Empowered To Perform
By Jeff Reinke, Editorial Director
Since 1979 this Ingersoll-Rand Industrial Technologies plant has been involved in the manufacturing, assembling and packaging of balancers, power cylinders, tools and hoists in supporting five different business units of its parent company. When Lugeenbeel grabbed the helm in January of this year he quickly came to a couple of significant realizations:
- He had a very experienced workforce of 205 people that had been associated with the production of these products for 20 - 30 years.
- Due to a string of retirements, his management team was relatively new to Ingersoll-Rand.
- There were a number of workflow issues that needed to be resolved soon.
Before the arrival of Lugeenbeel and his team, the facility held an average of four Kaizan events each year in focusing on a particular area of the manufacturing process. These events stemmed from Ingersoll-Rand's "Pathway To Excellence" initiative that has been instituted throughout the company's U.S. manufacturing locations. So while the foundation had been laid, the time had come to take things to the next level. With 157 Kaizan events having been held so far this year, that might be an understatement. Holding this many events could be counter-productive, but the staff's experience and dedication allows workflow to proceed smoothly, and without slow-downs. "Although production in the specified area on which the Kaizan event focuses is shut down, we're able to plan and manage workflow to ensure these events don't create a bottleneck or production issue," states Carol Sanders, the plant's lean production manager.
On The Level
The approach is as simple as, well, ABC:
- An "A" event is led by a Six Sigma black or green belt. These events are very thorough and usually last 3 - 5 days.
- A "B" event is led by a project manager and lasts around 3 days.
- Finally, a "C" event is something this is just done on the shop floor and can be accomplished in a couple of hours.
Feeling the EffectsHere are some of the results Ingersoll Rand Industrial Solutions' Southern Pines facility has produced with their frequent Kaizan events and overall approach:
Rail kit assembly cell results:
Opening up floor space seems to be a driving force behind the improvements at Southern Pines. "So far our Kaizan initiatives have helped free up about 15,000 square feet of space on our production floor, without decreasing people or capabilities," states Lugeenbeel. "Whether it's here or anywhere in U.S. manufacturing, I think the best way to grow is to find ways of attracting new business without making huge capital investments. Basically, what we've done here is not only make each work cell more efficient, but created the potential of bringing additional business to this plant because we have the physical space. This helps Ingersoll-Rand stay competitive and keeps our facility open to playing an expanded role down the road."
While the improvement process is, of course, constant, the team of Lugeenbeel, Sanders and Terry Beasley are ready to move from the individual work cells to the facility's inventory management strategy. "We're constantly looking for the next bottleneck or area of production that can be improved," states Beasley. "We're also looking to implement these same Six Sigma principles in the finance department and our supply chain."
The Difference Makers
"A great workforce made the transition easier," recalls Sanders, who has been at the Southern Pines facility for about 8 months. "We knew we had to keep everyone involved, which is why an hourly employee is always part of the Kaizan event teams."
These teams comprise 7 - 9 people and always have at least one hourly employee. Every team member receives 2 - 4 hours of Kaizan training and each has an equal voice on these teams. Before any changes can be finalized the majority of hourly employees involved at the work cell or production area must endorse them.
"They saw how their jobs were made better and easier, so now everyone wants to know when the next round of improvements can be made to their cell," states Beasley. "But we've also empowered people to make these changes themselves, without a formal event."
Part of this empowerment also meant selecting three hourly employees and training them to be team leaders. Lugeenbeel, Sanders and Beasley felt this only made sense, given the amount of experience that was available to draw from on the shop floor. Additionally, direction for any changes or improvements were now coming from their peers, not a brand new management team.
"Change is never easy," offers Lugeenbeel, "but you have to do things in manufacturing in order to keep pace with the rest of the world. In our case we were very fortunate, because everyone here embraced these changes, and as a result we've been able to make a very good plant that much better."