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Successful Implementations in Lean

Lean is a Big Part of the Package at Accutech

By Karen Myhaver, Program Support Coordinator, MassMEP

"If anyone is not doing Lean they will cease to exist within five years. People are looking for maximum value at the lowest cost and the internet puts hundreds of thousands of options at their fingertips. If you are not focused on providing great value at low cost you won’t be around." — Patrick Madigan

Accutech Packaging’s Patrick Madigan became interested in Lean and Continuous Improvement back in the early 80’s. "Over the years we’ve tried to incorporate some Lean practices and concepts into our human resources and quality manuals," he said. "The entire company needs to be involved in Lean to share a culture where everyone is trying to do what they do better and as a team."

In 2005, Glenn Gertridge, of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) introduced himself and offered the company some Lean guidance. He invited Patrick and the other company owners to Lean Public Events and Roundtables where they could learn more about the process and of other companies’ experiences.  With MassMEP’s assistance, Accutech  began to move forward with their Continuous Improvement Program. Project Manager Jim Gusha helped them submit the grant application which provided some funding for Lean training then Lead Project Manager Rick Bowie  worked with the company on their actual Lean Deployment.

All employees were involved and processes were repeated throughout the factory.
All of Accutech’s employees, from owners to managers and shop floor staff, participated in Basic Lean Training to familiarize them with Lean terms and tools. Everyone has also been involved in 5s or other Kaizen events or with problem solving exercises within particular areas of the facility. Through Value Stream Mapping exercises areas of waste were identified then 5s events were held to eliminate the waste, clean, organize, standardize, and make things visual. During other Kaizen events processes were studied, taken apart and rearranged for better flow and to reduce travel. Visual signals and point of use storage were incorporated and quick changeover was introduced. Set up reduction Kaizens and the follow up Kaizen days resulted in substantial reductions in time. These processes were then repeated into other areas of the factory.

Standardizing Increases Capacity
A credit card company had a packaging line job which would require that they produce 600,000 booklets with very labor intensive assembly. Accutech was unsure they could handle it. During Kaizens on the line it was discovered that the employees had different methods and different abilities when doing the assembly. The solution was to have those people who were most adept at the folding and taping that was required, train the others to do it the same way, to standardize the procedure. Productivity went up so rapidly that they depleted the order and have additional capacity to handle the next challenging job.

"People were awakened and the concepts caught on and that was more valuable than anything else we have done," said Madigan. "Now they understand what to do and the best way to do it. Employees see now that better and faster is not a threat to their jobs it simply allows us to handle more work with the people we already have. In fact, standardizing procedures in the design and tooling areas resulted in 20% decreased thermoform tooling lead times and  25% increased capacity in the area utilizing the same number of employees" he added.

70% Reduction in Time
A particular job required the assembly of four pieces. The old thinking would have all the parts being run separately at different speeds in successive fashion as fast as they could be, and then assembled. This time, machines were dedicated to run each part simultaneously and would run slower or faster as needed. Material handling was almost eliminated. The entire process which would have taken 40 hours was reduced approximately 70% to 12 hours.

Adding Value for Customer: Increasing Profitability
Accutech manufactures a plastic clam shell package and screw assemblies for a screw manufacturer. Kaizen events analyzed the way the packaging, labeling and lot coding was being done. To add value for their client Accutech offered to do the actual point of sale packaging as well. Due to Lean improvements made to the layout, a shift in workers and line balance they are now more than 20% more profitable. They have increased their fill speeds and are working at a higher output than they originally thought possible. 

The workers on the shop floor are able to see equal or greater output with less effort. Waste has been removed, people and materials move less, and materials and tools can be found easily. Employees are also comfortable making suggestions. By making changes to reduce the waste in these areas, the team was able to reduce the production time by 15-20% with the same number of people. Even better, this reduction has been sustained and improved upon. The team has been able to produce an additional 500 pieces per day.

Easier and Better
In the manufacture of a particular tray, Accutech was using a straight pull system which was a lot of work to manage. Now, visual signals in the form of empty spaces alert employees of what needs to be made so there is very little management required.  A Kaizen on the set up encouraged the use of quick changeover tooling. This alone reduced the process by 2.5 hours. It used to take about 2.5 hours for molds and another hour to dial in the new job; now the whole process is done in under an hour. Quick changeover tooling also means the process is easier and quality is better. 

Patrick Madigan emphasizes that to be able to compete in the future, you need a well educated workforce. "Continuing Education is very important!" he said.  "The training provided by Rick and the MassMEP was non-threatening and not stressful. People looked forward to it. I tell everyone I meet about the MassMEP and the value they have brought to Accutech ."

Accutech Packaging is a family owned business that was started in a West Roxbury basement by brothers Richard and Patrick Madigan, their father, Richard Sr. and brother-in-law Michael Keneally, in 1986. Today the company occupies two buildings and 130,000 sq. ft. in Foxboro, Massachusetts and employs 85 people. Accutech custom designs and manufactures thermoformed plastic parts – the plastic parts inside the boxes that hold products like razors, perfume, or cosmetics to cell phones and medical diagnostic kits in place. In the plastic area they manufacture packaging for industrial, medical, retail, and food applications while the paper converting area manufactures paper mailing bags, displays, and envelopes and are responsible for the contract packaging services they offer.

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