By Greg Bowen, President, Bo’s Pallets & Mulch, Inc.
Our lean principles are about the return on investment. It’s not just about money; it is also about time, effort, energy, equipment and product flow. They all come into play in our philosophy for lean manufacturing.
Bo’s Pallets has a one touch, no pre-sort belief that reduces motion and improves product flow. A main principle is to handle a pallet one time. Our pallets are unloaded from the trailers and sent directly to repair tables eliminating the time and effort needed to pre-sort. The repair person inspects, makes necessary repairs and places a bar code identifying the size, grade and person that repaired the pallet before placing on the conveyor to move to next area. All pallets repaired or scrap are now conveyed past the quality control area where the resalable pallets are sorted to stackers and the scrap pallets continue down the conveyor to the dismantling area. All waste wood generated is put on a different conveyer that feeds directly to our Rotochopper creating mulch without being touched.
Another guiding principle is: the work moves to the employee not the employee moving to the work. No employee walks around carrying and stacking pallets. We accomplish this by the use of conveyors to move pallets and wood waste to the desired locations. This reduces the need for forklift traffic in employee work areas and reduces equipment cost. Also, by reducing the manual labor and the forklift traffic, it has cut down on workers compensation exposure.
Product flow is critical to lean manufacturing. The time required to accomplish each step of recycling a pallet also plays a major role in product flow. The entire process must move faster as it proceeds through the system or bottlenecks will be created. With our product flow every other stage of the recycling process is paid hourly verses production. So there is a lot of peer pressure, and incentives, to keep production moving. We’ve been able to improve quality and accuracy, and defects are minimal because of the quality control position that inspects every pallet individually.
Lean to us also means not wasting any labor. We are even lean in gathering information. Our energy is focused on getting pallets processed and transported to customers. All of our pallets are bar-coded using the Innovative Data System, which eliminates the need for manually counting pallets. It also automatically gathers the information needed to pay our core suppliers, production employees, update inventory and the bar-code sticker on the side of the pallet is free marketing.
It’s a proven fact that the leaner the manufacturing process, the greater the net profits.