A medical device manufacturer in Connecticut was experiencing sustained double-digit sales growth, which was great for the business. As businesses grow, weaknesses in their systems become apparent, and this case was no different. This particular company promoted a policy to their customers that said, in short: “if you buy it today, it will ship tomorrow”. Over the years, they had shown that this competitive point of difference helped to drive sales, but with their increased growth, they were in danger of not being able to fulfill this promise. The shipping department, while once easily capable of fulfilling orders before the daily 5PM shipment pickup, was now struggling to make it each day. In several cases, the UPS truck had to be held while the last few orders were packed and labeled. The driver warned that he couldn’t do that many more times, since it affected many downstream activities for his company. Each day felt like running a marathon, and it was taking its toll on the workers.
The pros at New England Lean Consulting reviewed the process with the shipping team members, analyzing the work content of each process step. Several inefficiencies were noted and discussed over the course of a week-long Kaizen event. Spending less than $1,000 in capital and hiring no additional employees, the team physically rearranged the workspace to be more conducive to flow, and eliminated several wastes in the process. By engaging the team members who do the work each day, by the end of the week we were able to increase shipping department output by 50% while simultaneously reducing direct labor costs by 25%.