Thomas Medical Vice President of Operations Peter Rapp has always been a strong proponent of continuous improvement initiatives. Since joining the company in 1998, he had implemented a number of programs. But, by the end of 2005, improvement results had leveled off. He felt that a different model was needed to break through to higher levels of quality, compliance, cost control and productivity – and made the decision to explore Lean manufacturing methods.
Rapp contacted DVIRC for assistance in implementing Lean methods — beginning a Lean transformation that has taken Thomas Medical on a four-year journey of excellence that continues today. DVIRC conducted a cultural assessment, evaluated Thomas Medical operational methods, and created a Lean transformation plan. Over the next four years, with strong leadership from Peter Rapp, the plan unfolded. With assistance from DVIRC, management staff was introduced to Lean practices, and received training in team building, communications and other “soft skills,” necessary for Lean success. Reward and recognition programs were put in place, 5S techniques were introduced, Value Stream Mapping initiatives were implemented and Kaizen events were held. “As employees became more engaged, we saw momentum build,” notes Rapp. “They were excited by the results, and looked forward to the next Lean project.” Since 2006, Thomas Medical has been relentless in continuously improving its processes through Lean methodologies. Work cells are analyzed again and again through Kaizen events as the company continues to fine tune efforts to produce the highest quality products in the most cost effective and efficient manner. Employee skills are continually enhanced. All employees attend a Lean introduction, numerous staff members have attended DVIRC training programs in Cellular Manufacturing, Set Up Reduction, Value Stream Mapping, Kaizen Methods, Leadership and more. 14 employees are currently Level One Lean Certified. And, Lean methodologies are now being introduced in the company’s research and development areas.
The Thomas Medical Lean transformation has achieved significant results, including:
- $1.2 million in cost savings have been realized since March, 2006.
- Cycle times have been reduced from 12 weeks to 4 weeks.
- Sales have grown by 25 percent, yet the increased production has not required an increase in headcount.
- Space utilization has been improved, even with an increase in production related to higher sales. More efficient work flow processes have enabled the company to use just 55% of its available space.
- The company’s Lean success has created a competitive advantage. “We are audited every 2-3 weeks by customers,” notes Peter Rapp. “They see the Lean cells identified, and that we are extremely clean and organized. They are very impressed.” Thomas Medical now promotes Lean as a manufacturing advantage on the company web site.
- The company has transformed from a reactive culture to a proactive one where excellence never ends. Management embraces its role in leading, educating and motivating, and employees are enthusiastic about identifying improvement opportunities.
Thomas Medical Products, Inc., a division of General Electric Healthcare, designs, develops and manufactures precision Class II and Class III single-use devices for OEM customers. The company focuses on catheter-based vascular access and vascular device delivery medical devices for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in the cardiology, electrophysiology, radiology, vascular surgery, critical care and anesthesia medical device markets. Thomas Medical operates in a modern 33,000+ square-foot facility staffed by 170 employees. Its products are sold to customers in more than 20 countries.
Thoughts from Peter Rapp on the Thomas Medical Lean transformation
“Creating a Lean culture throughout the organization is essential to success. Management support and leadership is critical.”
“Quality and patient safety are the most important things to us. There can be no compromises. Lean helps us achieve ongoing excellence.”
“Lean lowers the water table so you can see the rocks. Then, we can go to work on the rocks.”
To be successful with Lean, you have to take ownership. DVIRC gives you the tools and training to make it work.”
The collaborative nature of the DVIRC community is a real plus. It offers me the opportunity to go to other plants, share ideas and benchmark with other companies.”