August 28, 2017

At the time, the vice president of manufacturing at Hyde Manufacturing, in Southbridge, MA, said he thought “we were under-utilizing our people’s skills.” It was in the late 1980s and the vice president was Ken Rizner.

His thoughts then led to a transformation in work in the 300-employee plant. “I always thought we were using their (the employees) hands more than their brains,” he said at the time. This question kept nagging at Rizner:

“Why does it take 10 to 12 weeks to get a product through here when it only takes 20 hours to actually work on it?”

He was talking about production of putty knives and paint scrapers and about 1,300 other surface preparation tools like those.

So with a team of line employees, Rizner targeted production of a family of products and walked through every step used to produce each tool. They counted steps, measured distances, and judged which steps added value. The results were shocking. As Rizner said, “It was a shock to a company nearly 125 years old with a lot of imbedded thoughts on how things should be done.”

What the team found and what they changed: Value added steps, 14 reduced to 12. Product moves, 37 times cut to 6 times. Waiting steps, 16 reduced to 0. Weighing, logging or counting, 5 times cut to 0. Drying steps, 9 times cut to 4. Writing on paper, 3 times cut to 0. Distance moved, 7,107 feet cut to 2,151 feet. Total steps, 84 cut to 22. Processing time, 7 weeks cut to 7 days! An 85.7 percent cut in production time.

Benefits to Hyde: Overtime cut 75 to 85 percent. Lead times cut 75 percent. Turnover cut 80 percent.

Imagine this question: In your workplace, how many wasted steps and how much unneeded distance go into what you and your employees are doing?

What to do: Get a team of employees together who haven’t done the tasks to be analyzed. Use these “outsiders” for the observation and analysis because they are more likely to ask the unasked questions. Then observe and measure every single step in a process or procedure, and ask of each one: “Is this adding value?”

© 2017