How many kaizen team members does it take to change a conveyor?

Good question. At one of Batesville Casket Company’s kaizen events recently in Batesville, Ind., we found out the answer. It took the whole team of 11 members in pit crew style just under 29 minutes to change a conveyor track.

Our event was focused on adding different casket models on to our main assembly line and attempted to make the changes without a disruption to production, hence the 29-minute goal. Goal success meant completing the project during the assembly department’s 30-minute lunch period.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_OPu--EUUVfY/SMBa3CFOFuI/AAAAAAAAAHQ/piOSpxYt_1Q/s320/Kaizen+Team+Pit+Crew+2.jpg
Photo 1. The plant kaizen team beat the clock by changing a conveyor in 29 minutes.

With the planning and precision of a professional pit crew team, our kaizen team planned out all the elements of the change and staged all the material and tools. The team utilized basic SMED (single minute exchange of dies) principles.

Once the buzzer blared signaling the start of the lunch break, the kaizen team jumped into action. Despite the close quarters and a couple of uncooperative fasteners, the kaizen team successfully completed the conveyor change as the line associates returned from lunch to start the line back up.

This was truly kaizen in action.

About the author:
Mike Wroblewski started his lean journey with instruction in quick die change from Shigeo Shingo. Mike is currently the lean sensei at Batesville Casket Company in Batesville, Ind. He also writes a blog called “Got Boondoggle?” featuring lean and Six Sigma topics. Check it out at http://gotboondoggle.blogspot.com/.