We’re Making Better Happen with Continuous Improvement and Lean Management

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About the Author

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Chris Rudh

Chris brings more than 28 years of experience in Continuous Improvement, Lean Manufacturing, Lean Six Sigma, Supply Chain, and Distribution Management to his role as Continuous Improvement Leader at IWCO. He strives to infuse Lean principles throughout the organization to drive sustainable change, reward efforts, and maintain successes. Chris is a Six Sigma Black Belt and holds a BS in Industrial Technology with a concentration in Manufacturing Management from the University of Wisconsin – Stout. Outside of work, Chris enjoys hockey and golf.

At IWCO, Continuous Improvement (CI) means getting a little bit better every day! Last year was a transformative one, and all of our teams have done an amazing job of embracing change and using Lean to “work smarter, not harder.”  

As we walk through our facilities, we are excited about our new equipment and how we can optimize our work to continue to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations (read Pat Sondreal’s blog, We’re Making Better Happen by Accelerating the Speed from Data to Delivery for more details on this). We believe it is important to empower our teams to drive their own continuous improvements to maximize their knowledge of equipment and procedures and embed a spirit of continuous improvement in our everyday work. Here’s how we make that happen:

5S, Safety, and Efficiency

The 5S Philosophy focuses on effective work place organization and standard work procedures. 5S simplifies your work environment and reduces waste and non-value activity while improving quality, efficiency, and safety. It is a self-regulated system we introduced to create a clean, well-organized work environment that enables our production teams to immediately identify when something is wrong—a drop of oil on the floor, the moment a machine stops, the first piece of bad product, etc. This means less down-time, less waste, and an overall better end product. The underlying principle is “A place for everything necessary and everything necessary in its place—clean and ready for use.”

Improved safety is a natural effect once you have a clean work environment. It means less chance for an accident to occur. It also ensures a more efficient and productive team, because there is less time lost looking for tools. There is also less down-time when our equipment is well-maintained and inspected regularly.

Standard Work System

The purpose of a Standard Work System is to define and perform work the best- known way every time to create value for our clients. The expected outcome of a Standard Work System is more predictable, safe, and sustainable results. The three elements of standard work are:

  1. Sequence (order of operations)
  2. Timing (“Takt Time” – customer demand)  
  3. Outcome (what is the expected outcome)

Visual Management System

Visual Management is the concept of making a workplace more effective by making the current condition obvious at a glance. 

The benefits of Visual Management are many, including:

  • Providing an understanding at a glance;
  • Increasing cleanliness and safety;
  • Reducing errors and mistakes; and
  • Making abnormal conditions stand out.

Lean Ambassador Program

In 2022, we launched our Lean Ambassador program, which helps prepare employees across the company to host their own Kaizen events. It offers our associates the opportunity to shine and become leaders in their areas. The program is still going strong and has become embedded in our culture.

The True Meaning of Continuous Improvement and Lean Management

So what does all this mean? As our CEO, Gary Masse, stated when we relaunched our brand, “For our employees, it serves as a daily reminder for how we work together. For clients, it represents our role as a catalyst to empower, inform, and inspire the organizations we work with.” And, the end result is a quality, accurate product produced with less waste.”

Want to learn more? Contact us. We’re here to help.

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