Companies are adopting Lean manufacturing with increasing frequency. And that is a good thing. A Lean culture is people-friendly, not to mention profit friendly. And thus the story of a GE Brilliant Factory award winning plant.
GE has around 400 manufacturing locations. It has had a contest to find the “most brilliant of the Brilliant Factory” plants in its system. I had the opportunity to interview Rob McKeel, CEO of GE Automation & Controls, whose plant in Charlottesville, VA was one of the 17 chosen from 400+.
Manufacturing Day was last Friday, but we need to continue to promote the importance of manufacturing and production throughout the year so that we can attract our fair share of the best and brightest young people into our industry.
McKeel told me the theme is digitizing Lean manufacturing. The plants are using the advantages of GE’s tools. Different plants chose different problems to tackle. The A&C factory in Charlottesville, VA was chosen as one of the “Most Brilliant of the Brilliant Factories” by meeting its goal to reduce cycles—lean out inventory turns.
The biggest challenge was changing the culture to really become Lean. The worker at the line really owns the results in Lean. Everyone around them has the function of supporting the line worker. On Gemba walks, the line leader presents the situation for that line and then asks for help. Help is given immediately.
Here’s a video that GE created about its Brilliant Factory in Charlottesville.
The second thing is to apply technology. Some technologies used included robots, augmented reality, and visualization to provide data in real time.
“We have a very different plant from 25 years ago—mostly due to tapping the energy of the people,” stated McKeel.
I asked how they went about transforming culture. He told me that first the plant manager went to Toyota to study the Toyota Production System. He took the “big” course. But everyone needs to understand. So then he had some team members took Lean training at Toyota. Then, walking the talk, showing the changes they wanted to effect. The first teams learned to react to worker problems quickly. That action and trust led to other questions. Main value is that the worker comes first, management and other team members support the worker.
Sounds to me like they used a basic method of creating trust. Without trust, you’ll never have a successful Lean implementation.
McKeel said, “We don’t have a single unproductive moment for the worker.”
A&C was awarded the GE Brilliant Factory of the Year for its leadership, people and manufacturing excellence. While four inventory turns per year has long been standard in the industry, the Charlottesville BF is pacing for 50 inventory turns in 2017 on its model product line.