Planning for next year? | PLANT

Take process improvements to the next level.

October 28, 2013   by Richard Kunst

Methodologies that apply to all types of operations will harvest lasting benefits.

As fall approaches many manufacturers begin the planning process for the coming year, which typically involves process improvements. Here are some methodologies and typical benefits that will follow their implementation.

Enterprise value stream mapping. Hit the pause button on your operation and conduct a value stream mapping exercise. In addition to identifying and prioritizing opportunities, identify the cadence of your business operations – hourly, daily, weekly – and define a new cadence to improve velocity.
Use “outside eyes” to highlight additional opportunities and drill into the response, “we have always done it that way.”

This is not a boardroom exercise. Complete it by walking the flow of your value stream while collecting data and developing a map.
Opportunities will range from tens of thousand to millions of dollars.


Shift exchange, shift start and daily report-out. Start meetings on time, have an agenda, end on time with a call to action.
Based on precision speaking and generous listening, these stand-up meetings can be completed within three minutes and cover health, safety and environmental, quality, production and continuous improvement.

In addition to a typical 20% to 30% productivity improvement, companies report quicker resolution of 30% to 40% nagging and internal e-mail traffic. This methodology enhances employee engagement, improves communication and increases accountability.

TPM. Initially the intent of total productive management (TPM) was to increase the emotional attachment of the operator to a machine and provide early detection of potential problems. In labour intensive operations this tool ensures operating supplies are maintained at appropriate levels.
Watch for a dramatic reduction in unscheduled downtime whether through equipment breakdowns or employees searching for supplies.

Most employees want a clear and clean work area at the conclusion of their shift, which only defers the start-up of the next shift. When the process is left “wet” you’ll see product produced by the incoming shift immediately, eliminating wandering and initial idle time.

Unscheduled downtime could be reduced 20% to 30% with a 10% productivity improvement.

Set-up reduction. Customers will not pay for set-ups. Plan to cut the time spent conducting them by half, then look at the capacity you have created for additional business. Seek out hidden set-ups. Every time a person switches tasks they’re doing a set-up. Even within a task there are several set-ups. An employee entering an order may have to navigate through many screen changes to do so.

Hourly run boards. This is a great pre-cursor to implementing an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) metric. It establishes hourly expectations providing immediate feedback to employees and quickly reveals any disturbances to flow. Look for a productivity improvement of about 20%.

Visual attendance. Do you know what your casual absenteeism rate is as a percentage? This is the silent cancer of productivity. Determine your rate and then calculate it as a percentage of your payroll costs. What would reducing it by half provide in savings?

Making it visual creates peer pressure for correction, and it reinforces that management is looking closely at attendance. As attendance improves shift labour shuffle diminishes, which increases start of shift production.

A minimum expectation is a 50% improvement within three months, which will increase your productivity by 10% with annual payroll savings of 2% to 4%.

KPIs. How are your employees supposed to contribute? Ensure KPIs are controllable by the team members. Instead of asking for a 10% productivity improvement convert that into a unit improvement. For example, a study revealed that if a doctor were to see one additional patient per day annual income could increase by more than $60,000.

Cells, single-piece flow. Converting into a cellular operation typically improves throughput by 50% to 100%. Move from task to task with the material or have the material flow from task to task in a single-piece flow.

Cells also work in office and administration environments to improve velocity. Typically an order being processed in the back office consumes close to 80% of the quoted process lead time and this activity is non-value add.

Implementing cells can be challenging but the rewards remarkable. At La-Z-Boy adoption of cellular manufacturing reduced process lead time of 14 to 16 weeks to a consistent four hours.

Workplace organization, 5s+1. At times 5S can be difficult to quantify because lost time is poorly documented due to searching, wasted walk patterns and repetitive reaching.

Set your standards high. A clean and well-organized plant communicates there is little waste, quality is high and there are strong efficiencies.

Lean leader training. Complement the implementation of initiatives with training to increase the intellectual quotient of your organization. In one example, employees who were just expected to increase their awareness ended up increasing throughput by 300%.
You may be already using some of these methodologies or you may need to optimize their potential, but the pay-off is hard to argue with.

Richard Kunst is president and CEO of Cambridge, Ont.-based Kunst Solutions Corp., which helps companies become more agile, develop evolutionary management and implement lean solutions. Visit E-mail

Comments? E-mail

This article appears in the Oct. 2013 issue of PLANT.

Print this page

Related Stories