We all know that the shorter your lead times, the more appealing that is to potential customers. How many customers have you lost due to long lead times? How do you break out of your cycle of typical thinking on how your business process flows? Outside ideas! That’s how! Read on!
Most of us have all at least heard about, and some of us have studied at length, Lean Principles and the thinking behind creating flow and reducing waste in your processes. The common challenge is that small to medium sized business owners wearing multiple hats often get caught up in the day-to-day battles in getting product out and satisfying our customers. What gets missed are opportunities to make critical changes to improve your lead times and reduce your costs. A frustrated manufacturer once said: “My business would be going great if it wasn’t for my customers and my employees”! Obviously, it is time for that person to step back and rethink priorities, as customers and employees are the two most important elements of your business. And when things aren’t going well, they are the first two things that can get blamed for problems.
So how do you step out of that thinking? The most recent BWA Plant Tour Focus Group was hosted by Springwater Woodcraft on February 19, 2015. Springwater Woodcraft is located on the outskirts of Barrie, Ontario. BWA members travelled from the far reaches of the cluster region to participate in this event. The format is focussed on continuous improvement and critical thinking on the hosts’ processes in order to get fresh ideas from outside eyes. Members take away many ideas and build relationships with industry peers to form a network of knowledge and skill in the industry. This is central to the BWA cluster model.
Springwater Woodcraft’s challenges include the desire to reduce lead times and create flow and reduce WIP. Grant and Simon Lloyd are a father and son duo that has grown the business to 20 employees, and they now have over 300 active dealers for their unique solid pine furniture across Canada and the U.S.
After an overview of their business model and a tour of the key areas of their plant, ideas were brainstormed by the group to help them create better flow in their process. After discussion, opportunities were revealed that can cut their lead times by at least one third by making a few minor changes with layout and process, and redistribution of current labour resources.
Some themes of discussion included:
- Finishing booth layout changes
- Dust collection opportunities
- Reclaiming opportunities
- Insourcing vs. Outsourcing ideas
- Break-out efficiencies
- Change over reduction
- Employee communication
- Daily schedule vs. batch production
These BWA events continue to add value for the members that participate, and BWA members are very engaged in the activity. If you are a wood product manufacturer in Southwestern Ontario and would like more information on the Bluewater Wood Alliance, please contact the BWA Manager Mike Baker: firstname.lastname@example.org