Unified Brands: Lean Leadership Program
Unified Brands is a metal stamping manufacturer located in Jackson, Mississippi. The company currently employs 200 people.
Unified Brands, an industry leader in food service equipment manufacturing was experiencing significant problems with multiple production lines of restaurant ovens. Oven assembly operations production schedule compliance was at 38 percent. Without improvements, the product line would be eliminated resulting in a loss of $2.9 million in annual revenue and 12 jobs. Attempts to resolve production bottlenecks were resulting in little or no success. Unified Brands’ employees attended the Mississippi Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP.ms), a NIST MEP network affiliate, Lean Certificate Program. As part of the certificate requirements, all participants are required to complete a Lean learning project that focuses on providing customer value. Unified Brands’ participants selected their oven product lines as their certificate project. The project-based learning required Unified Brands participants to deploy Lean theory and integrate multiple Lean tools such as 5S (Sort, Set-in-Order, Standardize, Shine, Sustain) Workplace Organization, Visual Controls, Pull Systems, Cell Design and Kitting. Participants are also required to practice Lean leadership by teaching, mentoring and coaching a Kaizen team. The Lean Leadership Program trains managers in the process of linking lean implementation to the business plan to achieve business goals. The program also teaches managers to create systems and a culture that not only solves problems, but creates problem solvers.
Unified Brands’ oven product line time delivery metric was consistently below 50 percent, and overall output was below 60 percent of scheduled production. Operations leadership set strategic goals of 100 percent schedule compliance while reducing labor costs by 10 percent. Cross-functional teams were formed to gather data and propose solutions. Over a period of three months, the team converted four existing product lines into one assembly cell. The cell was designed to flex production to accommodate demand variation. A dedicated material handler was included in the production plan and material was introduced into the production cell in kit form. As a result of Unified Brands being one of the participants in the Lean Leadership Program, production increased 70 percent, first time quality improved from 50 percent to 81 percent, work in process (WIP) was reduced 50 percent and total labor cost, including material handling, was reduced 17 percent.
• Increased sales by $525,000
• Retained sales of $1.2 million
• Realized $750,000 in cost savings
• Invested $375,000 in workforce development
• Created 2 jobs
“Lean is about respect for the employees and the value of each team member… change and value creation comes in the culmination of all of the small improvements by the individual team members of the Lean Certificate Program. In Lean thinking, you never arrive at the destination of perfection; instead, it is an ongoing pursuit of trying to improve.”
— Thomas Agostinelli, Participant