Nordson Corp., Swainsboro Assembly Facility, Swainsboro, Ga.
Employees: 67, non-union
Total Square Footage: 56,400
Primary Product/market: small piston-pump adhesive melters, hot melt adhesive dispensing guns, gun modules, nozzles and solenoid valves
Achievements: IW 2007 Best Plants Finalist; nominated for Georgia Manufacturer of the Year in 2006; first pass yield performance improved 38% over past three years to levels of 98% and better
At the plant level, continuous improvement efforts have as much to do with culture as they do with processes, particularly when it comes to employee engagement. Nordson Corp.'s Swainsboro, Ga., assembly facility has institutionalized the concept of cross-training to the point that not only are production workers trained to do several different tasks, but even salaried employees are expected to spend four hours every month building products on the shop floor.
"As a plant manager, I spend as much time as possible on the floor assembling product, unloading trucks and working shoulder-to-shoulder with the assembly staff," explains Scott Rosenau, plant manager at the facility, which assembles adhesive dispensing systems. "It's amazing what you can learn about your operations in just a few hours a week."
"Cross-training helps from the standpoint of continuous improvement because you've got several people who are all experienced in the same area," says Scott Hoover, production value stream leader. "When people are properly trained, they're able to do the job just as good if not better than anybody else," adds Renecia Moore, another production value stream leader.
In fact, Moore notes, those employees who are trained in as many as a half dozen different positions are given the nickname of "nomads," since they're able to move from one area of the plant to another as needed. Since employees can be rotated on a consistent basis to various functions, the potential for repetitive type injury has been greatly minimized. The company had a 100% decrease in OSHA-recordable injuries with days away from work thanks to its achievement of a 0.00 incidence rate over the past year.
"Safety is the most important issue for us on a day-to-day basis," Rosenau says.
Nordson Corp. has been involved in lean projects since 2003, as the company sees it as a driver to achieve customer metrics as well as a way to boost their bottom line, rechannel existing investments through lean to reduce waste, and to open up new revenue streams. At the Swainsboro plant, lean has allowed them to bring in several new products by expanding available floor capacity through the reduction of waste.
On the quality front, Nordson Swainsboro has reduced corrective action reports (CARs) from customers by more than 44% thanks to its adoption of lean and Six Sigma techniques. For instance, one poka-yoke practice identified an unacceptable level of errors in the packaging of parts for one of its melter products. Rather than bundling the components in a clear bag, the plant's Quality SWAT Team developed a visual pick board where every component was placed over a full-size drawing of the part, and then vacuum-sealed right onto the board, virtually eliminating the possibility of errors.
Nordson Swainsboro is actively moving from a first-pass yield (FPY) measure to a first-time quality (FTQ) measure on a plant-wide basis, Rosenau points out. "FTQ is a throughput measure and looks at causes of defects at each stage of the assembly operation. In 2007 we successfully implemented FTQ in several of our cells, and are working the balance of cells in 2008 and early 2009. This approach will allow us to better define where assembly breakdowns are occurring and proactively address them through poka-yoke or kaizen activity, ideally removing the breakdown permanently from our operations and in turn improving our defect rate." The goal, he adds, is to achieve Six Sigma performance.
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Technology Pushes Nordson Swainsboro Forward
Various tech solutions help plant maintain and ensure quality products.
At Nordson Corp.'s Swainsboro Assembly Facility in Swainsboro, Ga., technology has played a significant role in the plant's continuous improvement journey. For instance, the facility, which manufactures small piston melters, modules, nozzles and other equipment used to seal and protect product packaging, has been configured for completely wireless connectivity to Nordson networks, allowing the Swainsboro plant to move assembly equipment and hardware throughout the building without the labor of having to move hard wiring, explains Scott Rosenau, production manager.
"Testing processes have been updated such that a finished good will not receive a shipping label unless that item passes the test successfully," Rosenau says. "Assembly lines with multiple test processes will verify that upstream tests have been passed before allowing the end item to move down the line." These processes ensure that product that does not meet Nordson's operational specifications will not leave the facility.
An andon alert system allows assemblers to instantly notify personnel that a problem exists in their cell. Scrap output in one cell has been drastically reduced thanks to the use of programmable logic controls (PLCs).
As a result of the company's implementation of SAP enterprise software, Rosenau explains, "we are now able to flow our customer orders directly to the floor, bypassing any manual efforts necessary to validate availability of components. Assemblers now run their cells via SAP by selecting and monitoring the completion of production orders."