Newnan Manufacturers Use Lean Consortium as Springboard for Continuous Improvement

Sean Leroux, plant manager for Kason Industries in Newnan, Ga., believes in learning by doing. When he and Skipper Schofield, continuous improvement manager for Kason, had the opportunity to get involved with the Georgia Tech Lean Consortium – a forum for organizations to advance their knowledge and effective use of lean principles – they didn’t merely sit in on meetings and take notes. They took the ball and ran with it.

“In going through different factories and facilities, we were able to learn new ideas and then try to expand on them within our own facility,” said Schofield. “If we can bring back one good idea from each event, then we’ve been successful.”

As part of the Consortium, member company representatives rotate hosting the group at their facilities, where they present their vision for lean and the challenges and successes to date. After a plant tour, the group provides feedback to identify areas of success, as well as opportunities for further improvement. Members are also offered exclusive training classes in areas that they help to select.

Leroux and Schofield learned about reducing die changeover time inventory control from Newnan-based Bonnell, an aluminum extrusion manufacturer. They were particularly impressed with the 6S program of E.G.O., a local manufacturer of heating elements, as well as the way the company’s equipment was color-coded and labeled. The 6S program derives from 5S, the method of workplace organizations and visual controls developed by Hiroyuki Hirano, which translates into sort, stabilize, shine, standardize and sustain. Many companies add a sixth S, safety, to eliminate hazards and embed safe conditions into all work environments.

“E.G.O. had a great training program in 6S, and Earl Smith and Dave Perry, both E.G.O. engineers, led a group of 16 people here at Kason, most of them managers,” Leroux recalled. “We did a spin-off of that and then trained our entire factory in that methodology.”

Schofield also received invaluable assistance from Bonnell when it came to learning about implementing ISO 9001, a set of standards for quality management systems. Bill Tucker, quality and process manager for Bonnell, invited Schofield into the company’s facility to see how it approached the standard.

“The nice thing about Bonnell is we have similar processes, so there’s no sense in recreating the wheel,” observed Schofield. “I was actually able to tag along with the quality auditor at Bonnell during their six-month audit and ask whatever questions I wanted. It was a unique experience to see things from the auditor’s perspective.”

According to Larry Alford, director of the Georgia Tech Lean Consortium, the working relationship between Kason, E.G.O. and Bonnell demonstrates the best of what the Consortium can offer.

“What these guys have done is really special. They’ve taken it beyond just seeing each other at the meetings and translated it into how they can genuinely help each other,” he said. “I am overwhelmed by one company’s willingness to come to another company and teach a course.”

Organizations from any economic sector – including manufacturing, service, government or health care – are welcome in the Georgia Tech Lean Consortium if they have a vision for lean within their organizations, a strategy and commitment to its implementation and successful experiences to share with the consortium.

Lean principles are a set of tools widely used in manufacturing to help identify and steadily eliminate waste from an organization’s operations. Already, 11 south metro Atlanta companies, six Augusta area companies and seven northwest Georgia companies are participating in the Lean Consortium through shared training and peer-to-peer relationships.

To learn more about the Georgia Tech Lean Consortium, please contact Larry Alford (404-895-5237); E-mail (email hidden; JavaScript is required) or visit www.gtlean.org.

Photo caption: Earl Smith of E.G.O., Sean Leroux of Kason, Bill Tucker of Bonnell, Larry Alford of Georgia Tech EI2, Skipper Schofield of Kason, and Dave Perry of E.G.O., all shared continuous improvement ideas as part of Georgia Tech’s Lean Consortium.

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Writer: Nancy Fullbright

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