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Successful Implementations in Lean

Baron Machine: Finding Success with 5S

By Jack Healy, Karen Myhaver, Program Support Coordinator

"It was the next step in the evolution of our company," said Rich Combs, Manufacturing Manager at Baron Machine Company. "Having spent eighteen years in the automotive industry, I knew that Lean Manufacturing is a principle that I hoped to institutionalize here at some point – and that point is now!"

Baron Machine Company Inc. has been in business in Laconia, New Hampshire for over 50 years. The family owned and operated business provides machining solutions for customers worldwide by offering CNC milling, turning, metal fabrication, welding, as well as production machining for aerospace.

Over the last several years, Baron Machine had worked with the New Hampshire Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NH MEP) and project manager Christopher Tsakiris on DOD related projects and at events. The company’s employees felt comfortable with him and his training style, so when they were ready to begin their conversion to Lean they asked Chris for his assistance.

Reorganizing with 5S
Most recently, the NH MEP has helped, Baron focus on 5s Kaizen work.  Kaizen is a Japanese term, roughly translated to mean "to take apart and put back together in a better way." Five S Kaizen involves cleaning and organizing  the materials and machinery within an area by sorting, shining, and setting in order, then standardizing procedures for storage, use, maintenance, and replenishment for everyone  to follow.  The last "s" is sustain — there needs to be a plan in place to help sustain the changes and improvements.

In particular, Baron wanted to address their Cutoff Room where material (primarily metal) is received, stored, and prepared. There was an over abundance of useless inventory stored in the area and this made it difficult and time consuming to find other materials. There was also no inventory process or system in place.

A cross functional team of 12 employees from all different areas of the company came together for the Kaizen event. They worked on the room in segments for more than five weeks- over 1000 man hours. First, the team brainstormed about the various issues that they were aware of in the Cut Off Room and synthesized these into a problem statement —"There is no inventory system resulting in a lack of organization, a lack of control and excess material."

Then they did a spaghetti diagram to show the way people and material traveled in and through the space, and created a current state map that helped pinpoint the trouble areas. From this exercise they discovered that it took an average of 15 minutes to locate materials in the Cut Off Room and that an individual employee was traveling about 1,394 linear feet per day (or 279 feet per transaction and five transactions) while receiving materials. The room had become a catch all for raw materials, cut offs, scrap, old machinery, anything that had no place.

Setting Targets
The team determined what the "ideal state" of the room should be and set targets based on these goals. The targets included:  developing an inventory control system and more visual controls to assist with picking materials; establishing designated areas for scrap material and materials from customers; and making better use of floor space. They also wanted to reduce raw material inventory by half, to gain at least 30% more floor space; to be able to verify inventory and location of materials within a minute; and to create an inventory system that would meet their needs on many levels.

Next the group went about sorting, shining, setting in order, and standardizing the materials, machinery, and equipment in the Cut off Room. They removed anything that was not necessary or beneficial. The space was cleaned and painted and re-configured. Designated areas were properly identified and labeled. Identification and control systems were put in place and materials were then restocked according to the new system and layout.

Reclaiming Floor Space & Material
Through the 5s Kaizen in the Cut Off Room, Baron Machine was able to reclaim 850 sq feet of floor space which is nearly double their goal. They also removed and reclaimed forty-four tons of obsolete and unusable material and have instituted a reclaiming procedure to sell scrap and obsolete metal to a recycling center. They have set locations for customer materials and scrap, and established an inventory protocol which will help them track valuation, location, and inventory levels.  The new layout in the area and the removal of the excess material resulted in reduced travel distance for those in receiving from 1,394 linear feet to 168 linear feet.

The team came away from their Kaizen activities with a 30-day to-do list which identified specific  actions that need to be taken, for what purpose, by whom, and by what date. They also developed a sustainment plan which incorporates a display board where the standards are posted as a visual reminder. They are utilizing instructions, labels, signage, and guidelines to follow and have developed and implemented daily and weekly 5s cleaning and audits by team members and staff. The audit results are also displayed on the board.

"The 5s events have been extremely productive," said Rich Combs. "I can’t wait to do the next one! Everyone has had nothing but good things to say about this. We have done a few (Kaizens) on our own already and plan to do three or four more this year!"

"Approximately half of our 50 employees have participated in some Lean training so far," added Combs. "Many of these were at public Lean events like the TimeWise LE102 Basic Lean for Job Shops, which are put on all over the state by the NH MEP and give a good overview of basic Lean terms and concepts to help put everyone on the same page. This is so important if you want to be successful."

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