Posted by Howe Q. Wallace on Friday, June 29th, 2012
Here’s how lean works:
I’ve been in Maine to tour our operations there and visit with the team before their annual maintenance week.
Most of you haven’t seen our other facilities. If you could see all of them, you would be surprised about how different each of them is. They are distinctive by the raw materials and the formats by which we receive them. Sawing equipment may look alike but is always configured uniquely.
There is no mill in America like Maine. They have a plant located on two sides of a state roadway. Because it is Maine and it snows a lot there, everything is inside. Space is tight and the activity it takes for them to build 50-70 loads weekly is mind boggling. It must be highly synchronized. Communication has to be continuous. It has to follow in sequence. It has to work well.
It was inspiring this week to watch a plant like Maine hitting on all cylinders. For seven of the last nine weeks, production goals have been exceeded. The goals are ambitious. Thus, record production for a two-month period has been achieved. That kind of success creates a good vibe.
Now, back to my “lean” example:
I was in the Viking assembly area and the supervisor Keith Frost was telling me a story. He noticed that one of the nailing machines was not using the “high speed” feature on one of the transfer chains.
He asked them to reengage it and spent some time visiting about it with the team.
First, he showed them that using the “high speed” feature gained them one second per pallet. He could tell they weren’t impressed.
Keith didn’t back down. “1,200 pallets would gain us 1,200 seconds. 1,200 seconds is 20 minutes. If you can find one second two other places, that would give us 3,600 seconds. That’s an hour. An hour we can be done with what we usually do and be building some additional pallets for someone else. It works for NASCAR. It can work for us.”
That’s good teaching. Keith was making sure everyone understood and appreciated the value of a second. He was making sure that everyone could see that seconds add up to minutes and minutes add up to hours. He was helping them understand that if we can get more product through our machines through such efforts as this, it helps us to gain customers. It helps us to save money on investing in equipment.
We are in a pennies and seconds game. A lot of people have to execute very well for us to get a chance to keep going the next day.
Our team in Maine does it every day. It was fun to watch and to hear about it.