How Serious Is Freudenberg Medical About Lean Manufacturing?
One employee I met there helped his daughter undertake a Kaizen event on her closet.
I’ve visited loads of processors who talk up their lean journey and staying on the path of continuous improvement, but Freudenberg Medical’s injection molding operation in Baldwin Park, Calif., goes way past lip service when it comes to lean.
The Baldwin Park facility will be the focus of our On Site article in July, and in that, I touch on how it uses lean to meet the attention-to-detail insanity that is medical molding, but I thought I’d share one anecdote from my tour that didn’t make the story.
While checking out the newly expanded tool room—which was only completed after an exhaustive 3P (production preparation process)—I met Ricardo. Ricardo explained that in addition to laying out the equipment in the tool room in a way that encourages one-piece flow, the spare parts stored in the tool room are organized down to the exact drawer in the exact cabinet. Need a core pin for mold 1572? Consult the inventory binder and find it in seconds.
I commented on the inherent usefulness of lean thinking, and how it can even extend beyond the workplace, and Ricardo shared the story of how he helped his daughter apply 5S to her closet. She had complained about difficulty finding things and, following his lead, they took the weekend to get it lean.
Lean has been a part of the broader Freudenberg group of companies for decades, and for the last 30 years, it has been organized internally under the acronym GROWTTH (get rid of waste through team harmony). When I visited a value stream map was still hanging from the wall.
Lean is way past being a part of the culture, it basically is the culture at Freudenberg. As Ward Sokoloski, VP and GM at Baldwin Park, told me:
“Our objective is to have 90% of our population be what we consider white-belt certified. White belt is that initial introduction into lean where they learn the basic wastes, identification of waste, and how to be a 5S organization.”
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