By TJ Aaron, Foundry Coach

During the last week of January 2020, The C.A. Lawton Co. was invited to participate in a Value Stream Mapping (VSM) exercise by its sister company Temperform in Novi, MI.  VSM is a lean management method for analyzing the current state of an operation to design a future state goal. I was chosen along with our Engineering Manager RJ Hawkins to represent Lawton for this exercise.

The outcome of a VSM is a series of events planned to achieve the future state. These events encompass the steps required to transform the company from the current state.  These events are specific in focus from the beginning of a process which affects a product or service until that good reaches the customer.

The process starts with gathering preliminary information about the process. The VSM team created an operation flow chart by actually walking the process as it exists.  This helps to identify the delays that occur in the current state.  One interesting point we saw was that TIMWOODS was not only something we experienced at Lawton.  The eight wastes occur in every plant no matter how different the process.

A lot of data was collected but the most enjoyable part was the opportunity to see how other people do things.  We are both foundries but what is normal to them is not normal to us.  It was an eyeopener to everyone on the team just how much non-value-added work exists in the current state.  I was fortunate to work conducting interviews with team members from all over the Temperform organization to get their input on how the flow worked.  I understand the foundry process, but my perspective was much different.  This not only allowed me to offer input from my experiences but also offer a different view.

After the data was collected, the team compiled a list of 104 total issues to address. These were sub-divided into categories:  Safety, Quality/Production, Layout, Equipment/Facility and Training/Communication.  The team further estimated the non-value-added percentage which these items contributed to the process.

The next step was where the real fun begins.  A future state model is developed in which the team is challenged to reduce the percentage of non-value-added tasks in the process. Although not always an easy task, once everyone started seeing what the future state could be, the ideas really started flowing.

Finally, we helped put together a transformation calendar to guide Temperform through their continuous improvement journey.  This visual aid scheduled and prioritized the items identified into one of three lean events:  Kaizen for events to be completed in a one or two week period; Projects for events which will require much longer duration; JDI (Just Do It) for events which can be addressed in short time and with smaller team resources.

One of the main things that I got out of this opportunity was to see how other foundries do things a little different.  The Temperform team really welcomed us and our input and it was good to know we were not seen as outsiders.  I am looking forward to going back and working with them in any lean event that comes up this year.  A special thanks to Blake Albritton (President) and Shane Reece (Director of Operations) for all the support and making us feel at home in a different foundry.