Seeing Lean

A Northwestern shop has made a strong commitment to kaizen, so much so that it devotes 5 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.


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Paul Van Metre says his 70-person shop, Pro CNC, has likely implemented more than 1,000 improvement efforts based on employee kaizen suggestions (lean manufacturing’s concept of continuous improvement). While 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), this shop focuses more intently on what might be considered smallish improvements each day. This keeps employees and managers constantly on the lookout for ways to become more efficient. The photos in this article 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.
Here’s one example:

Rachel Peterson is particularly active in the production area’s kaizen efforts. For example, she was involved
in a recent redesign of the shop’s fastener storage area, which uses a kanban system to maintain an adequate
supply of screws, bolts and so on. Each bin includes fasteners of a specific size as well as a resealable bag
with a kanban card and extra fasteners. Employees know to order fasteners whenever they first must take
some from the bag. At the end of each day, a person collects cards and orders the needed fasteners. Note
that each bin has a sample fastener attached to it for quicker bin identification.