Once a month the company president does a walk-around to discuss the departmental challenges listed on the scoreboards. “It is my job to facilitate the discussions and to use the information gathered in these scoreboards to determine if our plan is effective,” says Multanen. “If it’s not, we need to reevaluate and make changes to the plan.”

Due to responses received from the scoreboards, Best Bath Systems made one big change to its production process. It consolidated parts assembly using a flow process (making one product at a time) instead of a batch process (making as many as you can). The latter produced a lot of waste. “What we had to do was give employees the right tools to build the right parts, one at a time,” says Multanen. “And that actually helped remove a lot of wastes that are common with batching, such as waiting, over-processing, motion and inventory.” The flow process also allows the company to track how much time is spent manufacturing a certain product so it can continue to improve in the future. The core of lean is grounded in the concept of continuous product and process improvement.

The company created an employee training program called Best Bath Systems University (BBSU) that includes several courses. One is on lean manufacturing. “We focus on lean principles in training so that all employees are using the same vocabulary and talking about the same issues,” says Multanen. Other BBSU courses cover marketing, sales, leadership and development as well as the Certified Composites Technician (CCT) program.

Multanen praises his employees’ commitment to lean manufacturing. “Building employee involvement has been instrumental to the overall success of the company,” he says. “Everything we’ve done with lean has essentially come from the employees.”

Company Name: General Composites Inc.
Headquarters: Willsboro, N.Y.
Business Focus: A manufacturer of high-end composite components for a variety of markets
Employees: Approximately 45
Plant Size: 30,000 square feet

Earlier this year, General Composites Inc. (GCi) began manufacturing a composite barrel for recreational or tactical uses for a customer. Because GCi already makes a similar barrel, the company assumed production of this one would run smoothly. It didn’t. So three employees formed a Kaizen group to identify what was going wrong and how to fix it.

The employees examined all of the production steps, discovered a glitch in layup and made an adjustment. Within one week, the production line significantly improved its first pass yield – the percentage of products that don’t require rework or are “good on the first pass.” The new barrel’s first pass yield jumped from 45 percent to 90 percent. “That’s amazing for a new product,” says Kenda James, quality manager for GCi. And much of the credit goes to the company’s focus on business improvement processes.