As Blockhouse continues to grow and evolve, our hunger for improvement only increases. It’s not enough to merely offer customized products or listen to what customers want. We need to continuously improve our processes.
In a society built around instant gratification, an 8-10 week lead time will simply not due. Customers want the best product, for the best price, and delivered fast. So how can you guarantee a high quality product to arrive quickly in meet customer needs? You go Lean!
Lean manufacturing was created by Toyota. It is a system of reducing “waste” in processes and productivity.
Ray Randolph joined the Blockhouse team as a Lean Coach back in November 2016. Within a matter of weeks, Ray taught us how to recognize waste that we once considered “just part of the job.” Waste is considered anything that isn’t adding value to the product. One of the most recognizable of which, was the procedure we use to build drawer boxes.
Ray, along with senior management, began observing one of our factory worker’s daily routine of building drawer boxes. After some time, they were able to devise a plan to improve speed, efficiency, and still guarantee the same durable product! For starters, half of the drawer box materials were not located in the same central area. While this may not seem like much, this was wasting precious minutes on the clock. In order to reduce this waste, we built a custom-made, mobile “parts cart” which contained all the necessary parts for building a drawer box.
Ray also began to ask exactly why so many extra steps were being taken. It became clear that some steps weren’t needed at all. Some procedures were passed down for years but because they’ve always worked, no one has bothered to ask why we do it this way. Or how can we make this process better? Now we are.
Blockhouse has become fully committed to Lean practices, even in our offices. With our newfound Lean culture, all employees are encouraged to share ideas and question the current state of affairs. If there is any way to improve, we want to know.
To reduce waste in the office, all employees are also asked to keep desks or work areas tidy and organized. Labels were also encouraged in order to find tools faster. The easier it is to locate the tools and supplies you need, the more time you can spend on value-adding work.
Besides altering work areas, the factory is in for a big makeover. We plan to reduce our overall floor plan and increase productivity by limiting the room between department teams. For example, the Cut and Sew team is currently located in a large room upstairs, overlooking the factory. Soon, the team will be intertwined with the Upholstery team on the lower level.
Rather than housing numerous storage racks full of inventory, we are going to build to order. The racks will be taken down, freeing up space to be utilized for value-adding work. By building to order, products will no longer sit for extended periods of time and we will be able to fulfill the customer’s order faster.
The process of going Lean isn’t easy and will take time to see the full benefits. Of course, if done correctly, we will never stop improving. We have fully committed to this process. The goal isn’t to just better ourselves, it’s to do what’s best for our customers and we are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.
-Stephen Perko JR.