Internal Communications Article

(Note: Names and certain facts have been changed to protect client confidentiality.)

Daily Data Board Leads to Profits

Mounted on a wall outside the entrance to the cleanroom in the MTI Packaging plant in Milwaukee is a bulletin board. You notice it as you enter the room or as you walk through the plant to the conference rooms and offices. You can’t miss it.

And then you notice something else about the board: it draws people like a magnet.

Welcome to Packaging’s “Daily Data” board.

The DD board was created in 2003 when Brian Loftus, one of our founders and the Vice President of Process Efficiency, helped Packaging hone its Lean Manufacturing tools. “Demand for some of our products had pushed lead times out to the point where we risked disappointing customers,” notes Dennis Cenholt, Vice President and General Manager of the Packaging Business Unit.

The concept behind the board’s creation was straightforward: Collect data from the manufacturing lines, and apply the data to eliminate problems and improve efficiency.

Data tells the story

The Milwaukee plant makes the Pac-TITE® family of liners on four production lines. Each line has a bag machine, tester, and a folder or inflation equipment. In 2003, the plant produced over 1.2 million Pac-TITE liners. (MES uses the liners to transport its advanced deposition chemicals.) The “data” on the board are metrics that report on the output of each line. Here’s how the data make their way from the lines to the board:

Each line is usually run by four operators in shifts of ten to twelve hours. Every hour, the operators keep sheets that show:

  • Saleable or good liners first time off (“first pass yield”),
  • Percent uptime by line, and
  • Throughput, or average good liners per hour.

At the end of every shift, one of the operators fills out a formula sheet, performs three math equations, and in less than five minutes has the numbers for the above three metrics for his or her line. The numbers are immediately posted as charts on the DD board.

The board is updated seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. At the end of every week the charts are taken down and compiled into a summary of that week’s averages for each shift. The summaries are then sent to Paul Nee, Manufacturing Director; Jerry Belkin, Manufacturing Engineering Director; Peter Thorson, Vice President of Operations; and Pamela Mead, Operations Director, who use them to identify trends and set priorities.

Every morning at 9:05, managers and lead personnel from Manufacturing and Manufacturing Engineering meet in front of the board. Reading the data on the board, they identify areas where operations or equipment could be improved.

One result of this scrutiny: In February 2004, line operators set a record of 115 good liners per hour, up from an average of 65 per hour. Management recognized the achievement and handed out rewards to the employees responsible for it.

The main impact

Rob DiFranco, Best Practices Facilitator, stops by the board twice a day and compares results to goals. Each metric has a goal for the upcoming three months, based on historical data for the past three months. Wherever DiFranco sees a metric that achieves goal, he places a coveted gold star on it.

“The board builds awareness and allows people to be involved and make an impact on their job,” he says.

Which brings us to the most important effect of the board on the organization. For the first time, employees have a clear and objective look into their manufacturing efficiencies. The people at the lines have instant feedback into how their actions affect production. They see themselves making a difference. This knowledge invigorates and motivates. It gets personal.

Says John Owens, Manufacturing Technician: “The board has created a friendly competition between the different production shifts.”

The board makes the efforts toward process improvement visible to the entire organization. Dennis Cenholt and Peter Thorson often leave Post-it notes on the board commenting on a job well done.

Jerry Belkin takes pride in the team’s work. “I am very impressed with the ownership our Operations group have taken to strive for the results on the DD Board. I have never worked with a group so enthusiastic about stretching to over-achieve current goals. I am very proud to be associated with them,” he says.

So how do we explain the success of this ordinary-looking, 4- by 2.5-foot cork board?

Dennis Cenholt gives us the answer: “This board is a very, very good example of A-Player behavior put into practice by an entire team of A-Players. When I look at the board, the focus on improving asset utilization jumps right off the pages at me.

“Through this work, the team has shortened lead times as liner volume has continued to grow, enabling us to meet customer expectations and needs. That has an impact on current and future revenues. The team has used a big toolbox to achieve this – using the teachings from KBM, lean manufacturing, their own experiences, benchmarking – and making sure the people who know most about the job at hand are making decisions and driving improvements.

“It's great stuff.”

Internal communications article for a chemical materials manufacturer.