EMC reports successful lean manufacturing training program in Northern Ontario
August 17, 2018 - The Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium (EMC) has announced that its two-year program to help manufacturers in Northern Ontario enhance their productivity, competitiveness and business management capacity was a success.
In 2015, EMC began hosting lean management system (LMS) training sessions and "productivity cluster" events for senior management as part of a $427,945 investment from FedNor, the federal government's economic development organization for Northern Ontario. They offered classes, discussions, personalized coaching and consulting assistance.
Lean manufacturing refers to a systematic process of small, incremental changes meant to reduce waste without affecting productivity.
“Knowing where to start is very important,” said Al Diggins, chair, treasurer and general manager of EMC. “A lean advisor worked with companies and recommended what tools they needed to accomplish their goals, focusing on one specific area at a time. As part of this project, each company that participated in the LMS training selected a project that would result in a minimum return on investment of $50,000.”
Based on feedback from participating firms and managers, the LMS program generated significant return on investment, as well as significant economic, financial and employment benefits. In addition to boosting employee morale, enhancing staff engagement and reducing wasted time, the 10 companies that shared feedback cited initial annual savings of $10,000 to $499,000, depending on their area of focus.
Diggins said they started the program after realizing a training gap in Northern Ontario. "Intially, uptake was slow because the lean approach was new to many companies, so people were naturally skeptical. However, upon completion of the training, we had created a pool of believers, many of whom are ready for the next round.”
Digital Engineering, a process management technologies firm in Thunder Bay, was one of 57 companies that participated in the productivity cluster program and encouraged its staff to take advantage of the training.
“For a long time we had realized that there was a definite need to improve our processes and drive efficiency,” said Les Perrault, president of Digital Engineering. “The productivity events that we attended provided us with valuable information on how to evaluate our work flow and the tools that can be used to implement a continuous improvement program. Even more importantly, they have helped us understand the importance of creating an organizational culture that can motivate and engage our employees.”
Lorne McDonald, production manager at Metso in North Bay, had a similar outlook.
“When we first started talking about Lean, staff really did not understand. In many cases, they feared headcount reductions or added work. However, over the last two years, we have seen great change. We now have visitors – both company employees from other sites and vendors – commenting on how much we have changed. For example, [we're using] tool boards in place of large tool boxes and our safety stats are improving. We are now at over 932 safe days. So, the question is why?"
"It’s because people have an opportunity to suggest and implement ideas,” McDonald said.