Our Mission… Expand world class CI practices throughout Central PA manufacturing
Here’s what 31 leaders from 18 prominent local manufacturers had to say about the Lean plant tour at Playworld Systems in Lewisburg yesterday:
- Outstanding Host!
- Excellent Time!
- I’m impressed with the way Playworld shows their gratefulness to the employees.
- Sharing best practices and networking like this is crucial to the improvement of our economy, workforce, and way of living.
Darla Rice-Webb, Director of Manufacturing at Playworld, and her team spent the morning sharing what they’ve learned on their 10-year Lean journey. Since 2004, they’ve embraced Lean and transformed their company. “If we hadn’t implemented Lean prior to the 2008 recession, Playworld’s overall profitability outcome would have been totally different.”
It was hard to pick just 5 lessons learned by the group, but here we go….
Prior to implementing Lean, Playworld estimates they held anywhere between $3 and $5 million in Work in Process inventory throughout the plant. One of their first lessons learned was that every Lean initiative needed to target reducing inventory steadily and responsibly. The result has become a true Pull system, with each department making what is needed based on customer demand only. The days of warehousing parts at each department are gone, with a resulting on-hand inventory of approximately $300,000 currently.
“Having a lot of inventory just creates mass confusion and lots of mistakes”, stated Scheduling Manager Mike Geiger. “The mindset of making only what we need has transformed us, and each department now serves each other much better than we used to. Also, our quality and customer satisfaction have gone through the roof, since we don’t have bins and bins of parts to sort through to find the right one to meet orders.” Some of the numbers:
- Lead time reduction of 8 weeks to 10 days.
- On-time delivery used to be 75%, and is now 98 to 99.9%.
There is the accounting issue, inventory is an asset, so keeping Accounting and Finance closely linked to the Lean initiative is very important.
#4. Take pictures and document your journey.
Lean and continuous improvement can be hard, so it’s important to remember how far you’ve come and celebrate what you’ve learned.
Darla shared a tool, Visual Knowledge Share (www.vksapp.com), that they use to create their SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and PMs (Preventative Maintenance). VKS is “a powerful web app for creating, sharing, and executing visual work instructions”. If you connect with them, please tell them Playworld sent you!
#3. The “Chat Room” Model Drives Effective Communication.
The Chat Room is a central location where are things important to running the plant are communicated. An orange metal communication board lines the wall, and contains HR updates, resource planning, vacation scheduling, key performance metrics, and a variety of other important topics.
The key is to keep everything as visual as possible, so employee picture cards with symbols and color quickly show training levels, first responder status, daily scheduling, and committee participation.
Playworld has also implemented weekly meetings for all employees. Every Thursday, Darla or one of her team lead the very structured meeting, ensuring that all employees hear the same message and know what’s going on plant-wide. Speakers and video monitors make it easy for everyone to hear and see, and carpet squares are available for those who would rather sit than stand.
Without employee buy-in, none of it is possible. It takes time, and it’s an ongoing process. Involve them, educate them, make them an integral part of the company, and show them how they can make a difference.
#2. If your MRP system is driving production, you’re in trouble!
In 2004, Playworld quickly realized that their MRP system was one of the biggest barriers to improvement. It created scheduling obstacles, like weekly instead of daily ship dates, and wasn’t a tool that they could use to balance capacity in the plant.
They enlisted the help of their IT department, and what evolved is an in-house custom system, called PPS, that they use to handle almost all plant production. Today, less than 10 parts run through their MRP, and those parts are small, highly specialized, and in low demand. IT buy-in was and is an essential piece of the Lean transformation at Playworld, and has enabled them to go from 5-8 weeks of lead time to 10 days (20 maximum in extremely high demand periods).
#1. Continuous Improvement Culture
“Continuous Improvement Culture is our #1 priority around here. It’s crucial, and everyone knows it” Darla asserted, several times. And it wasn’t just talk, there was evidence everywhere that Playworld lives CI and Lean. Instead of one Lean Manager, it is very clear that ALL employees are responsible for CI, and part of their job requirement is submitting CI suggestions.
How does Playworld keep CI front and center? The Continuous Improvement Committee. 3 employees volunteer to serve on the Committee for one year. Every Monday, they meet at noon with plant managers to review CI suggestions submitted by employees via the CI Suggestion Worksheet (attached at right). If the CI is approved, a committee member is assigned to make it happen. If it’s not approved, a committee member meets with the employee to follow up and explain why. All managers know that CI Committee work is a priority, and members are allowed the time they need to get them done.
Suggestions are tracked via a spreadsheet, and metrics are shared on a regular basis. Last year, 353 CIs were completed out of 600 ideas submitted. To date, 1,320 have been completed. The committee has set an ongoing goal for 250 per year, or one per day, and the team has no doubt that they will reach that goal.
From “Making a Difference” monthly awards and lunch at a local restaurant for winners to yearly Top 3 Best CIs winners getting $100 gift cards, CI rules the day at Playworld. Some of the best rewards? Employees share in profits, and health insurance for their entire family is provided with no payroll deductions. There’s a lot of incentive to do the best job possible and make the company better and better every day. On our plant tour, we were all impressed by the friendly attitude of employees, immaculate working conditions, and overall knowledge of Lean and CI.
The Playworld team is truly leading the way in Lean, Continuous Improvement, and inspiring the manufacturing community. If you were one of the business leaders who attended, we’d love to hear what you thought were the best “aha!” moments from the day.
Next event/tour is Videon Central in State College, PA.