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No Pain, No Gain:
An account of Kaizen at O-Cedar Brands, Inc.

Echoing in my mind is the moaning and groaning of some of the Twist ‘N Mop workers before (and after) one of O-Cedar Brands, Inc. most successful kaizen events.   I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I heard the phrases, “This is not going to work”, or “Just wait, we’ll change things back to the way they were.”  Complaining aside for a moment, the kaizen event was extremely successful in terms of improvements to productivity, staffing, floor space used and quality.  

 If you’re waiting for the ‘right time’ to launch a kaizen program, there is no ‘right time’.  No one invites change.  There will be those who will thoroughly embrace the effort and those who are content with their routine.  To be successful in promoting kaizen, you have to be up to the task of converting non-believers into believers and believers into leaders.  I want to share with you my experience of a results-producing (however painful) kaizen event that took place at an organization that changed their way of operating using a ‘lean’ approach.

 Line Selection

First things first, I consulted with the Operations staff to select a production line that would endure a kaizen team ‘invasion’.  Some avoided me, familiar with the routine.  Production supervisors knew that an eager kaizen team spending four solid days in their area making changes to the process would be a major disruption to productivity until a new work rhythm established.  They also knew that their workers would bark about the changes.  I understood how they felt and secretly had my own anxieties knowing the pains that were expected during the event.  But that didn’t stop me because I knew the result would mean remarkable gains for O-Cedar and empowered workers.  Our kaizen events gave our workers freedom to make immediate changes to their processes without restrictions, where their voice counted and where they grew from the experience into an even more valuable employee.   This time, O-Cedar’s #1 selling product, Twist ‘N Mop, was chosen as the lucky line for a kaizen event. 

 DAY 1 

The team members were trained to identify manufacturing wastes, conduct time-studies, chart cycle times in order to identify bottlenecks and implement other elements of kaizen.  After training, I gathered the team in a circle and wished them luck in their four-day journey, and assured them they would generate positive results to O-Cedar’s Twist ‘N Mop line.  The energy of the team was turned on and they were anxious to get out to the shopfloor for an observation period.  They gathered their toolkits consisting of stopwatches, tape measures, cameras and the most important tools:  their eyes and ingenuity. 

 During observation, the team found that the labor-intensive process consisted of five basic tasks:  1) mophead winding, 2) coning, 3) mop/handle assembly, 4) packaging and 5) boxing.  The team recorded data about the current production situation:  total number of work-in-process units, total floor space utilized, manufacturing lead time (the time for a mophead to travel through the process and piles of WIP until it was boxed), operator cycle times, operator walking distance and other measures.  The team worked to gather this important baseline information, otherwise known as the “Current Situation” to identify problems and develop potential solutions. 

 DAY 2

The team anxiously awaited my arrival and bombarded me with their exciting voices calling out the non-value added activities they had witnessed in the TNM process as if they had never seen the process before.  Actually, they hadn’t truly seen the process.  It was at that moment that I knew their eyes had opened.  I could practically hear the ideas churning inside their minds. 

 The primary problem they identified was this:  There was not a ‘true’ production flow.  The process was organized by operations (headwinding in one area, coning in another and assembly in yet another) which naturally disconnected the process and generated enormous amounts of work-in-process (WIP).   In other words, traditional batch-production was occurring.  Much of the WIP made by these ‘departments’ was getting stored in the warehouse.  In fact, the team found that there were enough mopheads in storage to shut down headwinding for a week.  As a result of batch production, the team identified two additional problems: 1) line changeovers were an absolute nightmare, shutting down the line for long periods and leaving the entire production line idle and 2) the work load was unbalanced, leaving some operators with idle time on their hands. 

 The team had found the problem, but now had to find a solution. After brainstorming for a while, the team had come up with some truly inventive ideas, some smaller in scale than others. But one idea was going to completely change how Twist ‘N Mops™ were processed. Their solution?  Implement the one-piece flow concept and eliminate the batch processing that was generating excessive amounts of WIP.  They wanted to synchronize the operations in a cellular fashion so one cell could produce one type of Twist N Mop and another cell could produce something different, simultaneously.  By doing this, they were building in great flexibility in a process that had very little.          

 Days 3 and 4

By calculating cycle times and charting the information, the team learned how to configure one cell with a balanced workload: Three mop winders, one coner, one mop assembler, one boxer. Now, the team wanted to test their theory. The team planned to rearrange the entire work area and construct four cells that operated in a one-piece flow fashion. They communicated this plan to the supervisor and department workers and were faced with some resistance-- and a great deal of comments like “This will never work.”  A meeting was called with the TNM department to discuss the changes that were about to take place.  After much discussion, the department accepted the idea of creating one cell to test the theory. After the cell was setup, the team quickly found areas that needed improvement, but the theory worked! The team worked at a hurried pace to setup the remaining cells in time for second shift production. Additional improvements were made to the work cells, which resulted in the need for a single boxing operator per two cells which was an improvement to crew size. The team was successful with their plan, and rushed off to document their results for Friday’s presentation to management. 

 Day 5

The team was happy to report the following results to management:

  • Decreased work-in-process inventory by 54%

  • Reduced Manufacturing Lead Time by 92%

  • Decreased Operator walking distance by 92%

  • Decreased total travel distance for parts by 75%

  • Total Operator Cycle Time increased by 19%

  • Decreased crew size by 13%

 We knew this was an incredible Kaizen event. But you know what, the previous Twist ‘N Mop™ kaizen team thought the same thing. 

For more information on MTTC's Kaizen and Shopfloor Organization Workshop
contact Aimee Cecil [email protected].

Phone: (502)367-2186 
Fax: (502)367-4261






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