It comes as no surprise that injection mold making companies are looking for successful lean manufacturing case studies. Stories abound of efforts that yield great results and others of failure.
Because of the incredibly low wages in developing countries, companies are forced to think lean or die. Many long standing companies have gone by the wayside and closed forever because they were unwilling or unable to adapt.
Global competition is forcing world class manufacturing companies to practice lean thinking. Occasionally this push to re-think the way things are done works and the results can be very profitable!
A good example of this is Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., located in Bolton, Ontario, Canada.
Successful lean manufacturing case study
My first encounter with Husky was as a plastic injection mold maker. I was an apprentice and my master was a man who had previously worked for Husky. He was certainly the best mold maker I have ever worked with and he told me many stories about Husky and how good they were at mold making.
Since that time I have seen and used their products on an almost daily basis and recognize the expertise and quality. So it is no surprise that they have understood and embraced the lean manufacturing culture and mastered it.
Introducing a new product
Not so long ago they introduced a new hot runner system to the plastic injection molding industry, called PRONTO. A hot runner system is a highly technical method of melting plastic raw material and injecting it into a steel mold. This is how most of the plastic things you use on a daily basis are produced. It is one of those things nobody thinks about or appreciates!
Husky is able to reduce lead times and costs, while maintaining their high standards of quality. They have managed this by producing the component through a combination of standard parts, automated design practices and lean manufacturing of custom plates and manifolds.
The two-week PRONTO systems resulted from Husky’s systematic lean implementation, which included the steps listed below.
- Cross functional teams reviewed the entire value stream from shipment of the product through to initial order entry with a clear objective of reducing lead times to two weeks.
- Using Six Sigma tools, manufacturing times and variation at each step in the process was measured.
- Work balancing enabled improved flow and ensured constraint operations are effectively utilized.
- Non-value added tasks were eliminated.
- Standard work procedures were implemented to ensure consistency and flow.
- Visual cueing systems were created to ensure quick response to any flow impediments.
- From start to finish, each team coordinated their efforts to ensure consistent product flow at each handoff point.
The 50 percent reduction in lead time was achieved in less than three months, with no impact to existing production or on time performance. This case study is an excellent example of lean thinking in world class manufacturing.
The intelligent use of value stream mapping paid off handsomely! From the end-user perspective, this is a welcome change. In the past, each hot runner system was more or less custom made for every application. By standardizing the system mold designers can more easily plan the design and manufacture of injection molds. This cuts lead times and reduces costs, as well as making the job of the mold maker easier.