Packaging and Agile ManufacturingAnna Lee
Most US manufacturers have implemented, or are in the process of implementing a continuous improvement program. There are a number of successful and widely used programs to choose from and each program has lots of variations. Lean Manufacturing, Just in Time, Theory of Constraints, Total Quality Management, Quick Response Manufacturing, Six Sigma, and Agile Manufacturing are some of the programs that are currently being used. Each program has a purpose to improve quality, reduce response time, lower costs, or most likely “all of the above”.
Many companies that have adapted one or more of these programs have seen enormous improvement. While each of the programs and tools are different, they all are aimed at improving key business metrics and improving the businesses competitiveness. While we are not experts in these tools and programs, we believe that all have three common elements that drive success:
- Management Commitment: For any program that is to survive and thrive, top management needs to be heavily involved, in fact more than just being involved, management needs to actively support and push these initiatives. Sometimes when management is “loosely” involved, the program dissolves at the first sign of trouble. A committed management team provides long term support and helps the organization push through the many obstacles.
- Change the Definition of Waste: Back in the 70’s and 80’s, the primary measurement for manufacturing was labor efficiency. Waste was defined as idol machine or operator time. Labor costs are an important factor, but most organizations were optimizing labor at the expense of inventory, cycle time, quality, floor space, measurement systems and many other items that added to overhead. Cost accounting systems were set up that allocated all overhead costs to labor hours, making it seem as though labor was actually costing 100.00 to 200.00 dollars per hour instead of the actual labor rate that was closer to $5.00 per hour (we are talking about 1980). In reality most of the costs were actually hidden in things besides labor. As manufacturing advanced, the definition of waste changed from idol labor or machines, to any activity that does not directly add value to the product.
- Focus: Manufacturing plants in the 70’s often consisted of large mega factories employing 1000’s of workers. The plant did just about every operation that was required to complete the finished product. Unfortunately, the large variety of processes became a nightmare to manage. Doing everything meant that it was impossible to achieve excellence at anyone process as is pointed out by the expression “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Companies found that if a group could focus on doing just a few things, improvement came quickly. Large mega plants gave way to “centers of excellence”, “manufacturing cells”, “and focused factories”. Many operations were contracted out to specialists, who could perform the process faster, cheaper and with much better quality. Companies started to focus on a core set of competencies. This resulted in better quality, higher productivity, and shorter cycle times with lower inventory levels.
One of the processes or operations that should be considered in any continuous improvement effort is packaging and crating. In the past, the completed product went to the stock or shipping department where products were put in hand build crates or standard cardboard boxes. Most of the time the packaging system was “designed” by someone in the shipping department. Unfortunately the packaging systems did a poor job at protecting the product during shipping or storage. Loading and unloading was inefficient and created ergonomic stresses on the worker. Packaging systems often required companies to inventory bulky materials, using valuable factory space for a non-value added process. The smart way to handle improvement in the packaging and shipping area is to bring in a specialist.
Packnet is focused on custom packaging systems for industrial products. By offloading the design, fabrication, storage of packaging products to Packnet, businesses not only get a superior packaging system, but they can better focus on their core competency. In some cases, Packnet actually comes out to the factory and performs the crating and loading. Packnet can pre-kit packaging systems and deliver them just in time so that the company saves space and carries less material inventory. Packnet can design systems are more efficient to use, ergonomically better for the operator, superior at protecting the product and take up less space than your current packaging system. In the end, letting Packnet handle your packaging and crating needs will lower your costs and improve your customer’s satisfaction. Packnet is proud to play a role in your company’s continuous improvement program, contact us today for a free packaging assessment.