Kaizen Event Has Big Impact for Lincoln Electric Cutting Systems

Lincoln Electric KaizenSo reads the title on the YouTube posting from Lincoln Electric. We were privileged to lead this inaugural kaizen project at Lincoln Electric Cutting Systems in Reno, Nevada. They are a newer division, since 2011, of Lincoln Electric Corporation; full of bright, energetic people who design and build CNC metal cutting machines for sheet and pipe. Their Lean journey began about a year ago when the Production Manager and associates attended a Lean 101 workshop put on by NVIE (Nevada Industry Excellence) in Reno. From the workshop, 5s activities were initiated along with product flow improvements. With this lean experience and the support of the Engineering/Operations Manager, Lincoln selected AEM Consulting Group to lead their first five day kaizen event. The expectation was that taking on a major production line would provide a successful first example and give employees a favorable perspective of lean.

Working with Lincoln, AEM designed a kaizen event with three distinct parts:

  1. Pre-work including; one day on-site to review the current situation on the shop floor, meeting and talking with the folks involved in the process, developing objectives and measures and noting open actions, thoughts, issues, questions.
  2. A five day Kaizen Event from Tuesday to the following Monday
  3. Comprehensive follow-up, the “Achilles heel” of a kaizen event, needed to continue the improvements identified during the kaizen.

Three primary documents were created during prework and continued to be updated during the event:

  1. Kaizen Manifesto: situation, objectives/measures, ROI and Team,
  2. Project Rolling Action Item List – RAIL: what, who and when for project management,
  3. Event Agenda that was updated daily.

The primary focus was to provide an environment conducive for the welder/fabricators who worked on the production line to analyze, identify/prioritize needed actions and implement them. Fun was also a key element with breakfast goodies (we started at 6:00, normal working hours so as not to disrupt regular after work employee routines) lunch (not always a working one), chocolate and much good natured kidding going back and forth. Fun is not confused with getting results; at the end of the third day, one team member remarked he was “tired but not physically, mentally.” That is indicative of team member involvement.

The first day was spent reviewing the manifesto and analyzing the current and future states via draft Value Stream Maps, VSM, developed during prework. Major improvements were identified. A scale floor plan layout was developed and reviewed and revised. The day finished with debriefing and planning for the second day. After a nights rest, the team met in the production area to ratify the layout and plan. Sub-teams were formed to attack identified sub-projects; including new fabrication fixtures, water test, paperwork, conversion to pull, kanban control, material handling, and documentation to support standard work.

Efforts on these projects continued over the next 3 days. Progress was excellent and further sub-projects were determined including additional kanbans from the in-house Machine Shop supplier and eliminating kitting. Results include: lead-time reduced from 4 weeks to 10 days, paperwork reduction of 50% and required floor space also cut by 50%.

During the kaizen the proceedings were made very visible to other employees who as the event progressed became more and more interested. AEM recommended emphatically that Lincoln simultaneously work on Lean Enterprise strategy and tactics with the senior leadership and conducted a briefing for them with details about the kaizen underway and their role in guiding the lean journey; analyzing value streams, identifying and prioritizing improvements and standardizing improvement methodology. The staff was very positive and some visited the production area in the following days. Supporting the kaizen; the Purchasing Manager expedited getting a key piece of equipment relocated by an outside source. In the spirit of progressive lean thinking, the Sales Manager asked about a kaizen in his function.

It’s terrific to witness what smart and motivated people working as a team and utilizing Lean Enterprise thinking and methods can accomplish in a short amount of time!