[IMAGE]NewFlyer.jpg[/IMAGE]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.


Materials management

The company found opportunities to move materials between plants and suppliers more cost effectively by reviewing traffic patterns and use of trucks, which resulted in the use of fewer trips.

New Flyer also streamlined its materials delivery method by delivering items directly to their point-of-use, which reduces handling prior to use and thereby reducing the risk of damaging the materials. This has increased inventory accuracy, ensured materials are available when needed and resulted in a better work environment.

"Before, a part would come into our receiving dock and then get stored in our warehouse, where it would sit for a few days before it was sent to the employee that needed it," Joseph says. "We've cut out those steps. Now, when material comes in, it goes directly to the employee that needs it that same day."

To continue the emphasis on streamlining employees' work environments and processes, vending machines were installed in all facilities so employees can access consumables, such as gloves and drill bits. "They take their employee badge and swipe it on the vending machine and take what they want when they need it," says Joseph. "They are accountable, because we know what they take and when they took it."

Before the new system, supply items were locked up in storage cages and employees would need to notify someone with the key to unlock it, he adds. The new procedure has improved product availability and visibility to consumption allocation, and significantly reduced consumables spending.

Live tracking

Another new tool being used on the shop floor is an interactive system called Live Bus that employees use to capture, track, measure and communicate installation statuses to the company. Employees swipe their badges on one of the multiple touch screens located in their work cell area to record their work, eliminating the need for paper records.

"As the bus goes down the line, the employees walk up to a touch screen, which prompts them to report what they've done or any issues that have come up preventing them from completing their task," says Joseph.

This paperless concept also extends to New Flyer's new supplier portal concept — a communication tool that allows direct access for external suppliers to manage purchase orders, receipts, invoices and delivery schedules via a real-time system. "Our suppliers can immediately see our inventory, what we are going to need and when we are going to need it," Joseph says.

Other OpEx initiatives in place include a 29-Week Pre-Production Process, which defines each customer's requirements for engineering, supply management, manufacturing and customer service support, to ensure projects stay on schedule and on budget.

A new Sales Release Change Request/Price Change process is being used for estimating, costing and pricing of proposed changes to contractual and engineering baselines.

Since the implementation of the operational excellence initiatives, the company has seen improvements in safety and in the area of sustainability. The uncluttered, efficient workspaces and work cell team concept have been beneficial in terms of safety.

 "We've eliminated a lot of waste and are constantly looking for more ways to do so," Joseph says of going green. "If a part comes shipped to us in a cardboard box, we see if we can get it shipped to us in a different method, so it doesn't require something to be thrown away."

To gauge the effectiveness in achieving the operational excellence goals, New Flyer developed measurements to enable the company to focus on where it excels or where it needs improvement. "This is not something that has a completion date on it," says Joseph of the operational excellence initiatives. "It's an ongoing process to maintain our leadership in the industry."