First place in “Kanban Implementation” for its use of a Japanese manufacturing system in which the supply of components is regulated through the use of an instruction card sent along the production line.
Third place for its WhatsApp Lean Chat that allows employees at plants in North Carolina, South Caroline and Midland share improvement videos with one another.
The association presented the awards March 5 during its annual conference in Fort Worth, Texas.
NPCA’s Engineering & Technology Committee chose the best practices innovations.
Of Smith-Midland’s two entries, the judges wrote: “Really liked how your best practices contribute to inventory efficiency and effective employee communication.”
William Garcia, team leader in the Steel Reinforcing Shop, and Ernesto Ambrosio, welding shop supervisor accepted the awards for Smith-Midland.
A common problem in manufacturing is running out of needed materials, affecting productivity. But, overstocking inventory burdens storage space and capital and increases waste because of expired product shelf life.
The Kanban System Pull Cards are used at the point of consumption to maintain the minimum level without ever running out.
Smith-Midland managers say the benefits of implementing a Kanban System have included:
• A visual system easily understood.
• Employees can focus on work, not inventory levels
• Reduced probability of running out of needed materials.
• Inventory reduction, consumption and lead time determining when materials get ordered.
• Organization, efficiency and standardization, with material delivery at set intervals.
The Lean Chat on WhatsApp has helped Smith-Midland with its goal of continuous improvement, company officials said.
Building a CI culture can be challenging because employees focus on their day-to-day responsibilities and do not want to spend time working on new “initiatives.”
The company in September 2018 decided to create “SMC Lean Chat” on WhatsApp. Associates are encouraged to make and share short videos of their improvements. That has improved morale, improved quality and reduced labor in some processes, according to company leaders
The company has begun to share its lean manufacturing videos on YouTube.