Committed to Kaizen
This shop has made a strong commitment to kaizen, so much so that it devotes five percent of company time to continuous improvement activities. This has led to multiple ideas that have enabled the shop to become more efficient and effective.
Kaizen is the lean manufacturing concept of continuous improvement. Based on what I saw at Pro CNC in Bellingham, Washington, the key to kaizen’s successful implementation is making continuous improvement part of a shop’s culture, but not micromanaging its execution. As company president Paul Van Metre explains, it’s important to let individuals determine how best to carry out kaizen.
Some shops hold large kaizen events in which they spend a good deal of time considering significant changes. Pro CNC does from time to time. However, the shop focuses more intently on what might be considered smallish improvements each day, which keeps employees and managers constantly on the lookout for ways to become more efficient. In fact, Pro CNC dedicates 5 percent of company time (approximately 100 hours each month) to kaizen.
Mr. Van Metre says the biggest mistake shops make with such efforts is making kaizen too complicated, which can make it challenging to get all employees on board. Plus, a formal, across-the-board system can be not only unnecessary, but can be detrimental to kaizen success. Instead, kaizen implementation should be flexibile. In Pro CNC’s case, each company department (including office, production, prototyping and programming) approaches it differently. What works for one department might not work for another, because each has different responsibilities, needs and goals.
And while senior management needs to be completely behind kaizen, they can’t be the ones who continually drive continuous improvement efforts or push kaizen activities. All employees have to be given the freedom and time (not to mention budget) to generate ideas on their own. This helps lead to company-wide buy-in and enthusiasm for kaizen initiatives.
Kaizen Results Captured
Mr. Van Metre says his 70-person shop has likely implemented more than 1,000 improvement efforts based on kaizen suggestions. The photos below highlight some recent ideas that have improved efficiency at Pro CNC. Share these with your employees to spark ideas for ways your shop can become more effective.