By Gene Russell, Manex President and CEO
Capable of being touched; discernible by the touch; material or substantial. Real or actual, rather than imaginary or visionary: the tangible benefits of Manex’s work.
Throughout our blog this year we have been discussing various aspects of continuous improvement. Today I want to delve into three different projects at three different companies. A very small company, a small to medium-sized company, and a fairly large-sized manufacturing company for the Bay Area. All three companies have achieved tangible results and continued success by working with our team in a seamless team-style process.
Three short case studies on how continuous improvement practices helped these companies achieve their goals.
Soapy Faith is a small natural soap company with positive affirmations to soothe the soul enclosed with each bar of soap. Founded in 2015, Soapy Faith was created by three sisters. Going back to their roots of creating bath and body products, they decided to focus on soap, an item for everyday cleansing, not only for physical cleansing but to inspire its user to have faith, and push through when times are not always perfect.
As Soapy Faith outgrew its San Leandro location and moved to a larger facility in Hayward, it faced several challenges including how to use their new, larger space as effectively and efficiently as possible. They were also in the middle of a company and product rebranding initiative. And, they needed to make the most of the holiday shopping season to recoup lost revenue due to the pandemic.
Soapy Faith was able to take advantage of the Small Business Technical Assistance Expansion Program (SBTAEP) that provides funds to help with consulting costs. Manex performed an assessment of the current space and operations and determined areas of improvement.
Based on the results of the assessment, Manex recommended a highly interactive Kaizen activity focused on inventory control, space utilization and a Kanban card system in three main areas:
- Islands of Operations
- Existing Finished Goods Inventory (FGI)
- Controls on Materials & Supplies
As a result of the continuous improvement and Kaizen strategies implemented by Manex, Soapy Faith has seen a significant reduction in waste in finished goods inventory and production lead time, as well as achieved 55% reduction in production process travel time on the production floor.
Soapy Faith expects an increase of at least $18,000 in new sales and retained sales in the coming year. They are now able to hire more employees.
“With Manex’s guidance, we were able to rearrange workstations and supplies for better flow and space utilization. We have seen a significant reduction in waste in finished goods inventory and production lead time. Due to an expected increase in new sales and retained sales, we can now consider hiring more employees to continue growing our business. Moving forward, we plan to engage Manex to explore possible automation opportunities to capitalize on production throughput.”
– Krystal James, Soapy Faith Soap Co. Founder & CEO
AlterG® is the developer of the innovative Anti-Gravity Treadmill® and the Bionic Leg®, used in orthopedic and neurological rehabilitation. They represent a good example of a smaller midsized manufacturer in the medical device manufacturing space.
AlterG’s management team wanted to identify process improvement opportunities and design a new layout for their facility, that would allow the company to improve productivity. Understanding the need to solve problems using data, they turned to Manex to assess the current manufacturing process from order entry through shipping.
Manex used data-driven problem-solving methodology to analyze AlterG’s operations. The process involved the following steps:
- Created a general process map, from order entry to order complete
- Performed a deep dive of all processes to have a better understanding of each process and where problems reside
- Developed a current state value stream map
- Performed a team brainstorming session that led to identifying 93 improvement opportunities, with the team voting on the 10 most important areas to address immediately
- Created a future state value stream map and noted the differences
- Performed production time studies
- Analyzed productivity metrics to quantitatively detect gaps
- Executed RCCA/practical problem-solving activities to ascertain reasons for material shortages
- Identified current state layout and opptimal future state layout
By using value stream mapping, plant layout design, and productivity metrics, Manex helped AlterG reduce lead time, relocate to a new facility and improve productivity.
Cost benefits included:
- Reduced lead time by 3 weeks
- Reduced motion and transportation by 45%
- Improved weekly productivity by 45%
“Selecting Manex to help us evaluate and realign our manufacturing process was a great decision. Their team is knowledgeable, hands-on and effective at implementation and training. More importantly, they were with us every step of the way, giving us the tools to be more self-sufficient in the future.
Our productivity gains helped us keep pace with increased sales without adding headcount, and the changes in our production flow helped us reduce overtime significantly. The bonus of receiving supplemental funding through state and federal alliances, made the decision that much easier for us to select Manex.”
– Mike Phillips, Vice President of Operations
Mizuho-OSI is a U.S.-based company founded 40 years ago and the leader in the specialty surgical table and patient positioning markets. Mizuho-OSI is part of an international company, Mizuho Co., Ltd. of Japan, which has more than 90 years of proven innovation in the medical device area, making Mizuho a truly global organization. Mizuho is a larger medical device manufacturer spread over three buildings in Union City, California.
Founded in 1977, Mizuho-OSI, Inc. had grown to over 250 employees in California and over 500 worldwide. The Union City facility designs and manufactures highly engineered specialty surgical tables for orthopedic (hip replacement), spinal (reconstructive), radiological and general-purpose surgeries. The company’s products are truly innovative, and this has led to increased demand and pressure to meet cost, quality, and delivery objectives. The company realized that in order to meet these demands from the market, it had to revise its approach to manufacturing. The first product focused on was the Trios® Surgical Table product line. The Trios® was initially launched in March 2015 and was revolutionary in its customizable patient positioning for all spine and imaging procedures.
Manex implemented a value stream mapping process to identify areas for improvements. The team created the current state map and then developed the future state map, as well as an implementation road map to reach the company’s objectives. From the future state map, a new production floor layout and material delivery and staging system was implemented to reduce activities that caused delays and non-value-added costs to the manufacturing process.
Manex also implemented several focused Kaizen activities to reduce costs, improve on-time delivery and support the requirements for the latest business plan.
Mizuho-OSI was able to reduce costs and increase productivity in several key ways.
- Reduced direct labor content (38.8 hours to 32.7 hours) = 15.7% improvement
- Reduced lead time (3.5 weeks to 9 hours) = 93% improvement
- Reduced WIP from $940K to $260K = 73% improvement
- Increased Trios Base productivity = 10.3% improvement
- Increased Trios Tops productivity = 49% improvement
“Working with Manex was an excellent experience. They were able to assess our requirements and put a team in place that worked seamlessly with our team. With their experience and guidance, we were able to achieve better results on a shorter timeline than we would have otherwise. It will be a pleasure to work with them again in the future.”
– Kevin Thorne, VP of Operations, Mizuho-OSI
I hope these real-world examples of various types of continuous improvement can help you visualize and move forward in your own company. The small, medium, and large companies are all serving their customers better, faster, and in a more profitable way than ever before.
What has been your experience? You can reach me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
As Manex President and CEO, Gene Russell is a driving force behind the firm’s successful track record in helping California manufacturing companies grow and thrive. He has held three successful CEO positions over a 20-year period for businesses that included early-stage, private equity, and non-profit. He has served as senior leadership for global Fortune 100 and iconic consumer-branded companies. Prior to Manex, Russell led a turnaround at a California midsized manufacturer. His experience in global sourcing and manufacturing over several decades led him to Manex where he brings real-world experiences, and as a result, a personal passion to restore and invigorate domestic USA-based manufacturing.