GBC Getting Leaner

General Bearing has always recognized the importance of continuous improvement and has included this principle in our official Quality Policy. Recently, we have added some new tools to help us in this pursuit. Last year, GBC made a commitment to becoming a Lean Manufacturing company; many GBC employees were trained in Lean Principles. The concept of “Lean Production” refers to a manufacturing paradigm based on continuously minimizing waste to maximize flow and includes many strategic and practical tools for pursuing these goals.

There are six Key Lean Principles:

1) Define value from your customers perspective.

2) Identify the value stream.

3) Eliminate the seven deadly wastes.

4) Make the work flow.

5) Pull the work, don’t push it.

6) Pursue to perfection.

These principles are used to pursue the ultimate Lean target of eliminating all waste. The Lean system recognizes seven deadly wastes which are defined as anything that adds cost or time without adding value.

They are:

  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Transport
  • Processing
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Defects

General Bearing employees have successfully implemented improvement projects through the use of four Lean tools. Value Stream Map (VSM) – This is a visual map that shows the flow of material and information in a specific value stream. A value stream consists of all activities (operations, communication, material transport, production planning, etc.) involved with the process of transforming material into product. A VSM is created and analyzed to systematically identify and eliminate the non-valueadded elements. 5S – The 5S system is used for the organization and standardization of any workplace. Applying 5S has many positive effects such as teaching the basic principles of improvement, providing a starting point for eliminating waste, removing obstacles to improvement, and giving workers control over their workplace.

The five activities in 5S are:

  • Sort
  • Set in order
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) – In order to accommodate a variety of products without compromising continuous flow, it is important to reduce the time needed to set up or change over equipment from one product to another. SMED is a theory and set of techniques aimed at reducing this time to less than 10 minutes. Visual Workplace – This Lean tool emphasizes the use of visual aids in applying the concepts of Lean. It encourages visual expression of information, making it available exactly when and where it is needed, with just the right amount of information. This tool can be applied to work instructions, warnings, plant layout, process performance, and many other areas. General Bearing Lean projects began in 2004 and have continued into this year. New employees are being introduced to Lean concepts and employees with Lean experience are expanding their skills and knowledge. General Bearing Corporation used 5S to facilitate a dramatic improvement in the testing area. The Engineering Department sorted through every item in the test lab to determine its importance and relevance. Items were sorted and systematically filed or discarded. Our last step was to thoroughly clean the machines, improve the lighting, and paint the floor to improve the appearance and professionalism of the test lab. A value stream map was created for the processes being performed on standard re-packaged ball bearings in the West Nyack facility. A cross-functional team was established and met weekly to follow the project. The time spent waiting at various inventory points and the value added time were studied and used to develop the Current Value Stream Map. It showed a Total Lead Time (Value Added + Non-Value Added) of 53 days and a Total Cycle Time (Value Added only) of 4.87 seconds! The team discussed many ideas for reducing the waste in our process. By the application of Lean principles, we could reduce the Total Lead Time by 17.3 days and reduce the Total Cycle Time by 3.52 seconds. This resulted in an expected Labor and Burden savings of $300,000 per year and 1,500,000 part reduction in inventory for 2005. In addition to all of the work GBC has been doing to support our Lean efforts, Visteon, one of our largest customers, has recognized us as an outstanding supplier and worthy of the support of their “Lean Supplier Development” program. In November 2004, Mike Homan from Visteon visited our facility and conducted an assessment of our Lean activities. He did some additional training for the GBC Lean Team and made some suggestions for a Kaizen (a team event dedicated to quick implementation of Lean Manufacturing concepts in a specific department or area over a short period of time).

Mike returned to GBC in January 2005 to do more in depth training and lead us through a 5S Kaizen of three areas on the shop floor. Many GBC employees were introduced to Lean for the first time and participated in the Lean training and activities that were initiated by this collaboration with Visteon. Each group consisted of 5 GBC employees and focused on a different area — U-Joint Cup and Assembly area, Inspection Department, or the Receiving Department. The three groups were responsible for implementing the concepts of 5S in their particular area. The event lasted 3 days and consisted of training, hands on exercises, and practical implementation of 5S principles. Being Lean means that our company is continuously looking for ways to improve. We are building on the successes of our completed Lean projects to launch new projects in other areas. After the success of our Ball Bearing Packaging project we are now investigating possible improvements that can be made in our Tapered Roller Bearing process and packaging. In addition, the 5S tools that we developed during our Kaizen with Visteon are now being applied to all areas of the production floor. A special group is tackling this task week after week applying the concepts of 5S to each area of the plant. Although Lean was originally applied in manufacturing operations, the concepts can be applied to any environment. The GBC Customer Service Department has recently begun their own project to reduce waste and improve the flow of work through the department. The projects and programs discussed in this article are just the beginning. As General Bearing continues to grow, the goal of reducing waste become increasingly important. We will continue to add new projects, build upon our completed projects, and add new Lean tools for us to use in the future. As we continue down this path, more and more employees will be trained and relied upon for participating in new Lean projects. All of these things together will help us to improve the company as a whole.