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Successful Implementations in Lean

NH MEP Helps P.J. Noyes Keep Tabs on Their Processes

By Karen Myhaver, Program Support Coordinator, MassMEP

As a long-time employer in the rural Twin Mountain area of New Hampshire, P.J. Noyes is an integral part of the community. In the past few years, as other businesses have closed their doors, the pharmaceutical and personal care product manufacturer and packager has become a larger factor in the local economy. They are taking steps to become more competitive by improving the way they operate. This effort is going on, not just on the manufacturing floor, but also in the front office because the company realizes that everyone needs to be on-board for the improvements to be successful and sustainable.

Chief Operating Officer Dennis Wogaman and (TAB) Tablet Production Manager Tracey Morrill explained that things began a few years ago when New Hampshire Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s (NH MEP’s) project manager, Jane T. Ely, began inviting them to attend public events and workshops put on by her organization. Dennis was impressed with what he saw and learned at these events and asked Jane and her NH MEP colleagues to help P.J. Noyes bring the Lean principles to their plant. Everyone in the company participated in Basic Lean Training for Job Shops Time Wise LE102, a workshop which introduces Lean concepts and tools and shows how these concepts are applied through an interactive simulation. This basic awareness training was important to ensure that employees were on the same page with what the company was trying to accomplish and understood that Lean is not a threat to their jobs. 

Employee teams were also trained on Value Stream Mapping (VSM) and then mapped various processes within the plant to identify wastes. Then through Kaizen events, they formulated plans to reduce those wastes. A core group of supervisors, including Kim Perry, the Maintenance Manager; Steve Skinner, the Liquid Production Manager; and Tracey Morrill, also received Train the Trainer instruction so that they could spread the knowledge and continue the improvement process in the P.J. Noyes facility themselves. They have since proceeded to train other employees who are now conducting events in their own departments.

25% Sustained Production Increase
In Tablet Manufacturing, dry raw materials are granulated and mixed and then pressed into tablets.  The tablets are then stored as inventory for subsequent packaging into bottles or tubes. During the VSM, the group did spaghetti diagrams of all the walking done during the process "because it had always been done that way."  The work in Tablet Manufacturing takes place on two levels, as the process is gravity fed.  Employees were constantly going up and down the stairs to determine status of materials.  Through the VSM exercise they identified wasted travel and decided to move processes, people, and materials closer together.  They also realized there was wasted effort in the paperwork and streamlined that. Visual signals were incorporated so that the "floor can talk" to the employees. On each level a system of lights are turned on or off, giving advance notice of when materials need to be moved. This simple system reduced waiting time and stair climbing.

The Tablet Manufacturing team continually refines and improves their processes and the results speak for themselves.

The average number of tablets produced per labor hour from June 2008 through January 2009 was 10,000. Since January 2009, after making the improvements to eliminate excess movement and incorporating the visual signals, they are now producing 12,500 tablets per labor hour – a 25% increase, which P. J. Noyes has been able to sustain.

This productivity increase has allowed the company to meet client demand even though the economy has dictated that they must lower their operating costs by eliminating a third shift.  

Jobs are Easier
Operators work in teams with clearly defined responsibilities to get the work done.  The Lean techniques have streamlined their jobs and made their tasks easier.  The productivity increase resulted in an increase in profit sharing for employees. All of these things have resulted in improved employee morale.

Other areas are also seeing improvements.  Lean efforts are also in progress in the Liquid Packaging department. They have already seen positive results by setting up staging areas for point of use storage, by reorganizing, and by using signage to identify where things belong when they are not in use.

"We now recognize that there is vast opportunity for improvement. Converts (to Lean) realize that this isn’t the best they can do. You need to sit down and look at the areas and think about what else you can do. You can always find more things to work on.  Then, as managers are able to show their teams successful results, they get the buy-in, which is key to sustaining the improvements." – Dennis Wogaman

Including Both Office and Shop Floor in Lean Implementation
Recently, a team has been doing a Value Stream Map on the quoting process in the Sales Department. Using a slightly different Value Stream Mapping technique, they have achieved the same results — identifying areas that need to be improved and strategizing what the improvements should be. P.J. Noyes has discovered that Lean works both in the office environment as well as on the shop floor and that including both in their Lean implementation has been key.

"Funny," said Tracey Morrill, "you hear people using the word Lean even though it may not be meant in its technical terms. They mean to ‘Lean something out’ rather than to improve how it is done. Overall it is the recognition of the importance of the process, not just the claim of improving operations and efficiencies that is important."

"Jane Ely was great to work with and really helped us stay focused," said Tracey. "We would love to get her back here soon to work with us again – to run an event once in a while."

For over 140 years, P.J.  Noyes Company has been manufacturing and packaging over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and personal care products in their facility in Lancaster, New Hampshire. They produce tablets and liquids as well as ointments, creams, and lotions. Large chewable tablets are their specialty. Currently, the company employs approximately 95 people, including some part time."

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