The shipping department is often one of the unsung heroes in many manufacturing companies. It performs a critically important job: Preparation of the products whose next inspector is our customer. They are asked to get these products delivered cost effectively, without damage.
Recently, the casting prep and shipping departments of The C.A. Lawton Co. were in the spotlight as part of a shipping kaizen initiative. We assembled a cross-functional team of 17 people to improve the casting prep and shipping area beyond our original goals. They included:
- A 50% improvement in its 6S audit score,
- To identify and fix three to five safety goals,
- Organize and improve the department’s workflow, and
- Implement visual management of tasks.
Team members came from all corners of Lawton’s operations, including Project Management, Machine Shop Support, Foundry Coaches, Mold Line, Ram, Melt Deck, Shakeout, Cleaning, Casting Prep and Shipping. They set aside their daily duties for four full days to brainstorm improvements to the operations of the casting prep and shipping departments.
At the end of the week, we had more than a 200% improvement in the 6S audit, identified 22 safety concerns and fixed 18, with three more scheduled to be completed in the next few weeks and one converted into a project. Product workflow has been improved and the new arrangement will keep the area looking cleaner.
The first day we completed five separate training modules, with each training session ending with Gemba – going to the place where the work is done. With each new training module, the team would walk the process with a fresh set of eyes. We started with 6S training and then completed our baseline audit score. Another helpful training module was TIMWOODS, followed by a walk to look for the eight wastes:
- Over Processing,
- Over Production,
- Defects and
- Underutilizing the Skills of our workers.
We also completed a training module for Job Safety Analysis and broke into teams to look into three specific tasks within the department. The first day ended with the team breaking into groups of two and going to interview another 22 people from the area, affected by the area, or those who have an effect on the casting prep and shipping areas. These interviews would come in useful on day 2 during our brainstorming phase.
Day 2 began with brainstorming. This is where we used our information gathered from the first day and made a list of all the problems we had identified in the Casting Prep and Shipping area. The team created a list of 101 items, with 22 safety items. We then categorized the list into Procedures (including communication and training), Layout/Visual Management, and Maintenance or Equipment. We then broke into three teams to start tackling those smaller lists.
Next, we cleaned the area using a red tag event to help identify items that were not frequently used, or never used. Next, elbow grease and painting were employed to help improve the brightness and organization within the Casting Prep and Shipping department.
The team also developed and deployed a new “live screen” shipping schedule in both buildings on our campus, so everyone can see real-time information about current orders – what is shipping and where it’s going.
Team members used interviews with employees to develop procedures for the department. One of the biggest impacts from a cleanliness standard was the change made to how we apply our rust inhibitor. There were some large castings that were dipped in a tub of lubricant and were allowed to drip dry. That process was changed to be a spray application, reducing the build-up of lubricant on the floor.
Following this event, only 12 items remained on the kaizen “newspaper.” These items will be tackled within the next month.
This is another example of the how the remarkable people at Lawton achieve remarkable results by striving to continually improve.