Orange White Grey Brown Black/Yellow Purple Yellow Plant variations Within the seven plants located in Grand Rapids, each has used different techniques of the lean enterprise system to make their product groups more successful. Kanbans have appeared in a few of the Grand Rapids facilities. The furniture plant instituted a kanban with Pellicle, a supplier of the fabric used on the chair frame. The first kanban was started between Noble Polymers, a member of the Cascade family, and the acoustics plant across the street. This success prompted Noble Polymers to initiate a system with Solvay Polymers. A manual system of replenishment is based on consumption, while an automated system is being developed. In the non-manufacturing aspect of business, an administrative kaizen was done on the payroll process, from employees ringing in to paycheque issuance. This process resulted in the elimination of lost and missing cheques and a 40 percent reduction in cheque errors. Cascade also modified its bonus structure to reflect lean metrics. This helps people understand how they directly affect the elimination of waste allowing employees and the company to benefit. DEFINITION Raw material, purchased parts Empty returnable containers Sub-assemblies Final assemblies, outlining for desks, tools, etc. Scrap Rework, held stock Audit area All stationary items (trash cans, fans, etc.) Cardboard Hazardous materials / chemicals Pilot parts, special parts Aisle


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