“IMEC has been there and done that. They have a lot of experience, and it’s hands-on experience, not theory. They’re a great partner in our ongoing continuous improvement journey.”
Successes in Operations
After 57 successful years in business, Header’s leadership is committed to keeping the company from becoming complacent. To ensure employees are focused on customers and committed to continuous improvement, the company exposed its entire workforce to lean concepts through an IMEC-conducted training session, then decided to embark on several projects to begin implementing improvements.
IMEC led a 5S team of six employees through the Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain process for gauge pins, a common piece of measuring equipment used on the shop floor. The team discussed the current state, brainstormed ideas for improvement, walked through the process in the shop and gathered inventory and then documented a new process, developed guidelines for all employees to follow, conducted an audit and followed up to ensure the process was working. The initiative was so successful that Header launched a second 5S project for collets, which is now in implementation.
- Improved employee satisfaction
- Greater sense of employee pride and ownership
- Less time wasted searching for tooling
- Enhanced shop floor productivity and efficiency
- Favorable bottom line results
After more than five successful decades in business, it’s a challenge for any company to keep from becoming complacent. With IMEC’s help, Rockford-based Header Die & Tool has embarked on “a cultural change that’s ongoing” to keep the 57-year-old company’s employees focused on customers, committed to continuous improvement and thinking outside the box.
Founded in 1954, Header manufactures tooling and fasteners for businesses that make cold-formed products-serving the automotive and aerospace industries primarily. The company first worked with IMEC in the mid-2000s on a project to streamline its ISO system. Following that initiative, Header President Lucas Derry and another employee took part in IMEC’s continuous improvement training, which included Lean 101. Then, in early 2011, the company asked IMEC to facilitate an off-site training session to expose its 44 employees to lean. Half of the Header team attended the training one day, and the other half the next-from Derry all the way down to the company’s trainees and interns.
“Hands-on training made the concepts of lean easier for people to grasp, and it created a real sense of camaraderie among our employees,” Derry said. “Once we had everybody’s attention, it was easy to start identifying areas for improvement in the organization.”
Header moved quickly, launching its first 5S improvement project within two weeks of the lean training. Over the course of two days, six employees followed the Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain process for gauge pins-a common piece of measuring equipment used on the shop floor.
With guidance from IMEC, the 5S team started by talking about the current state and brainstorming ideas for improvement. Next, they walked through the process in the shop, gathering inventory and identifying existing and missing tooling. Then, the team documented a new process, including a set of guidelines for all employees to follow. They concluded by auditing the process and following up with their coworkers to ensure it was working. The initiative was so successful that Header soon launched a second 5S project for collets, which is just beginning its implementation phase.
“Employees have a lot of ownership in these new processes because they developed them,” Derry said. “They’ve heard me talking about continuous improvement for years, but it’s different when they physically take part in making it happen. They see how it can benefit them. Now all employees feel they can have a say in improving our company.”
Derry credits IMEC with helping Header’s shop floor employees feel comfortable participating in the continuous improvement projects. “My guys relate to them well. IMEC’s not afraid to get dirty,” he said. “They brought the group together and let them come up with the ideas and answers.”
Those answers-specifically being able to find the tooling they need to do their jobs-have led to improved employee satisfaction at Header, as well as a greater sense of pride and ownership in the company. And Derry has been able to document hard benefits as well. “I’m seeing favorable bottom-line results,” he said. “Productivity and efficiency have both improved because employees aren’t wasting time searching for missing tools.”
Derry is proud of his team for identifying and embracing the improvements and sees IMEC as key to the company’s ongoing cultural change efforts. “IMEC has been there and done that,” he said. “They have a lot of experience, and it’s hands-on experience, not theory. They’re a great partner in our ongoing continuous improvement journey.”