IWCO Direct hosted Steel Partners’ “Presidents Kaizen” earlier this month. The purpose of this annual, week-long event was to bring executive teams together to focus on a specific company to drive improvements and demonstrate to its employees Steel Partners’ “top down” approach to Lean manufacturing principles.
Members from cross-functional teams from IWCO Direct (including operators, technicians, leaders, and front-end support) joined with presidents of Steel Partners operating companies and Steel Partners leaders to work through a series of training and Kaizen events.
Four Operational Kaizens Completed in One Week
The week started off with an overview of safety at IWCO Direct. Then the Steel Business System Team trained all of the Presidents Kaizen participants on the different tools that would be leveraged during the week. The group divided into individual Kaizen teams and worked on specific projects through end of day Thursday. On Friday, the entire group came back together to review results of the different initiatives.
Four different Kaizen teams applied the Steel Business System toolkit for Lean, including total productive maintenance (TPM), single minute exchange of dies (SMED), variance reduction, and production preparation process (3P). Here are the highlights of each.
Applying TPM to Envelope Production
This team completed step one of the TPM process, which is to clean, inspect, and tag. They identified 44 issues in total, and closed/resolved 22 of them during the event. One of the major outcomes was implementing a stoplight board for employees, maintenance, and management as a visual tool to help assist and resolve maintenance issues.
Using SMED for More Efficient Make-Readies in Envelope Converting
By utilizing SMED practices to evaluate our envelope converting processes, this Kaizen was able to decrease make-ready time by 50% and cut traveling distances by 40%. It also created a list of 86 opportunities, 80% of which were addressed within the Kaizen. In addition, 12 safety opportunities were addressed, including adding overhead air hoses, work tables, and make-ready carts.
Variance Reduction—Improving DOD Run Speeds
The Presidents Kaizen team for this event focused on a specific client who had 30% slower run speed in DOD than the average job. Together, they identified challenges within and outside of operations control (e.g., a combination of different format elements, machine downtime) and remediated the issues. Accumulated changes are projected to drive a more than 40% increase in run speeds.
3P—Streamlining Bindery Operations
For this Kaizen, the team focused on short run jobs and considered how we could use the flexibility to change from offset pre-print to variable four-color inkjet print to improve efficiencies. Through investigations, we discovered the greatest opportunity for streamlining was in the bindery versus the actual printing process: by streamlining the bindery department’s procedures, we can anticipate gains from not only better equipment utilization, but also from fewer bindery make-readies and shorter printer set-up times.
A Wide Perspective and Common Goals Helped Lead to Lean Success
Many of the operating company presidents told us how impressed they were with the caliber of talent and dedication they saw demonstrated by IWCO Direct employees. Not only did they comment on the impressive nature of our employees’ tenure and expertise, but they noted how much pride everyone took in the machines, processes, customers, and IWCO Direct as a whole.
Meanwhile, we certainly benefited from the presidents’ outside perspective, as it enabled conversations on a broader array of items that impacted root causes. These outside voices also didn’t have the background about why we operate the way we do, so they were able to pose meaningful questions that drove the teams to look at, think about, and approach these problems differently.
Pressroom manager Russ Palm commented that the Presidents Kaizen was a “great joint effort in getting down and dirty” to improve processes and implement Lean tools and solutions. Carroll Schiley, director of production technology applications, also remarked that this event was “an eye-opening moment in how enthusiastic and positive all the teams we engaged with were throughout this process from the front-end teams through the production teams.”
Doug Brustad, director of print operations, said that he was especially impressed with the way the teams communicated and bonded, remarking that “Presidents, adjusters, supervisors, and machine operators were all sharing ideas and working toward the same goal. Everyone had equal input, and they all respected each other; this made this Kaizen event positive for all.”
Overall, the week was an overwhelming success, with all four Kaizen teams meeting or exceeding their objectives. Participants from IWCO Direct and the other Steel Partners operating companies were energized by the momentum and excited about the opportunities for improvement that lie ahead.
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