Taking Lean Beyond the Plant Floor

Taking Lean Beyond the Plant Floor

Plastics manufacturer involves suppliers and customers in lean training program.

Since 2000 McClarin Plastics Inc. has increased its revenue five times while keeping plant-floor space at a minimum. The company says this is due in part to bringing different work processes together into one continuous-flow work cell.

"In the past, we would have had to increase capacity by three times to increase business five times," says Roger Kipp, vice president of marketing and engineering for McClarin. Instead, the Hanover, Pa., maker of thermoform and fiberglass reinforced plastic was able to free-up 30,000 feet of warehouse space and reallocate it as a production area, reducing the need to invest in expansion or relocation.

The company's next goal is to lean out its supply chain. To accomplish this, it's formed a lean certification session for its employees, customers and suppliers. The cooperative lean certification training started in March and was scheduled to run through late June. McClarin has 20 employees participating in the sessions along with 25 suppliers and customers. The goal is to reduce waste, human effort and manufacturing space and time, which the company expects will reduce supplier turnover and the costs associated with locating and training new vendors.

McClarin Plastics' reconfigured work cells freed-up space and improved efficiency.
"Each segment of the supply chain must understand the others' needs," Kipp says. "One kink in the chain can throw off the entire process, causing waste and expense as well as excessive use of energy and raw materials. This will bring everyone involved in a related supply chain together to learn how their performance affects others. The positive bottom-line impact from the resulting relationships and understanding could be huge."

The company expects that by collaborating with trading partners it will realize increased product quality and reduce energy usage.

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