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Big Results With Less

NIST program helps small organizations eliminate waste
Tamara Nystuen

W ITH A NEW focus on domestic security, companies involved in related tech-

nologies and systems have been called on to significantly increase produc-
tionefficiently and rapidly.
One of those companies, Garrett Metal Detectors, a manufacturer of
sophisticated handheld and walk-through security detection devices, was
able to respond quickly and successfully to a 300% increase in orders
because it implemented lean manufacturing in its Garland, TX, plant.
Garretts security detection products are used worldwide by law enforcement agencies, air-
port authorities and school districts. Garrett also is the vendor of choice for the International
Olympic Committee and has provided security equipment for every Summer Olympics since
1984 and for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Like other small manufacturers, Garrett had
heard about lean manufacturing but wasnt
sure how to get started. Leadership of this 100-
employee company knew it needed to
improve manufacturing processes to stay agile
and competitive in the marketplaceespecial-
ly in the walk-through metal detector area.
A phone call to the Texas Manufacturing
Assistance Center (TMAC), an affiliate of the
National Institute of Standards and
Technologys (NIST) nationwide Manufacturing
Extension Partnership (MEP), helped get the
ball rolling. TMACs lean team toured
Garretts operations and immediately identi-
fied a few key improvement opportunities.
TMAC conducted a Lean Manufacturing
101 training course for Garretts walk-through
detector team. After completing this training,
the team identified how to balance assembly
operations by flowing the product through
the process.

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LEAN IMPLEMENTATION: Labinal Aero Defense Systems worked with the Oklahoma Alliance for Manufacturing
Excellence to implement lean manufacturng in its Pryor Creek, OK, plant. Employees started lean on a line that makes
wire harness systems for Boeing Aircraft.

The TMAC team also engaged Garrett employees in Its time for lean
a value stream mapping exercise to identify nonvalue Lean manufacturing is about eliminating waste
added activities, an effort that eliminated more than across an entire companyfrom the shop floor to the
150 yards of motion in an operation that delivered front office. Its about producing what customers want
materials from a stock table to an assembly station. when they want it. Its about focusing on the big pic-
Through these and other exercises, Garrett was able to ture and learning how to do more with less.
reduce required floor space by 33%. For many companies, getting started is the biggest
In addition, Garrett hit its 300% production increase challenge. Thats where MEP can help. MEP is a nation-
with no additional staff and reduced cycle time by wide network of not-for-profit centers in more than 400
75%shrinking the time it takes to produce one unit locations across the United States. Its sole purpose is to
from days to mere hours. provide small and medium-sized manufacturers with
As a result of this lean project, we were able to the help they need to succeed. Services are fee based,
increase production three to four times with the same with fees determined by local market conditions.
number of people in half the space, said Bob Lean manufacturing is the stuff that you can go
Podhrasky, a Garrett senior vice president. back and do today. It doesnt require a large financial

52 I O C T O B E R 2 0 0 2 I W W W . A S Q . O R G
commitment to get started. Whether youre a compa- consumption rather than forecasting.
ny of 10 or 10,000 employees, you will see benefits, Cellular or flow manufacturing. Cellular or flow
said Mark Sessumes, a TMAC manufacturing special- manufacturing is the linking of manual and
ist. To get started, you just need a few people who machine operations into the most efficient combina-
realize the company needs to change. Lean helps tion of resources to maximize value added content
change the mind-set across a company, giving while minimizing waste.
employees the ability to improve at all levels. 5S system. The 5S system is a series of activities
Theres room for improvement in nearly every com- designed to improve workplace organization and
pany, and lean is an ideal way to get started. MEP staff standardization. The 5Ss stand for: sort through all
can help companies identify the best opportunities to items and remove unneeded ones; set in order
eliminate waste, looking at factors such as overproduc- remaining items; shine or clean everything; stan-
tion, inventory, defects, processing, transportation, dardize the first three Ss by implementing visual
waiting, motion and underutilized people. displays and controls; and sustain the gains.
Every area of a company is interconnected. The
relationships arent always obvious, but in our experi- Kaizen blitz
ence, these connections are very important, said A kaizen blitz is an intensive, focused approach to
Gerard W. Ward, president, Connecticut State process improvement that combines all or some of the
Technology Extension Program, another MEP affiliate. previously mentioned tools to rapidly make improve-
Thats why lean works so well. It helps companies ments to a specific product or portions of a process.
target specific issues that, in Lean is a powerful concept,
turn, lead to wide-ranging but not every principle applies to
improvements throughout Lean manufacturing is the stuff every company in the same way.
entire organizations. Thats the power of MEP: We can

Lean tools that you can go back and do today. help companies identify goals,
work with them to identify the
Once the improvement It doesnt require a large financial best approach and tools, and
opportunities are identified, coach them through the imple-
MEP staff members work with commitment to get started. mentation process, said Chuck
companies to determine which Spangler, vice president, South
lean tools are right based on Carolina MEP. We can also help
the findings. Basic lean tools and services include: companies measure the resultsan often forgotten
Value stream mapping. Value stream mapping is a step.
tool used to create a material and information flow- Three companies recently worked with a MEP cen-
chart of a product or process. This powerful tool ter to implement various principles of lean manufac-
allows companies to map the flow of product from turing to achieve specific, measurable results.
the back door as raw material, through all manufac-
turing process steps and off the loading dock as fin- 1. Label printer
ished product. The first, Design Label Manufacturing, is an East
Total productive maintenance. Total productive Lyme, CT, producer of pressure- and nonpressure-sen-
maintenance (TPM) is a process to maximize the sitive prime labels for consumer products such as
productivity of a companys equipment for its automotive oil, tools, pharmaceuticals, detergents and
entire life. TPM fosters an environment in which food. The 50-employee company has garnered both
improvement efforts in safety, quality, delivery, cost national and international recognition for its quality,
and creativity are encouraged through the partici- having been awarded the Tag & Label Manufacturers
pation of all employees. Institute award.
Setup reduction. Setup reduction uses a four-step Not satisfied to rest on its laurels, Design Label
changeover improvement process to help compa- knew remaining competitive depended on its ability
nies design no or low cost solutions to dramatically to give customers the highest quality at the lowest
reduce or eliminate changeover time. possible cost with the shortest lead time possible.
Pull or kanban systems. Pull or kanban systems con- With the introduction of digital presses, the company
trol the flow of resources in a production process by also knew its entire process for doing that could
replacing only what has been consumed. With these change in just a few years.
systems, customer orders drive production sched- In 2000, the digital press had not yet been adapted
ules, so production is based on actual demand and to the label industry, but Design Label knew the

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technology was imminent, so it began working with a ed us through these changes, and it worked out much
consulting company to bring lean techniques into its better that way.
operations. Unfortunately, Design Label had problems
sustaining any of the improvements it made. 2. Metal stamping and assemblies provider
Although the consultants visited for a week every Bi-Link Metal Specialties is a provider of precision
month and made a lot of changes on the shop floor, metal stampings and assemblies used in a variety of
operators reverted to their traditional process methods high-tech equipment such as wireless phones and
once the consultants left. Design Label then asked the computers. In 2001, Bi-Links Deerfield Beach, FL,
Connecticut State Technology Extension Program facility decided to transform itself into a lean enter-
(CONNSTEP), a NIST MEP network affiliate, to help prise to reduce inventory, increase quality and pro-
implement lean techniques that would stick. ductivity, and improve customer service. It sought the
CONNSTEP organized a cross functional team of assistance of the Florida Manufacturing Extension
employees to make the actual changes. Team members Partnership, a NIST MEP network affiliate, to guide it
were trained in basic lean principles through classroom through its lean transformation.
instruction and realistic, hands-on simulations. They As a first step in the process, Florida MEP worked
also were assigned homework to reinforce the lessons. with Bi-Links management to introduce the princi-
For example, after train- ples of lean manufacturing
ing in value stream map- to key employees. Florida
ping, the team created
current and future state
With the new floor layout alone, employees MEP staff presented a
Lean Manufacturing 101
maps to determine sources
of waste and how they
reduced space requirements by so much that workshop, providing all
team members with the
could be eliminated.
CONNSTEP staff stopped
the company now keeps finished goods in knowledge and tools nec-
essary to advance to the
in or provided assistance
by telephone if team mem-
the plant, eliminating the need to lease next stage of the lean
bers had trouble in
between the training ses-
additional warehouse space. Next, Florida MEP staff
assisted Bi-Link with a
sions. value stream mapping
CONNSTEP also held a series of kaizen workshops exercise. At the initial stage of the process, Bi-Link cre-
on weekends to minimize disruption to Design ated a work cell on the production floor and
Labels production processes. During these work- redesigned work stations to eliminate wasted motion
shops, employees reconfigured the entire shop floor. and expedite the flow process.
One of the improvements they made was to move the With Florida MEPs input, the Bi-Link team then
binderywhich consisted of several pieces of equip- used a kanban replenishment system between the raw
ment used to cut, count, stack and package labels materials warehouse and the production floor. These
next to the press that created most of the work for the changes virtually eliminated the majority of compo-
bindery operation. nent kitting and substantially reduced parts counting.
With the new floor layout alone, employees reduced With the success of these initial projects behind it,
space requirements by so much that the company now Bi-Link underwent a series of classroom training ses-
keeps finished goods in the plant, eliminating the sions and kaizen events to implement lean manufac-
need to lease additional warehouse space. Design turing techniques throughout the organization. The
Label also was able to cut lead time within a six- lean techniques implemented either on a plantwide
month period to three days, beating the 10-day indus- basis or on specific product lines yielded outstanding
try standard by an entire week. results for this 110-person company. They included:
But employees didnt stop there. Rapid changeovers A reduction in work in process from two to three
led to increasing responsiveness, reducing finished weeks down to two to three days.
goods inventory by 50% and decreasing work in A 35% increase in labor efficiency.
process by 80%. And because employees were trained A 50% reduction in customer lead times.
in and thus owned the lean processes, their commit- A 40% improvement in space utilization.
ment to change is high. The Florida MEPs lean manufacturing approach
It wasnt outsiders changing things. It really was empowered our organization to meet customer expec-
the people here who made the changes, said Jeff tations while simultaneously optimizing our through-
Dunphy, Design Label president. CONNSTEP guid- put. The entire organization works as a team,

54 I O C T O B E R 2 0 0 2 I W W W . A S Q . O R G
continuously modifying, improving and helping each never work but to go ahead and try it. It not only
other get the job done, said Pete Krebs, Bi-Links worked, but now other employees are using her
facility manager. The Florida MEP did a great job of design, and we havent lost or broken a tool since.
facilitating the paradigm shift in how we conduct our Results of the initial manufacturing step of the pro-
business, and it has become our method of operation. gram were significant:
Product cycle time was reduced by 11%.
3. Aerospace manufacturer Productivity jumped 336%.
Labinal Aero Defense Systems manufactures wire Setup time fell from 480 to zero hours.
harness systems for several Boeing aircraft at a plant Nonvalue added travel time dropped by 98.5%.
in Pryor Creek, OK. During the 1990s, Labinals busi- Product travel time decreased by 90%.
ness was so successful it grew from 60 to 550 employ- Product volume increased by 11.6%.
ees in a four-year period. Although this growth was Product defects were reduced to zero.
positive, it came with a few drawbacks. Inventory was decreased 82%.
In 1999, for example, Labinal outgrew its 50,000- Due to the success of this initial project, Labinal has
square-foot manufacturing facility, reducing capacity continued to train employees on lean manufacturing,
and causing bottlenecks during the production cycle using the concepts of total productive maintenance,
when the wire harness manufacturing process had to the 5S system and cellular flow manufacturing to
be stopped halfway through to set up for the other achieve similar results.
half of the process. Lean manufacturing has definitely had an impact
Spurred by a presentation from the Boeing Co. on on productivity and efficiency, said Norman Jordan,
the benefits of lean manufacturing, Labinal was con- president and CEO at Labinal. Lean reduced the
vinced implementing lean would improve its opera- number of hours it takes to build our products, and
tions. A neighboring company referred E.J. Sweeney, were producing a significantly better product. You
the companys lean manager, to the Oklahoma can stand in one area of the plant and see entire prod-
Alliance for Manufacturing Excellence, a NIST MEP uct lines built start to finish.
network affiliate.
The alliance introduced Labinal to Lean 101 How to succeed
Simulation, an MEP lean manufacturing tool. After Passion for improvement drives a successful lean
reviewing the program, Sweeney asked the alliance to manufacturing company. Firms that are successful in
schedule Lean Manufacturing 101 training for compa- lean:
ny managers, including three executives from its Have internal drivers or champions.
headquarters in France. Labinals managers were Change their companys culture.
impressed with the training and asked the alliance to Dedicate appropriate resources.
expand it to include key employees. MEP can help companies go above, beyond and
Due to this training, shop floor employees now have ahead. Lean is a component of 360vu, a new, integrat-
a common language and vision, and they are commit- ed suite of tools and services developed by NIST MEP
ted to reorganizing and streamlining their workplaces. to help manufacturers improve and blend every part
One of the first projects was value stream mapping of a of their companies. Offered exclusively by certified
product line scheduled to move into a new 80,000- MEP providers, 360vu is an approach to business
square-foot expansion to Labinals existing plant. In designed specifically to help manufacturers take a big
addition to streamlining the production line, the pro- picture look at how to improve their productivity,
ject included designing a layout that would signifi- profitability and competitiveness.
cantly reduce work in process and lead time. More information on MEPs lean program can be
Sweeney also developed accelerated improvement obtained by calling 800-637-4634 or by going to
workshops that trained employees how to implement
kaizen and measure continual incremental improve-
TAMARA NYSTUEN is principal of Nystuen Communications in
ments. Empowering employees to design their work-
Ham Lake, MN.
stations into manufacturing cells dramatically
changed product flow and increased efficiency.
One of our employees designed a counterbalance I F YOU WOULD LIKE to comment on this article,
system for her hand tools that hangs above her head please post your remarks on the Quality Progress
and is tied to a string. When she needs a tool, she Discussion Board at, or e-mail
pulls down and uses the tool, which goes back up them to
when she finishes, Sweeney said. I told her it would

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