A small company with just twenty employees, TT&L could easily be thought of as a “lean” company in terms of its workforce size and production capabilities. But, in today’s economy, when TT&L vendors raised their prices, TT&L President Alan Thompson knew that if he wanted to remain competitive, those price increases could not just be passed along to his customers. Instead, he would need to find ways of reducing costs within his operations, without compromising quality. The answer was to implement a true Lean method of operating. “We pursued Lean because our customers want forward thinking vendors who are actively improving processes to drive down price and improve the level of service,” said Alan. “We looked at other continuous improvement processes, but felt Lean was a better fit for us. It’s more common sense and results oriented, and employees can be involved.” Alan contacted DVIRC for assistance in getting started with Lean, and in devising a plan that would allow the small manufacturer to involve all employees, without compromising production schedules.
To assure that TT&L could maintain production, DVIRC developed a plan to implement Lean training in ½ day sessions tailored around TT&L production schedules. A Lean 101 overview was presented to all employees to increase awareness of Lean goals and strategies. To identify areas that could be targeted for improvement, a Value Stream Map was done for the full production process from initial order entry through to shipment of finished product. Kaizen events were then implemented. These events focused on the areas offering the greatest potential for improvement through set up reduction and 5S visual plant practices.
According to Alan Thompson, the Lean training has led to a cultural change within the company. “Employees are running the processes, so it’s important for them to be part of improvement efforts. With their involvement with Lean they feel ownership.” Employee enthusiasm for Lean techniques has already resulted in improvements.
- Inventory levels have been reduced by 25% saving space and lowering costs. Better space utilization will enable the company to grow without expanding beyond the current facility.
- Greater plant efficiency was achieved by creating a visual plant where supplies, tools and other essentials are easily located.
- Productivity has been improved through a new set up system that allows press operators to run equipment with less downtime.
- Employee overtime has been reduced by 90% while delivery commitments have been maintained.
TT&L’s Lean implementation has also enhanced customer relationships. Customers have come through the plant and are impressed with the efficiencies created. According to Alan Thompson, some customers are actually auditing vendor plants. “That’s happened to us, and the presence of Lean initiatives in our operations is very important,” he said. “In fact, we are now pushing our own vendors to find ways to reduce costs in their processes. Manufacturers have to step up to have better controls.”
Tech Tag & Label (TT&L) is a leading manufacturer and distributor of custom pressure-sensitive labels, tags, and related products for virtually all industrial, packaging, bar-code, and consumer applications. The company creates product for applications in diverse markets including: food and beverage; computer equipment and electronics; industrial products and durables; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; health and beauty; nutraceuticals and medical; and household products.
Thoughts from Alan Thompson on the Tech Tag & Label Lean initiative
“Lean is not about wholesale change. It’s about incremental change – maybe 10% at a time. But, you keep at it.” “Even if you think your price is great, there’s always more that can be done. Our costs can’t go down. We have to find other ways. Lean helps us do that.” “We don’t see an end plan for our Lean initiatives. It’s something you just keep working at.”