Expanding lean techniques essential to future success

April 2, 2011

Herald Times Reporter

Written by: Charlie Mathews
Link to Article

MTM’s ‘Wolf Packs’ led by shop floor workers, not management

Machine operator Justin Miller and other Manitowoc Tool & Machining workers focus on lean manufacturing techniques for quality and cost-efficiency.

Machine operator Justin Miller and other Manitowoc Tool & Machining workers focus on lean manufacturing techniques for quality and cost-efficiency.

MANITOWOC — The ultimate goal of the new “Wolf Packs” at Manitowoc Tool & Machining is daunting — expand the use of lean manufacturing techniques to create parts with zero ppm (parts per million) defects and 100 percent on-time delivery.

“This is our way of letting the shop floor make choices … they know their jobs best, let them manage it,” Rick Swoboda, vice president of operations, said of the new self-directed work teams.

MTM, formed in 1965, and its sister company, Manitowoc Tool & Manufacturing, employ about 350 men and women.

MTM has hundreds of sophisticated CNC (computer numerically controlled) machines capable of creating parts small enough to fit in the hand to those weighing thousands of pounds made out of aluminum, ductile iron, steel, brass and bronze.

It has domestic and overseas customers in the automotive, transportation, medical technology, recreation, heating-ventilation-air conditioning and defense industries.

Swoboda said the first Wolf Pack was established in September and another went into operation this year.

“Each pack involves operators that run specific machining tools in the same part of the building,” Swoboda explained.

Northwest Technical College instructors helped to train employees over a 10-week period to develop hard and soft skills linked to the Wolf Pack’s methods and objectives.

Scoreboards show ‘SQDIP’

Company scoreboards show monthly “SQDIP” results related to safety, quality, delivery, inventory and productivity.

Swoboda said MTM also has implemented a visual closed-loop material ordering and supply system.

“Kanban boards” have a red, yellow and gray color scheme behind cards indicating the level of urgency to get materials in-house to help meet customers’ delivery expectations.

Swoboda said the kanban board system “allows the Pack to manage the customer demand and decide on overtime requirements.”

He said Wolf Pack members — about 25 on each one — also are responsible for keeping their areas clean and organized.

“5S” audit sheets are filled out by individual pack members — standing for simplify, straighten, scrub, stabilize and sustain.

As part of MTM’s lean manufacturing emphasis, “One piece flow cells” have been established to make engine blocks, Swoboda said.

“The cell incorporates three vertical and one horizontal machining centers, a hone, conveyor-fed washer, parts checker and leak tester,” Swoboda said.

“The equipment is set up in a counter clockwise, U-shaped layout so one operator is capable of flowing through the cell,” he said.

“Success breeds confidence,” Swoboda said of achieving work force buy-in to MTM’s expanding use of lean manufacturing techniques.

“The Wolf Packs meet weekly with management so we learn how we can help support them better,” Swoboda said.

What holds some companies back? “The status quo, … the attitude that ‘It’s worked this way for a lot of years … why change,'” he said.

But future sales and customer satisfaction are essential factors driving the Wolf Pack method and mentality

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