Gemba Kaizen on Clean Burn’s “Burner Line”

A Hot, Sustainable Success One team, one kaizen at a time.“If you cannot sustain gains, your efforts are muda”

Continuous improvement is one of the fundamental characteristics of the Toyota Production System or a Lean Enterprise. Building a culture that supports continuous improvement is no small task. In fact, it often takes ten years of more of hard work, constant focus and total commitment.

Clean Burn Inc. of Leola, PA has been involved with lean for four years and has made dramatic improvements in many of their processes. The Burner Line was redesigned to support single piece flow a few months back with mixed results. Things were heating up and not in a good way, something was wrong and clearly in the way of continuous improvement. President/CEO Mike Shirk and Plant Manager Rick Kettering, concerned that the burner line was “stuck” and not able to improve, asked Dwight Bowen, of Dwight Bowen & Associates, to lead the team though a continuous improvement event or “gemba kaizen”. Clean Burn is a seasonal business, and demand increases in the fall. This was the time to analyze problems, develop countermeasures, measure their effectiveness and build capacity to handle increased demand.

Dwight spent a day leading the team through a brief analysis of the sequence of steps and their cycle times and a discussion of what problems were getting in the way of the team to doing their work. Next we went to the Burn Line and directly observed operations, capturing operational cycle time and line balance. By lunch the major problems were clear: 1. sub-assembly parts supply and raw material parts supply was ineffective 2. Assembly line work content was uneven causing imbalance in the line and operators to wait for parts to flow to them. By the day’s end a plan to effectively feed the line with raw materials and sub assemblies was established as well as a “balanced flow” test model with four operators on the assembly line. The team agreed to try the system for a week, then Dwight would return and spend a half-day reviewing the process and it’s effectiveness with the team. Upon returning the next week the team discussed with Dwight what was working (improvements) and some open issues. Dwight observed, coached and helped the team refine their process. A follow-up meeting was scheduled for two weeks, to allow the team to further stabilize the process and identify any remaining roadblocks to improvement.

“The Team”: Supervisor Don Trout, Teammembers: Alex Abramyants, Tilson Ramos, Heather Willey, Ben McCusker, Rose Pritt and Rich Rathsam
This type of improvement is continuous. The majority of the ideas came from the team. Ownership is critical to success and it is abundantly clear that the team owns this process. We have a sustainable process, which can adjust to demand easily. We have a team that understands the basic principles of flow, balance, kanban, waste identification and elimination and is proud of their collective efforts. I join President & CEO Mike Shirk, Plant Manager Rick Kettering and the entire leadership team at Clean Burn in appreciation of the team’s ongoing efforts.

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