During the last week of July 2013, a team at Engineered Plastics Company (EPC) Whitewater participated in a Kaizen event. The team consisted of people from different parts of the plant, all of whom were extremely engaged: Assembly Lead, Production Manager, Lead Process Tech and Warehouse Supervisor from the Whitewater facility, and a Lean Professional and Manufacturing Engineer from MacLean-Fogg Component Solutions (MFCS) Mundelein. Participants were attentive, helpful, and eager to improve the plant. The event also served as the leader’s Lean Professional Certification Kaizen.
The focus of this Kaizen was to develop a visual replenishment method for a Japan-based OEM Customer trim pin and the components that make it up. A secondary objective of this event was to implement 5S principles on the machines that make up the trim pin value stream, as well as construct the required standards to support the changes that were made. As always, reduction of the 7 wastes was on the agenda.
During the week, training on topics such as Muda, 5S, Basic Lean Principles, Visual Replenishment, Kanban, and Standards were presented. This training helped the team to see activities in a new light, and with a critical eye. While walking the value stream, the team realized that the molded components travel a long distance to ultimately be consumed nearby at an assembly machine. These observations were validated through construction of a spaghetti diagram. With this information, the team found ways to reduce wasteful travel. Among the changes was the addition of a new rack near the assembly machine, which is dedicated to the trim pin components.
Components now go directly to this rack, rather than making the long trip to the warehouse staging area before being moved to the rack. Changes resulted in a 45% reduction in part travel from receipt of material to shipping of finished goods. In addition to these improvements, labeled floor markings designating where each item at the machine belongs, as well as an easy to follow, visual layout guide were in place at each machine by the end of the week. These guides are an important part of the most important “S” in the 5S system, “Sustain.” The team also designed a simple and straightforward Kanban for part replenishment, which was scheduled to kick off as soon as safety stock reached the desired level and new system training was completed.