In 2015, MPS teams at Pelham and Alabaster re-energized their focus on lean manufacturing and continuous improvement (CI). This renewed energy kicked off in January with emphasis on 5S, a major foundation of lean manufacturing. Without a firm 5S culture, there is no stability, and without stability, lean and/or CI programs are usually not successful.

In order to rejuvenate 5S culture, the management team began conducting daily plant walks as a group. The walks focused on the 5S principals of sorting, straightening, scrubbing, standardizing and sustaining, along with identification of potential safety issues. After just a few weeks, the number of action items was compiled. The team stayed the course and continued to focus on correcting identified issues, while new action items were added to the list. With the renewed focus and actions being taken, results became noticeable and the standard principals of 5S became the rule at Pelham and Alabaster. As a result, during a recent ISO recertification audit, the lead auditor stated, “I’ve been in a lot of foundries over the years and this is one of the cleanest, most well organized I have ever seen.”

As the 5S culture started taking hold, the daily walks have evolved to focus on other areas related to lean manufacturing and continuous improvement. These focus areas are Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost, and Inventory. Each day, the team is challenged with how to maintain a safe environment and improve quality and delivery, while controlling or reducing both cost and inventory. To communicate the message and provide supporting data for review, new KPI boards have been put in place at both Pelham and Alabaster.

Information from the boards, observations from daily 5S walks, and team member feedback contribute to decisions as to where continuous improvement activities need to be focused. Kaizen (“good change”) events are planned and conducted throughout the year. Each event involves a team of cross-functional employees from different departments. The team works on a project, typically 3-5 days in length, and focuses on a specific aspect(s) related to SQDCI. In 2015, 9 such events will have been conducted.

All levels of team members at Pelham and Alabaster have embraced a renewed focus on lean manufacturing and continuous improvement.   As the culture continues to change, there is no doubt that there are great things to come in the future.