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The Steel Business System is Changing Our Continuous Improvement for the Better—Here’s How

Meg Hanaman

As my colleague Pat Sondreal noted in his July post, one of the major benefits IWCO Direct has experienced since joining the Steel Partners family of companies has been the introduction of the Steel Business System (SBS) methodology to augment our already robust Continuous Improvement and Lean manufacturing efforts.

Throughout 2018, the Continuous Improvement team has focused on three main pillars: process improvement, sustainability of gains, and quality. As we look to 2019, we plan to expand our focus on these priorities, broadening the depth and impact of our work with the support of Steel Partners. As a team, we’ve been working on identifying areas where we can leverage Steel’s extensive expertise including facilitating Value Stream Mapping sessions, Kaizens, and training on topics such as Lean 101 and Problem Solving. To date, we’ve had more than 100 IWCO Direct employees, including our senior leadership team, participate in these events, bringing their new knowledge back to their work and teams.

Steel Business System Lean Experts Offer a Fresh Look at Continuous Improvement

SBS Lean experts Scott McDuffee, Michael Gardner, and Mike Thelen have been our guides through this process. They have unique experience in manufacturing processes that allow IWCO Direct to benefit directly from the experience built at our sister Steel Partners companies. They have led events bringing the SQDIP (Safety, Quality, Delivery, Inventory, Productivity) process to Production, and they also drive initiatives to reduce set-up time and improve machine performance.

SQDIP is a visual management tool that uses a color-coded display board to track Safety, Quality, Delivery, Inventory, and Productivity criteria within a department. Department members and leaders have a daily huddle at the board, using the previous day’s results to prompt conversation about what actions need to be taken to remove obstacles and achieve goals.

New Projects Made Possible by the Steel Business System

The Steel Business System has enabled us to undertake specific projects designed to increase productivity and eliminate waste. Here are a few of those, along with the impact they are driving to our processes:

  • Value Stream Mapping (VSM) exercises: We have been using VSM to better understand the ratio of wait time to work time, with the goal of reducing wait time as part of overall cycle time.
  • Quality Issue Tracking Kaizen: Thirty-nine leaders from Chanhassen and Little Falls operations, the Front-End departments, and Continuous Improvement teams gathered for two one-day Kaizen events focused on identifying and implementing sustainable solutions to improve tracking and resolution of quality issues.
  • Kaizen on managing envelope inventory: This Kaizen helped make management of obsolete inventory a more active process, with Material Coordinators taking a more direct role in disposing of excess inventory.
  • Kaizen on establishing visibility boards with envelope converters: As the pilot department for SQDIP, the envelope department has become the leader in using a visual dashboard and idea board to generate process improvement ideas that can be implemented in short periods of time.

How the Steel Business System Will Shape the Future of Our Continuous Improvement

Our 2019 plans hold potential for even more integration as we further explore how to implement SBS across more of our platform. For example, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) is a large effort that the press and envelope departments in our Chanhassen manufacturing facility will be undertaking with the direction of SBS expert Mike Gardner. We’re also looking to leverage SBS expertise with SMED (Single-Minute Exchange of Dies—a Six Sigma concept related to streamlining set-ups) within the Chanhassen lettershop, focusing on reducing the time it takes to complete make-readies.

Steel Business System Continuous Improvement Flowchart – IWCO Direct

Productivity and efficiency aren’t the only ways SBS is benefiting IWCO Direct’s business practices. We are also finding new ways to evolve our CI sustainability program to integrate and feed into our new Operations Management System (SQDIP boards).

Thinking even further ahead, we have adopted a new thought process of “good – better – best” when developing solutions using our continuous improvement tools. With this approach, we aren’t considering a problem solved just because we found a fix—we’re evaluating the entire situation to determine how we can create processes and procedures that reduce or eliminate the ability for error in the future.

At the 2018 Supplier Summit in September, IWCO Direct CEO Jim Andersen referred to the Steel Business System as “Lean and Kaizen on steroids.” We’ve certainly seen its ability to structure workflow in a way that increases efficiency while setting us up for long-term sustainability through streamlined processes.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2018/11/06/steel-business-system-continuous-improvement/
Meg Hanaman


Meg Hanaman

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