How to Successfully Implement & Sustain Lean Principles

5S translated into Chinese, Spanish, Polish; combined into logo for March 2018 blog, featuring Lean content from Dina Manoway

How to Successfully Implement & Sustain Lean Principles

Posted on March 28, 2018

The desire for waste elimination in manufacturing, distribution, and business processes is universal, but going lean is incredibly complex and can pose a challenge for most companies. With so many moving parts, companies struggle to make waste elimination and lean manufacturing principles work – between 50 and 90 percent of lean operations efforts do not lead to the expected results.

Sixteen years after Victaulic started following lean methodology, we have found the key to success for the development, implementation, and sustaining of lean practices: authentic employee engagement.

A common misconception of lean management is that it is a top-down directive when it is truly a bottom-up endeavor. Rather than simply informing employees of change, Victaulic has baked genuine engagement and input into our lean manufacturing processes, and it’s been working.

Since 2002, lean practices have been broadly implemented across Victaulic’s manufacturing, distribution, and business processes, and the impact has been dramatic.

Benefits of Implementing Lean Manufacturing Principles at Victaulic

  • Injury rates have dropped 87%
  • On-time delivery rates for non-stocked items went from under 32% to over 97%
  • Manufacturing lead time went from more than 30 days to between 3-8 days
  • Productivity increased by 35%

This success does not exist in a vacuum; employee engagement was critical for every positive impact that lean has had on Victaulic’s processes.

Developing a Lean System at Victaulic

Lean operations are not a silver bullet, one-size-fits-all solution in manufacturing; it needs to be fit to the needs of specific facilities. Prior to developing a lean process, the Victaulic lean team worked with employees to gather metrics on the factory. Working with consultants, employees, and customers, the lean management team identified “pain points” in the manufacturing process and developed a waste elimination plan.

This process provided an in-depth, precise foundation for the lean management team to build on while empowering employees with the opportunity to affect change in their company. Getting to see their ideas come to life granted a sense of trust between employees, management, and the lean process.

Lean Training & Process Adoption for Success

True adoption of lean principles comes from effective guidance, training, and leadership. Victaulic has developed several lean training initiatives, each tailored to a specific audience and department. Our “Train the Trainer” program has helped eliminate wasted time in training and sincerely engaged our employees in the core facets of lean. The lean management team hand-selected cross-functional leaders, skilled in change management and training, from across the company and taught them how to implement lean practices. These leaders worked directly with other employees to develop clear goals, measure progress and turn ideas into actionable lean processes.

Formalized training also takes place in a series of seven lean training modules, where employees get the opportunity to learn how to implement lean practices into their workday, even within the office.

Lean Metrics & Ongoing Lean Process Improvement at Victaulic

Lean principles have been broadly implemented across Victaulic’s manufacturing, distribution, and business processes. Continuing to engage employees by promoting lean and embedding the practice into our corporate culture has provided a constant source for lean process improvement.

To help ensure that employee input continues to be at the forefront of sustaining lean methodology, Victaulic has implemented “Toolbox Talks”, periodic communications check-ins to ensure that safety and lean practices are sustained. The Toolbox Talks also give employees a chance to alert their supervisors of areas for improvement or success, providing further metrics for success. This program cuts down on organizational red-tape between employees and management and promotes the free flow of ideas.

Displaying lean manufacturing metrics are also a key for keeping employees informed and engaged in the lean process. Metrics regarding safety, delivery, quality, productivity and inventory are prominently displayed in our factories and warehouses, and allow employees to watch their work make a positive impact on the overarching lean business goals of the company.

Lean methodology is also making an impact in Victaulic’s corporate offices. All new employees are trained on lean concepts and encouraged to implement waste-eliminating practices in their day-to-day lives. Lean principles are baked into Victaulic’s corporate culture and can be found in all aspects of the company. A recent furniture audit demonstrated how 5S concepts can be brought to corporate offices as well as traditional manufacturing applications. Employees analyzed existing office furniture, identified waste, and hosted a furniture sale to eliminate any unnecessary items in their workspace.

Victaulic is excited to share our learnings with others in the industry and with existing and new customers. Effectively implementing lean processes within our business practices allows us to pass value onto our customers through streamlined installation processes, waste elimination, and continuous improvements in our products and projects.

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