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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 

Take Time to Step Back, Tweak Operations

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 30, 2015

By David Colavita, Management, Delisa Pallet Corporation

When I think of the terms “Lean Manufacturing” or “Lean Operations” and relate it to Delisa Pallet Corporation, I have several thoughts. I believe we are always tweaking all aspects of our business whether it is trucking, maintenance, remanufacturing, recycling or even office operations. Having been in business for over 57 years there are often times the feeling of “been there done that.” But have we really? There will always be ways to become more efficient, and operations are always changing. The real issue, are you straying from what you implemented three months ago or three years ago.

One recent example was with our maintenance department. They’ve been purchasing an everyday needed supply from a local company for the past few years. We noticed it was adding up in costs so decided to research the price. We learned we could source it at significantly lower price from one of our customers. We can’t forget to step back once in a while, slow down and actually watch what we are doing day to day. This small change will prove large by year’s end.

We’ve also made large strides over the years in recycling all used core sizes. Delisa does very little dismantling of pallets at our New Jersey facility. We try to find a home for every size pallet we take in, dozens of different size pallets, and are able to sort, repair and send these different sizes to customers at competitive rates. 

Consequently, there is very little waste that ends up as grinder material, and we also meet a need for a specific customer application. However, this is a continuous effort as new sizes are always entering the marketplace; keeping our recycling operations and sales department on its toes!

For 2015, we’re working to eliminate our presort operations and take the mixed sizes directly to the repair stations, sort and repair directly there, which will free up sort stations for other areas needing manpower. This is already done at many pallet companies, however, as mentioned earlier, you become set in your way and need to step back and analyze what is really going on. We plan on stepping back more often in the future!

Tags:  employees  lean  manufacturing  operations 

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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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A State of Mind

Posted By Administration, Monday, November 17, 2014

Bill MacCauley, President, John Rock, Inc.

Everyone should make a resolution to be lean in 2014. It’s an ongoing process and a state of mind. At John Rock, we moved into a lean philosophy a long time ago. We try to keep it simple and empower our employees. We keep asking the employees, “What are you currently spending the bulk of your time on and what do you need to do it more efficient and faster?”

Automation is so important in staying lean, and John Rock is about as automated as we can be. Software is a great tool, but lean is a state-of-mind. We have invested in equipment to make our employees more efficient. There are so many considerations in going lean from the plant layout to the number of forklifts you’re using.

About ten years ago, we had three separate buildings. We were transferring products from one building to another. Now we’re in one building. We eliminated the need for three forklifts. Even considerations such as having concrete and paved roads save a lot of time. Lift trucks travel slower on gravel roads, pallets and lumber fall over on gravel. It’s all about time management and being efficient. Invest in new equipment and spend downtime on maintenance. You can’t expect to run an efficient production line if you have outdated worn out equipment.

We study every employee’s position in our facility and empower our employees to be more efficient. Being lean has certainly led to higher profits, cost-efficient production and improved employee morale. When you can involve your employees in the process, they are happier, and you can hold them accountable. You know, I’ve never been to a seminar on lean manufacturing, but we’ve learned over time what not to do. So far, it’s working for John Rock.

Tags:  automation  employees  lean  manufacturing  philosophy 

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