164. Idea – Lean Manufacturing and 5S Transcript
We’re kicking off this week with another new topic on EECO Asks Why, discussing lean manufacturing and 5S with Jon Meighan a few weeks ago. Jon joined us for his hero episode, where we focused on him, and now we get to learn more about what he’s doing at Erie Rubber to help keep the wheel turning and make his team feel empowered.
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Now, let’s hear from John, Megan, as he breaks down, lean manufacturing and 5s for us, cue the music.
Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today we have an idea episode and we’re going to be talking about a pretty cool topic in my opinion, it’s called lean manufacturing and 5S. And to help us walk through that topic, I’m very excited to have with me, Mr. John Meighan, who is the president and owner of Lake Erie Rubber. So how you doing Jon?
Good. Thank you for having me. I appreciate you including us in this topic.
I’m excited about this topic for sure. I used to run the motor division at EECO and we tried to do some of the 5S initiatives and worked our way towards lean, but really leaned into the 5S pretty hard. So I’m excited to walk through this with you and to explore this topic for our listeners, definitely something new that we hadn’t covered. So that always gets me going. So maybe just lay a base for us. A lot of listeners out there may not be familiar with lean manufacturing or 5S. So, you know, how would you explain that to someone who’s new to industry?
Sure. So I think lean can take on different meanings for any person, but to me, really, the core of lean manufacturing is a culture and it’s a culture of continuous improvement and with really a drive to eliminate waste from processes. And that can be anything from, you know, transactional processes in your office or to the more traditional processes that most people think about with lean in manufacturing. Really either can apply, but it’s a culture and that’s really where it starts and it’s something that has to be built into the foundation of your company for it to be effective.
Okay. Very good. So that culture piece and had that the 5S, I mean, when somebody walks up to, to explain that what would that be?
So I think that 5S is the foundation to lean and from my personal lean journey, which spans about 15 years now, 10 of that being with general electric corporation, what I have found is that 5S is the foundation that you have to really begin an effective journey in lean manufacturing and 5S is, it sounds really basic to most people, pretty much is a description of housekeeping, but the thing about 5S is again, it goes back to creating a culture around housekeeping and putting processes in place to make sure that you’re consistent with it and that you sustain it over time.
Right. Right. And those 5S’s are just for the listener that may not even be familiar with it.
So the 5S’s are sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain. And each one is a building block that allows you to go from something that might be disorganized to something that’s organized well labeled. And then also that there’s a process around it so that you keep it that way for the long term.
Okay, very good. And I know we’re going to unpack 5S a little bit more in depth as we go through. I want to go back to lean. And when you started, you were walking through that answer a lean talking about their culture of continuous improvement. And where are you really trying to tell eliminate waste. Now, a lot of themes come to my front of my brain when I hear that from a manufacturing standpoint, but I may not always be right. So what are some examples of waste? Maybe paint that picture out there for us.
Yeah. So the way that I always try to explain waste in its simplest form, it’s doing something that doesn’t add value for your customer. So an easy example would be a disorganized toolbox. So let’s say you got a toolbox and you just got everything piled in there.
And there’s five people that use the toolbox, or maybe it’s three people, one on each shift and everybody puts the tools back in a different place. You’re spending time. Every time you need a tool, you’re searching for it. And if you think about that, your customer doesn’t really want to pay for you to search for tools, right? They want to pay for you to use the tool to make something for them. So, that would be something that would be wasteful and that’s where, you know, 5S would help improve that and eliminate that waste.
Okay, that makes perfect sense. And it definitely was an area that we tried to focus on in our shop production when we were doing that, because, you know, at least standardized on where some of the common tools are that does eliminate a lot of steps.
Okay. Very good. Very good. Now doing research for this conversation, I ran across some things about transactional improvement when it comes to lean. I didn’t really get a full understanding of that. So could you maybe walk us through what that would be in terms of these types of initiatives?
Sure. I think transactional lean is it’s…… a lot of people are confused by transactional lean because when they look at a manufacturing process, it seems really easy. Right. You have to take these five widgets and assemble them into this one final product. I’m trying to make that go more efficient, but really transactional lean is just as simple, it really is picking a process. And to give you an example, we did a transactional lean project around quoting jobs. And so for us, right, you want to select a metric that you’re looking to improve in a process that’s transactional. So for us, there’s multiple people involved in quoting a job to a customer and we would like that to be as fast as it can be because that’s what our customer wants. And so it’s just like doing a really a process map for building an assembly, except you’re building a process map on each one of the steps to get you from initial quote to actually sending it out to the customer.
And so in our case, you know, you want to select a metric that you’re trying to improve, just like with building the widget, right. You’re trying to use less man hours for us with making a quote. We want to reduce the amount of time it takes from the time we receive it until the time that we return it.
Okay. It sounds like it really is that step-by-step and then analyzing what those steps are to figure out maybe some of the steps could be consolidated or eliminated or, you know, rearranged to make it better.
Exactly. So when you build your process map, you want to bring in every person that’s involved with that process from, for the quote, for example, right? And you lay out the steps and then you get the group together and you try to identify any waste in the process. And when you identify the waste, that becomes the projects that you’re going to assign to your team to go attack those pieces of waste and figure out how to eliminate them. And so you take this process map, it helps you see where the waste is.
You create your project lists from the waste, you complete your projects. And then, you know, you obviously want to continue to monitor the metric that you’re trying to improve, which in our case was, you know, time to return a quote to make sure that the projects that you implemented are actually doing what you thought they would do.
You know, reduce that time. And in our case, it was about a 200% reduction. And a lot of it was just that, you know, the quote was going from one person to another person and back to that person and back to this person. And so it was. Once we looked at the process, we said, oh my gosh, this is a messy process. We can set this up so that it’s going to flow in one direction from start to finish. And it just makes it a lot easier and a lot quicker. And which, is very beneficial when you’re looking at different. I’m sure everyone has a transactional process at their company that they can imagine is frustrating and takes too long and probably can be made better and more efficient.
Well, I think you have a lot of people’s attention when you said 200% improvement. I mean, that’s a big jump. With things like that who’s involved? I mean, obviously the customer service group, did they have to pull in other people through that? Or how do you define who’s responsible for what, when these types of initiatives, when you’re trying to really work through those steps?
Yeah. So, I mean, I think the first thing is to get everyone who’s involved with the process has to be. You have to have everyone there. They all need to be having input and helping make the decision on what you’re going to do. But it’s also really helpful to have someone who’s outside the process, come in and take a look because a fresh set of eyes sometimes we’ll see something that to them is quite obvious, but to the people who’ve been doing that process for a long time, it’s so ingrained in how they do it.
They don’t even see it as a problem. And so I think if you can get, you know, one or two outside people involved, they’ll probably make everyone who’s doing it really mad because they’ll ask a lot of questions that seem kind of silly, but sometimes they stumble onto something that you look at it and you say, oh, wow, that was that just, we’re not even seeing this problem. And it’s because we’re this close to it. And they’re looking at it from a higher level.
It’s one of those, I can see the forest before the tree deals. And you know, it’s really that outside perspective is so important. Well, this, I learned a lot about lean manufacturing right there, so that was really huge. Maybe let’s shift and talk a little bit more about 5S in depth because I know you said that’s really the core part of a lean initiative. So just high level. What’s the hardest part of starting?
In my mind. There’s two major challenges with 5S program and probably the most difficult one is exactly what I was kind of alluding to before your core team, who’s operating in the area that you want to work on, you’re very likely to have some people in that area that say, you know, why are we changing this? Why should we do this? Everything is working just fine, and so that’s one big challenge is just trying to get people to want to change. The other challenge that to me is really difficult is starting the project can seem very overwhelming because in my case, you know, I worked at general electric in two facilities that were 250,000 square feet plus both of them where we did these major 5S overhauls, and you just, you know, you stand back and you look at it and you say, oh my gosh, how am I gonna, how can I do all of this? It just seems not really managable. So those are the two things that I think are the hardest part to getting started.
Great points. I’m just going back in my memory when we started at 5S, we had three motor repair facilities. And you going back to your first point about team alignment, I mean, and getting everyone to understand why are we even doing this? I just remember some of those conversations were pretty, pretty fun, pretty candid. Got a lot of pushback just to be honest, you know, this makes no sense. And then the second area I remember is that overwhelming feeling. I remember being there, looking at the shops and all three shops. Where do I start? You know, oh, my gracious. And what really grounded me was I think we picked like the test panel area for our case. And we just said, okay, each shop has a test panel. Let’s get that area defined. And that made a big impact on us. So maybe what advice do you have for people listening and like, how do you even select, from your standpoint, a manufacturing process, where do you even make those decisions on where to prioritize?
Yeah, so I mean, it, sometimes it would be, you might want to start with something where you think it’s going to have the most impact. My recommendation is not to think that way. My recommendation is to think about what is an area that you can manage and get completely through the process. So that you can create a model area. What you guys did, right? You picked one area and finish that area. So instead of trying to start at 250,000 square feet, you know, we actually started with a 10 by 10 area. It’s a little receiving desk that has a couple indirect materials that are stored near it. And we said, you know what, this 10 by 10 is going to become our model of what 5S looks like in our shop. And then it becomes, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming anymore because you just say, okay, I can do a 10 by 10. I can make that work, you know? And then once you do that, you just keep going. And in, in small increments. That’s the best way to get started.
The other thing that I wanted to mention, just kind of thinking about the hard parts of getting people, just like you had some people who weren’t really interested in changing. The best thing that I always offer to people is you and you can go look up the data. Shops that score higher on their 5S score. So you can, and you can go and Google 5S score, and you can find a little template that will allow you to go out and score yourself. But if you look at shops that score higher on 5S score, they’re safety is better. It’s almost a perfect correlation, higher 5S score, better safety. And so anytime we have someone pushing back or saying, you know, this is stupid, this isn’t worth it. This is a waste of time. You know, the one thing that I think is really difficult to argue with those shops that score higher and 5S are safer. And so we’re going to make it a priority because it’s going to make it a safer place for us all to work.
No doubt. I mean, safety is safety has to be the priority no matter what in manufacturing for sure. And you know, how about, I’m curious, one way we found that I could get buy-in from my operations group, we actually put pictures of the individuals, like, so say this is the test panel stick with a test panel example. And that’s your area that you’re responsible for. We put their picture their name there that gave them a sense of pride. Any tips or other things like that, as you began a 5S program that maybe help bridge that gap of the operations and get that buy-in?
Yeah, I think that’s a great example that you gave. I’m glad you mentioned that because we have done a very similar thing where you assign someone an area. We didn’t put their picture up, but we did assign names. I like the idea of the picture up there. But I will say creating a reward system is a really great way to keep people motivated too. So, in multiple places I’ve created reward systems for, you know, highest 5S score, most improved things like that. That motivates people as well. For sure.
So what are some of the rewards look like?
You know what I like rewards that are things like hats with the company logo, you know, you get the nice insulated mugs. And we got golf balls at one point with logos on them. Just, you know, it’s nice to have kind of a little bin of options. People can pick something that they want and, you know, they can all be items that are $20 or less. So it’s not like you have to spend a bunch of money, but most people who are taking pride in what they’re doing and participating, you know, they’re proud of where they work and they like to have some logo stuff to wear around t-shirts whatever.
And you know, the swag who doesn’t like swag, man, I mean, come on, you know, some of the fun conversations once we got going, we had a couple of our technicians cause we had them laminated 5S sheets, you know, in the areas. So as a point of reference and if you left the area and it was not, according to that 5S, we had a couple of techs that will call you out and, you know, cause Hey, my name’s tied to it. And you know, I would always make a point when I see that to support them, to back them up. So to thank them for actually caring, you know, cause it shows that they actually care.
And that’s a great point, I think verbal recognition is just as important. People want to know that you’re noticing. And it matters more than you might think to even just notice and say something. And so I think that’s a good point as well. That’s something that’s really important is to be consistent with that too.
For sure. How about the leaders out there that are listening, John any advice or guidance for them as far as expectations on what to expect for that 5S?
Yeah, I mean, I think the one thing that I would say is if you’re just going down the road of beginning the process, or, I mean, even if you’ve been doing it awhile, one of the most challenging things is to sustain it and keep it going. And so persistence is absolutely critical. And so one of the things that we always like to do as a daily gamble walk, and so, you know, you’re walking the shop, looking for abnormalities. And if you have 5S area where everything is labeled and you know, it has its designated spot. When you gamble walk, it’s really easy to see something that’s out of place.
Okay. And what I would say is if or not, if, but when that happens, it shouldn’t be a conversation where you’re going up to say, Hey, what the what’s going on? Why is this like this? It should just be calm questions. Hey, I noticed this is out of place. Is there a reason this is here? Does it need to be. Do we need to create a location for it.
And it should always be a non-emotional and really just trying to solve a problem and help the group solve a problem because you know, people generally are on board with helping and making things better. So you don’t want to attack them when there’s a mistake. You just want to ask questions to try to figure out, you know, why did this end up here? Or why is this out of place? Do we need a place for this or did we change something in our operation? And now we need to modify our locations for where everything is, because that’s another thing that should mention. Things are going to change.
I recommend setting up your areas to be flexible because we all know volume changes, product lines, change customers change. So you have to be flexible. And that’s why, you know, you don’t get really upset when something is out of. You just ask questions to try to understand why and help find a solution.
That’s right. Exactly, great examples. You just went through several headwinds there to people should be aware of, and you can think through as just a fun conversation for me, it just took me back to my shop days. So, so thank you for letting me indulge a little bit there.
Sure. I appreciate it. I love talking 5S I’ll go all day talking lean and 5S.
The first time I saw a 5S, I was at a chemical plant in Richmond. I won’t name the facility, but I remember walking through the plant and I saw this really cool laminated page next to this, I think we’re in like a machine shop area.
And it had a couple of pictures of employees, you know, and it was like the sort, standardize, shine. And there was actually a picture of what the expectation of that area was, who was responsible. And I was like, what is this because I need this in my shop and I remember how impactful it was to me and the people that were in that area took the time to explain it. And then, you know, really shared some templates that we’re able to make our own program from that. So it’s, it makes such an impact out there on a floor. So if you’re listening and you’re in manufacturing definitely encourage you to check that out.
No question. I mean, it just, it changes the way People think when they come to work, it will improve your quality. It will improve your efficiencies because when people walk in, you know, and one thing that I didn’t mention that I think is important as well with 5S is during the shine process, sometimes you need to invest a little bit. I think lighting is really important and that’s something that’s overlooked a lot of times.
So I really can’t stress enough how much good, bright lighting is. And the other thing I would say is I recommend doing it through your entire facility, including the offices, because you know, if your employees are walking back in from the shop and they see what the office is a mess, or it just, you know, that kind of takes the wind out of your sales because it’s like, well, geez you make me do all this, but in your office, it looks crazy.
So it should be something that is. Again, it’s a culture thing, which means it should be everywhere in the company. And you know, bright paint and bright lights are a good thing to add. Kind of set off all the work that you’re putting in to get things organized too.
It does. It does. I remember I had to buy three floor scrubbers because the guys were like, look, if this shine piece, we need to get this floor clean and I’ll tell you what they wore out so many pads on those floor scrubbers, but it showed me they cared and they got it.
Exactly. Exactly. And you gotta be willing to have the right tools there for your employees because if you don’t set them up for success. It’s going to be that much harder to keep things going the right direction.
No doubt. Well, this has been fun. And Jon, we call it EECO Asks Why. We always wrap up with the why here, you know, this has been, just learned so much about lean manufacturing and 5S and opened up that world for our listeners, but if you had to boil it down to what is the main why for lean manufacturing and 5S, what would that be?
Gosh, I think the main reason why is that, we’re all out there competing in markets where, you know, we’re not the only provider. I mean, unless you’re really more brilliant than probably the rest of us. We’re not the only provider of whatever we do. And so, you know that your competition at least some of them are improving and getting better. And so, you know, if you’re not in that mindset of continuous improvement and you’re just standing still, you’re actually falling behind. So you may think you’re standing still, but you’re actually going backwards. If you’re not working in that continuous improvement mindset.
Got that right? Absolutely. And well Jon, thank you so much for our listeners that want to connect with Jon and follow him on LinkedIn and follow his company. You can check out our show notes. You’ll be able to go right there and learn more. John, thank you so much for taking the time with his day and really enjoyed this conversation.
Thanks, Chris. I appreciate it. I enjoyed it too. We’ll talk to you again soon.
Yes, sir. Thank you. Thank you.