Trends in Innovation: Lean Manufacturing

December 1, 2015

Brian Isard

I recall the first time Lean Manufacturing started to make sense to me when it tackled the difficult subject of waste in the manufacturing environment. By waste I am not just talking about material, it also comes in a variety of other forms such as: workers waiting for material to be delivered to their work station, excess “work-in-progress” inventory, imbalanced work scheduling, and rework. Anyone who has been involved in plant management of a wood packaging enterprise has struggled with the challenges of managing wasted time and effort on the production floor. 

Lean Manufacturing explained DOWNTIME as the eight types of waste that need attention:

Defects – repairing of mistakes, rework 

Over Production – making things that are not immediately


Waiting – production delays 

Non-value added processing steps – doing more than

what the customer wants (over processing) 

Transportation – non value step often caused by

inefficient workplace layout 

Inventory – unnecessary raw materials, work in process, and finished goods inventory 

Motion – poor workplace design resulting in inefficient or unnecessary human motion 

Employees underutilized

Recently Scott Geffros and I toured association members in Quebec where we had the chance to meet with Michel Champoux, President, and Michel Monette, Plant Manager, of Emballages CRE-O-PACK and see Lean manufacturing successfully integrated into a workplace.

In a market place that is very competitive and where customers are very price conscious, it can be a struggle to retain customers and meet the ever changing demands for customers who have grown to expect short lead times for products configured exactly as specified and delivered on time.

We saw in action how Lean Manufacturing had been used successfully to develop an order –to-delivery process that relied on inventory being “pulled” through each production center to meet a customer requirement. It is a system designed to provide maximum flexibility and quick response, just as if you were shipping standard orders but without the cost of maintaining an inventory of product on the floor or in the yard to ship from. 

We were impressed with CRE-O-PACK’s efforts to implement Lean Manufacturing by following the concepts of waste reduction and continuous flow manufacturing in its CNC sawing area and packaging assembly operations.

What we witnessed was a manufacturing process wherein packaging components for individual orders are prepared in small batch sizes. The lumber and panel board, specified through an in-house design program, are pulled from the CNC sawing area and moved to the assembly area in one continuous flow as opposed to inventory accumulation. 

When we toured the plant there was virtually no inventory on the floor that wasn’t to be shipped within the next four to twenty-four hours. 

Continuous flow in a manufacturing process involves seamless transitioning from inception to design of wood packaging, fabrication of components, assembly, inspection, labelling and shipping.

The results were impressive: floor space is better utilized, and material handling is optimized because of the on-going efforts by staff to reduce waste and maintain low inventories. 

The ability to meet customer demand without a finished goods inventory has freed up a large amount of floor space that would otherwise be required for inventory storage.

Manufacturing using large batches can result in all kinds of hidden costs and inefficiencies such as high inventory costs, extended delivery times and increased operational square footage. 

We were also really impressed with the innovative ways found to use off cuts of lumber and panel board to avoid disposal in the waste stream.

Lean means not wasting labor resources and we saw a substantial investment in automation that was critical to making employees more efficient. The software linked to the automated cut up lines prepares only what is needed for each small batch run. This has eliminated any inventory and inventory management of excess pre-cut components.

Tools required for each step in the work process are displayed on a “shadow board”. This provides a visual check of which tools are in use and what is missing. This goes for both tools used in assembly and shipping as well as clean up. It also helps ensure that employees have the right tools for the job.

The key to successful implementation of trying to establish a Lean culture takes a lot of hard work. It is a “mind set” where everyone gets on board and the results were evident on the plant floor in Montreal, Quebec.

In today’s business environment, with the unrelenting need to focus on cost reduction, manufacturers such as Emballages CRE-O-PACK are using techniques acquired through Lean Manufacturing to trim production cycle times and increase their competitive edge.

PO Box 280 ,Carleton Place, ON, K7C 3P4
T. 613.521.6468 or 1.877.224.3555 F. 866.375.1835
© Copyright 2018 CWPCA ACPCB. All Rights Reserved.
Web Design by Adeo

Request HT Program Application Package

Enter your information