May 2010

New Flyer Ensures Operational Excellence with New Initiatives

by Janna Starcic, Executive Editor

In the fall of 2008, New Flyer Industries Inc. kicked off its new Operational Excellence (OpEx) vision for the company, which incorporates safety, cleanliness and efficiency; quality; customer satisfaction; eliminates waste; reduces material cost per vehicle and is sustainable.

"The idea was to make New Flyer the best bus manufacturer to work for and to do business with as a customer," says New Flyer's Executive Vice President of Operations Wayne Joseph. "It's geared toward customer satisfaction and eliminating employee frustration."

The company hired lean facilitators, expert in each of the areas of the program, to implement the new procedures. "They are full-time New Flyer team members," Joseph says.

Organized and Efficient

The first initiative in the OpEx vision that was implemented is called 5S, which amounts to making the work area extremely clean, neat and efficient - "A place for everything, and everything in its place," so to speak. This includes a general clean-up, reorganization of work areas according to 5S guidelines, as well as audits, training and implementation of standard color coding throughout the facility. All of the company's facilities - corporate headquarters in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the facilities in Crookston and St. Cloud, Minn. - will have completely overhauled their work areas to comply with the new standards by July 2010.

"We threw out all the junk we've accumulated over the years and dug out all the tools and eliminated individual workboxes," says Joseph, adding that "we just made sure that everything an employee needed to do their job was readily available."

Joseph says that the employees have really embraced the new initiatives by taking more pride in their work areas, and customers visiting the New Flyer facilities have also noticed the positive changes.

"I've been a supervisor at New Flyer in Winnipeg for just over a year now. I think the Operational Excellence initiative has been an amazing opportunity for the plant to improve on what is already an excellent track record as an industry leader. It has allowed us the chance to streamline the build areas," says Ben Henning, production supervisor.

Using a work cell concept is another initiative being implemented into the corporate culture. This approach of cross-functional teams aids rapid issue resolution and instills a proactive team approach to problem solving.

"You take several line stations where the bus is being produced, and you set up a cell leader, which generally is the production supervisor in that area," says Joseph. Representatives from various areas including materials, quality and manufacturing engineering are out on the shop floor where they're readily accessible. "It's more of a self-directed workforce. Instead of us reporting to them how they're doing, they report to us and tell us what's going on with safety, efficiency and where improvements need to be made," says Joseph.

According to Joseph, the company has seen an immediate impact since the process has been put in place, with a 50-percent reduction in ­quality defects.

The company also developed the New Flyer Training Institute to enhance the skills of its employees. "If the employees are going to be successful, we have to make sure we give them the tools and the training they need," Joseph says. Lean 101 training, which provides an interactive, simplicity-driven workshop that makes lean thinking and lean manufacturing principles easy to understand, is one of the courses being offered to the entire organization.


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