Three days at a time

Making smart choices around people and processes—that’s how the Plastic Modular Department in Suwanee, Georgia, improved operational performance in order to achieve a 3-‑day lead time on standard plastic modular products.

The initiative to shorten lead times sprung from a desire to meet customers’ expectations for increasingly speedy service. The Plastic Modular team in Suwanee embraced the goal, believing that through positive leadership and teamwork, they could rally successfully for the sake of customer satisfaction.

Matt Dallas, Plastic Modular Manager, collaborated with his team to identify two major operational obstacles: process flow and leadership.

Examining each step of the production process, the team determined which activities to adjust in order to remove bottlenecks and accelerate progress from stage to stage. Working backwards, the team decided the final quality inspection step could be eliminated in favor of a continuous quality approach in which the entire phase of assembly includes quality checks and verifications. Quality, after all, is everyone’s responsibility. Then, jumping to the beginning of the process, these time-saving problem solvers developed clever rules to correlate pull time with assembly difficulty, eliminating the clutter of premature WIP (Work in Progress) from the assembly lines. Other improvements included adding more resources to production control, streamlining the sampling process, and eliminating any non-value adding activities.

Driving efficiency is important, but processes are only as good as the people behind them. Departmental decision makers knew that recruiting the right leadership for key positions would be necessary to achieve their 3-day target. As a result, several new players joined the team. Leadership added Michael Vo to serve as an experienced second shift supervisor to drive productivity and results to the end of each work day. Derrick Hayes was appointed as the weekend shift supervisor to tackle outstanding jobs and lessen the production burden for the following week. Also, Gladys Martinez was assigned to manage front-end production control, leveraging her experience in Customer Care. Strategic new hires continue to enlist to add value and promote a culture of quality and service.

While customers certainly benefit from the speedy lead times, the Plastic Modular Department has enjoyed the bonding energy of purposeful collaboration.

“We wanted to make sure our team knew and understood what the vision was and to keep them updated on our progress,” recalled Matt Dallas. “We celebrated the small successes along the way and loved the sense of achievement. In the end, this victory showed our team how each of us affects service, and now, we all know what it takes to get the job done for the customer.”

Ultimately, the pursuit of three days resulted in a lasting collaborative spirit.

“Teamwork has improved—astronomically.”

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