Case Study - Going Lean through Process Minimalism® at an American controls manufacturer

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Case Study - Going Lean through Process Minimalism® at an American controls manufacturer

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This operation was a blank canvas with hardly any existing measurements. Those that did exist were either not used at all or used ineffectively. Properly quantifying the benefits could therefore not be achieved until after implementation when systems and processes had imbedded.

The scenario

Sometimes when companies get it wrong they struggle to define what “it” is. Things are just not working as well as they should. In the case of this American controls manufacturer some familiar symptoms presented themselves: Missed delivery times, excessive handling, long cycle times, large batches, $2M+ tied up in component stock, WIP everywhere, too much time spent in meetings.

The client had already decided to introduce Lean manufacturing and had set up a programme to that effect. A training, coaching, and development methodology was also in operation. Neither initiative had made any impact and the client then called in external assistance.

Our consultant worked with the improvement team to clearly identify problem areas, their root causes and recommend solutions and actions. After the assessment a training programme, enhanced organisational structure and processes were implemented.

Key Issues:

Production Process

• Push system
• Cycle times of 100 working hours with 1.2 hours value add
• Counting components 4 times throughout the manufacturing process
• Completing a full batch at each stage before starting the next stage
• WIP everywhere
• Misaligned kitting process
• No KPIs or measurements not used
• No upward reporting of KPIs or links to targets, goals, or strategy

Production Facilities

• Space wasted on WIP and kit storage
• WIP storage racks not fit for purpose
• Shelves and partitions on the shop floor too high, preventing visibility and team work
• Poor housekeeping discipline
• No performance charts
• No standardised setup and changeover processes
• Loading doors blocked preventing logical inbound and outbound flow
• Machine breakdown not measured

Production Support

• Separate teams for Quality Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering, Machine and Maintenance Engineering, Test Engineering, Purchasing, Sales Order Processing and Scheduling, Production Management and Supervision, and outside of it all HR
• These teams did not sit close together, worked in silos, and had no defined meeting or communication schedule
• Teams were reactive and had no vision for the future

• Not always designed for designed for manufacture
• Two sets of part numbers in operation
• Quality issues reported too late to be of any use
• Operators not empowered to take part in quality or problem solving
• No link between purchasing method and manufacturing strategy

• Solid “this is how we do things here” mentality
• Centralised decision making causing a decision bottleneck
• Poor communication
• Training, coaching and development system not being used effectively and too little time allowed to practice what has been learnt
• Little focus on continuous development of people and processes

The root cause was one of organisational structure and vision. A proposed restructure into 3 teams: Production Support Team, Production Team, and Materials Management Team reporting into the MD was put forward along with a full “Intro to Lean” programme to be delivered prior to any restructure. This would prepare the whole team by enabling them to experience a different management style and culture. This training programme showed the management team how to understand and map their processes, identify waste and manage the elimination of this through problem solving and action planning.

Before and After


Organisational Structure Change

Operational Process and Team Change


To find out how WBS can assist you in optimising your processes contact us for an initial FREE no obligation consultation.

You can also read more about our Manufacturing and Operations Assessment on our website.

You can also read more about Process Minimalism® on our website.