5S Training and Implementation Leads to Big Results for Tri W-G
Tri W-G, Inc.
Tri W-G, a veteran-owned, family-owned business located in Valley City, ND, has been creating quality physical therapy rehab equipment since 1967. Remarkably, some of its earliest equipment is still in service today; Tri W-G builds every product to last. The company holds itself to the highest standards in order to support the care of clients, patients, and clinicians. Tri W-G proactively implemented the new safety standards from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before any other physical therapy equipment manufacturer. Its products are compliant to the ISO 14971 Risk Management Standard, and they carry the American Mark of Safety - UL® Classified 60601-1 safety label. Tri W-G is frequently recognized for both its leadership in the rehab industry, and as a Platinum Partner in Research of the Foundation for Physical Therapy.
Tri W-G’s main facility includes various storage and warehouse areas for raw materials, work-in-process, and finished goods inventories. The storage and warehouse areas lacked organization and were consuming a large amount of the space and a vast majority of facility’s footprint. There were a number of problems which impacted the productivity of storage and warehouses as well as productivity of people using them. Such problems included wasted time searching for and placing components, subassemblies, and finished goods. This was determined based on initial observation made by Impact Dakota while doing the initial visit and assessment of the needs.
A summary report reflecting the assessment outlined a number of recommendations including, but not limited to, highlighting the above problems, the impact on productivity of company resources, and the immediate need to implement a workplace organization based on 5S system.
Following Impact Dakota’s recommendation, the company took the initiative to evaluate, and get rid of as many obsolete items as possible, freeing up a large amount of space. Subsequently Impact Dakota provided 5S training and facilitated a 2-day kaizen event to further improve the productivity of Tri W-G’s productivity of manufacturing space and supporting storage and warehouse operations. Participants in the training and project included employees and supervisors as well as the COO of the company.
Following the initial work done by Tri W-G clearing the facility from most of the obsolete inventory, Impact Dakota provided training with major focus on 5S. During the training, which included a walk through the facility, the participants provided inputs about problems and improvement opportunities. Some of the problem areas that the participants identified and addressed during the kaizen event; were related to product and location labeling. This included mislabeled racks, missing labels, hard to read labels, poor placement of labels, obsolete labels on the racks and inventory. Other problems identified had to do with placement and retrieval of the inventories that contributed to inefficiency of storage and warehouse operations. These included racking system structure, racking system utilization, and floor space usage.
During the course of the kaizen event the participants put in practice their knowledge of 5S diligently implementing the “sort”, “set-in-order”, and “shine”. They consolidated partial containers/racks, re-assigned inventories for better access, freed up floor and rack spaces occupied by unneeded items, and clearly labeled all racks and inventories placed on them. Collectively, the kaizen event participants' actions lead to improved productivity of the company’s resources including, but not limited to people, space, and materials.
Productivity and Time (space and workforce) - Better use of the space by removing obsolete materials and improved layout, placement and identification of products saved workers time. The time previously wasted by searching and locating inventory needed for different operations now can be used to produce more products.
Cost Savings (one time and recurring) - Resulting from a one-time potential cost avoidance of $200,000 not needing to add a 3,000 square feet of additional space. Recurring annual savings is estimated to be in the range of $35,000~$45,000 resulting from improved product retrieval and placement (780-1,000 hours of annual workers’ time saving). In addition, not needing to build the additional space results in avoiding an annual operating cost estimated to be $16,000/year (8% of $200,000).
Culture - One of the challenges of any productivity improvement efforts is sustaining the changes. The employees are now following the new standards for placement and retrieval of inventory and better maintaining of workspaces.
“Impact Dakota has made a significant impact on our production efficiency. We have struggled for years to keep areas of our factory organized and clean. Jodie and Reza worked with our employees to get input on how to best organize for their efficiency, but then also provided training to keep things working smoothly. Our first 5S event exceeded our expectations and we now have employees asking to do more events. Thank you Reza, Jodie and Impact Dakota for all your help!”
— Jon Lindgren, Chief Operating Officer