It's not exactly like having your mother-in-law stop by to tell you how to arrange your home décor. However, having folks visit from outside to take a peek at your production facility and processes can raise your eyebrows– perhaps. This is exactly what UEA did recently when we welcomed a very valued customer into our doors. The intent was to gain a Lean perspective and examine areas where waste could be taken out of the current assembly processes that pertained to the customer's products.
One of the most useful items in the Lean toolbox is the value stream map. The three-member team from this key customer was experienced at Value Stream Mapping. Members of UEA delegation included production leaders, engineering, purchasing, and customer service. Together the two groups sat down and walked through the entire UEA process from customer order input to product shipment. First, the process was mapped out on paper as it currently exists today. Second, the team brainstormed an 'ideal state' which assumes that there are no physical space or system constraints. The goal was not to necessarily develop the UEA Way into this 'ideal state' but to employ a lot of thought into what could be and develop a realistic future state. Even though all facets of the supply chain were looked at, the area given most focus was the shop floor assembly area. Particular attention was given to material storage and movement.
After the process was completed, UEA compiled a list of objective activities to move us from the current state toward the future state. For example, UEA has a team working on layout and workflow improvements that will reduce travel time and distance for one of our higher volume products. The intent is to then address another item on the list, and the next, and so on. Through this sharing process, UEA gained valuable perspective on how we conduct day-to-day operations. It was a chance to listen to the customer voice in a real world work environment and a nudge to take action. And the greater benefit to UEA is that many of the improvement ideas can be used across other product families with the intent to better serve our customers.