In the late 19th century, golf began to find international popularity. According to Wikipedia, between 1910 and 1932, member golf clubs affiliated with the United States Golf Association (USGA) increased by approximately 800 percent, from 267 to more than 1,100 clubs. In 1954, two brothers working in a cramped one-room machine shop in Augusta, Ga. determined they could build a golf car that would be better than what was then on the market. Over the years, the company, E-Z-GO, has expanded their product line to include golf cars for golf courses, personal transportation, all-terrain use, food and beverage delivery, hospitality, and industrial applications. The company was also acquired by Textron, a global, multi-industry corporation. In 2009 E-Z-GO was named one of IndustryWeek magazine’s top 10 manufacturing plants in North America and won the coveted Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence.
For more than a quarter of a century, E-Z-GO has worked closely with the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech. Four years ago, E-Z-GO joined the GaMEP’s new initiative – a regionally-based Lean Consortium, designed to further manufacturers’ lean journey through benchmarking, training, and leadership development. By networking with Augusta region consortium members, E-Z-Go has expanded their customer base to include many of these companies and has realized an additional $500,000 in sales. Based on implementing ideas from webinars, training, and benchmarking tours, E-Z-GO has produced $250,000 in cost-savings opportunities. During a benchmarking tour of another consortium member company, Dwyane Brabham, continuous improvement manager for E-Z-GO, noticed how well pedestrian and forklift traffic flowed at that facility. Because traffic was a recognized area for improvement within his own company, he quickly began accumulating ideas – from how to minimize the interface between forklifts and pedestrians, to how pedestrians could be alerted about vehicles approaching.
Brabham brought in Elliot Price, Augusta region manager and Paul Todd and Damon Nix, project managers from the GaMEP, to conduct a traffic study with the overall goal of reducing vehicle traffic to increase pedestrian safety. Price, Todd, and Nix studied traffic patterns, conducted time assessments, reviewed traffic flow, and videotaped the movement of both vehicles and pedestrian traffic. In addition, two GaMEP co-op students surveyed employees as they passed through a checkpoint and asked forklift operators to fill out a form each time they delivered materials. E-Z-GO has two main buildings, one that houses a majority of the 400 employees, where most of the production occurs, and where the receiving dock is situated. The other building contains the cafeteria. When analyzing the data, the GaMEP quickly validated a major source of vehicle-pedestrian interaction at E-Z-Go. Between 10:30 a.m. and noon each day, pedestrians would head to the cafeteria by walking across the receiving dock while trucks were being unloaded and forklifts were in operation. To address the safety problem, GaMEP and E-Z-GO examined the facility layout, re-routed the traffic to an area with relatively low vehicle flow, removed the exterior handles from doors used to enter the dock, and made these same doors emergency exits only. By placing signage about the change and communicating the new route and the safety aspects associated with the change, E-Z-GO eliminated all non-essential traffic from the receiving dock, minimizing risk for accidents and their long-term financial implications. Todd, Nix, and Price also positioned themselves in a busy intersection of the facility and found that up to five vehicles would be travelling through this point at any given time throughout the day. The data showed that 95 percent of the golf cars moving around the facility were not being used for business purposes. The GaMEP learned that each department and assembly area had a golf car and that employees were using them for personal transportation, instead of walking. E-Z-GO removed these golf cars from operation, reducing convenience driving within the facility, saving $10,000 a year in vehicle maintenance, decreasing traffic in the facility, minimizing employee risk, and encouraging walking for employee exercise. To further reduce traffic, E-Z-GO also reinstated the use of a train system set up years ago to move material from the production line to the warehouse and back to restock. Employees had slowly stopped using this system and had been using warehouse vehicles to move material, creating excessive vehicle traffic. As part of the solution, E-Z-GO reinstituted the train system to load and move material.
Through the Lean Consortium membership, E-Z-GO has:
- Gained $500,000 in new sales from other Lean Consortium member companies.
- Identified $250,000 worth of cost-savings opportunities.
- Garnered ideas for areas of improvement, including a traffic study.
Through this traffic study, E-Z-GO has:
- Eliminated all non-value traffic from their receiving dock.
- Removed 95 percent of the non-material moving golf cars from their facility, saving approximately $10,000 per year in maintenance, upkeep, and fuel.
- Reduced pedestrian to vehicle interface, diminishing potential OSHA recordable infractions, and increasing safety for their employees.
Brabham says, “I look forward to the Lean Consortium events. I take a couple of people with me to each benchmarking tour, so they can experience first-hand what other member companies are doing to be successful around lean and safety efforts.”