Leaders in Continuous Improvement (LCI) recently had the opportunity to go on an industry tour to Parker Hannifin’s Manitowoc Wisconsin facility. With the help of a Michigan Tech Alum who is now a Value Stream Team Leader at this plant, the students in LCI were able to see first hand what a Certified Lean Model Plant (Parker’s Manitowoc facility became Lean Certified in April 2013) looks and feels like.
From the moment you walk through the doors you can see how truly “Lean” this plant is. From the visual signs and lights, to the tape outlines all across the plant floors, to their daily huddle area they call their “board walk,” Lean is definitely a theme at this plant.
The tour began with everyone becoming equipped with the proper safety equipment. Each individual was given a bright orange safety vest, protective eye goggles, and a head set with a walkie-talkie so we could hear our guide properly once on the plant floor. It was exciting to see how valuable a safe working environment was for the Parker Hannifin team.
Once everyone was suited up, we were able to attend their daily board walk. Within the huddle space there are nine different white boards that represent a different team or topic. There is a representative for each board that gives an update to the team. What I found so great about this style of daily huddle is that they did some actual problem solving on the spot. One team was having an issue so they started asking questions and brainstorming different improvements. In addition to the white boards themselves, Parker utilizes visual cues in the form of plastic solo cups. On top of the boards are stacks of red and green solo cups. If there is a problem or issue the team will place a red cup on a peg, indicating a problem. If the team has no issues they will place a green cup on the peg. This was just the beginning of the visual cues throughout the facility.
Once we began walking through the facility we really began to see just how deeply rooted Lean is in the Parker Hannifin culture. Each team at Parker Hannifin uses a team communication board. This board contains the different metrics the team tracks, daily audit sheets, a 5S checklist, the different job description sheets needed for all the different tasks, and a space for various communications. In addition to the communication boards, many teams use a kanban board that allows the team members to see exactly what materials/tools they will need for the current job and the job “on deck.”
All in all, the industry trip was beyond what we expected. It was a great opportunity for the students to learn more about continuous improvement tools and concepts and see what a lean culture truly is. A special thanks to Megan Mattila, who helped to coordinate everything and was our fantastic tour guide.