Lean Implementation at Viwinco

Viwinco - LEI Training

Lean Implementation at Viwinco

Viwinco has experienced significant growth over the past few years. With substantial growth comes the need to increase capacity to meet demand. Though we will increase capacity on glass once our new glass facility is completed, we knew there were also opportunities to increase capacity through existing processes in our main facility. We looked internally, to identify areas within our own processes where we could improve our efficiency and the overall manufacturing process. In the past, we sought to understand Lean manufacturing principles and identified areas in our operation where we could greatly benefit from adopting the Lean methodology. Now, we have enlisted the help of Lean Enterprise Institute to help us educate our teams and develop a structured approach for Lean implementation in our operation.

Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is a systematic approach that is designed to cultivate efficiency while simultaneously eliminating waste. A continual process—Lean practice begins by identifying the value-creating work from the customer’s perspective and steps in the process that do not create value (waste). The following steps are to eliminate the waste where possible and to improve the process flow by having the value-creating work occur in a tighter sequence. The ultimate goal is to achieve a perfect process where value is created without waste. Lean manufacturing is a continual process because there will always be room for improvement, therefore the ‘perfect process’ is theoretically unobtainable.

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Viwinco and Lean Enterprise Institute

The Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) is a non-profit based in Boston, Massachusetts, that partners with organizations to develop hypotheses about Lean thinking and experiment to see which works best in real-world applications. Throughout 2021, we held workshops and kaizen events led by LEI coaches Bryant Sanders and Karen Gaudet, focused around making significant improvements to Line 1 in our facility (Edgemont Double-Hungs). Through a series of process improvements and with the support of production leaders and line workers, we witnessed an increase in the number of completed windows per hour on Line 1, which is equivalent to an additional hour of production every day.

Viwinco and LEI Partnership for 2022

When asked about what signifies a potentially successful Lean partnership, Bryant stated “One of the fundamentals of a successful Lean partnership is the people and their willingness to learn. Learning begins with a willingness to try. If there is a willingness to try, and there is a period of reflection, then as a result the people will learn. When the critical mass of the company has an orientation toward a willingness to learn, you can do almost anything”. Following a successful year of Lean implementation, and an overwhelming acceptance for Lean practice by our team, we decided to partner with LEI for 2022 to expand upon Lean implementation within our operation. In March, we held the first Lean kaizen event of the year. In this event, we divided into two teams: one focused on process planning and glass stream mapping for our new glass facility and the other focused on furthering Lean improvements on Line 1.

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The new glass operation will consist of new technology, new processes and be housed in the new facility across the street. This will drastically change the logistical flow of materials between processes. The glass team focused on mapping out the machinery floor plan for the new building, and streamlining the flow of materials within the glass facility and between the glass facility and the main building.

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The Line 1 team continued improving the processes on Line 1 using 5S analysis, time cycle studies and by creating a Yamazumi board to visualize bottlenecks in the process. As we identified our bottlenecks, we continued to isolate and remove waste from the processes and shift actions around; creating a better flow and ensuring our operations are closer to the defined takt time. One observation we noticed that caused disruptions within the process flow was that operators would leave the line to do auxiliary tasks—or periodic work—such as rotating material carts, stocking their areas, or cutting reinforcements. This causes overproduction and creates additional work-in-progress (WIP) and confusion for the person at the next step. To eliminate the need for operators to leave the line—or more importantly, the area where their value-adding work is being done—we created a new role for a material handler (water spider) position, whose focus is to support Line 1 operations.

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April Return for LEI

Karen from LEI returned at the end of April to follow up on the progress that was previously made on Line 1. As she led the kaizen event, the team narrowed their focus to the screen department at Line 1. An area that wasn’t a main focus in previous kaizen events—the screen department had potential for significant improvements. Though this event consisted of a much smaller team, they were able to identify and act upon several minor improvements that resulted in notable reductions in process time and the ability to free up a worker in the department to take on the role of material handler.

The team then shifted their focus to the material handler role, to better identify the position’s needs and to map out a flow that would best support Line 1 and the nearby picture/slider and patio door departments. With the feedback from the Line 1 supervisor and line leads, we identified IGU, screen and window cart rotations as a main priority for the material handler. The idea is to periodically rotate empty carts with full ones as needed, to prevent line workers or leads from leaving their departments to move materials themselves. Some auxiliary tasks that were identified for the material handler included: assembling large screens, cutting reinforcements for windows, and swapping screen mesh rolls. A job description was created, a process map was drawn up, a material restocking schedule with time signals was drafted and an employee volunteered and was trained for the new position. Initial feedback has been very positive and we will continue to look for ways to improve this position.

Viwinco - LEI Training

The team then shifted their focus to the material handler role, to better identify the position’s needs and to map out a flow that would best support Line 1 and the nearby picture/slider and patio door departments. With the feedback from the Line 1 supervisor and line leads, we identified IGU, screen and window cart rotations as a main priority for the material handler. The idea is to periodically rotate empty carts with full ones as needed, to prevent line workers or leads from leaving their departments to move materials themselves. Some auxiliary tasks that were identified for the material handler included: assembling large screens, cutting reinforcements for windows, and swapping screen mesh rolls. A job description was created, a process map was drawn up, a material restocking schedule with time signals was drafted and an employee volunteered and was trained for the new position. Initial feedback has been very positive and we will continue to look for ways to improve this position.

May Return for LEI

A week after the April kaizen event was concluded, Bryant came back on-site to steer an event for the glass facility team. Now that the new lamination line and tempering oven are almost fully installed, the new glass facility looks more like a manufacturing facility and less like a large warehouse. The team focused on defining a value stream map for the flow of materials as they move through the glass facility and into the main production building. The team also identified the different roles within the glass facility and is currently working on creating standard work instructions for each position, which will serve as a reference when training new employees. Another area the team focused on was the logistics for remakes and identifying frequencies and triggers for what signals the need for a remake. Between equipment installation and new items added to the action items list, the team had a lot to focus on as they prepared for the next glass facility kaizen event during the week of May 16th.

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During the May 16th event, the team followed up on some of the pending action items from the previous event and finalized details on the qualification processes for the new machinery which include: Install Qualification, Operational Qualification and Production Qualification. At this point, most of the machinery has arrived and has either been fully installed or is in the process of installation.

Lean Implementation under Chaotic Business Conditions

It is often challenging to take managers and supervisors out of their daily roles to take part in the Lean kaizen events. Even more so under the current business conditions. Dedicating a week to a Lean workshop doesn’t absolve you from your daily workload. In some cases, the daily tasks are put off until later in the day or later into the week. In most situations, however, the workload is picked up by the other department members. We are very fortunate that there is support for Lean manufacturing from upper management, down to line employees, who help make it possible for the necessary people to break off and take part in the kaizen events. Having witnessed the improvements from the previous kaizen events, our team understands the benefits of Lean implementation and the important role it will continue to play in the future of Viwinco.

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Looking Ahead

May is scheduled to be a bit of a chaotic month here at Viwinco. We have tons of new machinery staged in the new glass facility waiting to be installed, including: two Erdman insulated glass processing lines, four glass cutting tables, and a new seamer. As we continue to finalize the installation of the new equipment, we can begin running simulations and develop an even greater understanding of the material flow for the new building. We also have our work cut out for us in Line 1 of production. Now that most of the department has a Lean understanding, we can continue to make improvements to the processes and act upon the pending action items from the past kaizen event. When asked about his thoughts on the future of Lean implementation at Viwinco, Bryant summed his thoughts up with one word: “Showcase”. “At first impression, the processes [manufacturing] are easy to see and easy to showcase. You can bring people through the plant and can pinpoint the Viwinco production system and show this is how we have implemented and operated based on Lean, and it will be easy for people to understand”. LEI will be on-site for a few days every month for the remainder of 2022, as we continue to focus on model line support and glass facility launch in addition to several other initiatives including human resource development and supply chain support (plant-wide value stream mapping). The next few months at Viwinco will be busy, to say the least, and we look forward to continuing Lean implementation as we strive to become a Lean showcase facility.

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