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Lean Manufacturing: Cut Time, Materials, Motion
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PalletCentral spoke with NWPCA members about their lean manufacturing processes. What does it mean to be lean in the pallet industry? The dialogue continues...


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Top tags: employees  lean  manufacturing  labor  automation  culture  management  operations  philosophy 

Lean Manufacturing, Reduce Time

Posted By Administration, Monday, November 17, 2014

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.

Tags:  culture  employees  labor  lean  manufacturing 

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Lean Manufacturing, Work Culture

Posted By Administration, Monday, November 17, 2014

By Howe Wallace, CEO, President and Chairman of the Board, PalletOne

Being lean means making it a way of life, the lens you constantly look through. Under a ‘lean lens’ everything gets inspected. At PalletOne, we spend a lot of time in reinforcing the lean thought process. We talk to employees about what they’re doing and ask them how to be more efficient. Our goal is to reduce wasted time, materials and motion. In any pallet operation there is waste, but it could be more than necessary. You have to work hard to identify the wastes and act to eliminate them.

Time issues are crucial in a lean operation. We removed tools to help with time issues. Tool boards were put up with an outline of the tools so we knew which tools were in use. Employees used to spend so much time looking for their tools that operations weren’t as efficient as they could be. We instituted these tool boards to help. A visual check would quickly identify which tools were in use or what was missing. Then you can identify the situation and resolve it.

A key to staying lean is working hard to establish that culture – that state of mind - with your employees and then maintaining it. Educating employees is so important. Efforts such as training videos or seminars can help, but those efforts have a life. You’ve got to continue to train your staff, new staff when added, and re-enforcing lean concepts.

We are going into our fourth year as lean. We’ve got a lot more to learn to be more sophisticated. For 2014, we’ll continue to empower our employees to do more, to want to do more. We don’t want to stand over our employees and supervise every move. At PalletOne, management is entrusting our employees with their tools, equipment and then holding them accountable. It’s working so far.

As we get more people to ‘think lean’ and knocking ideas out, we’ll continue to grow.

Tags:  employees  labor  lean  management  manufacturing 

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