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At the Factory: Lean Manufacturing

By Shannon Malone |

fireclay tile aromas tile factory inspirational photo

With 20 years of manufacturing experience, and a Masters Degree from the school of Industrial Management from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Carlos Velez Conty joined Fireclay as our new Plant Manager.  Carlos was brought on to manage our Aromas, California factory and to enhance its efficiency and sustainability through the idea of "Lean Manufacturing.  We took a minute to chat with Carlos about what Lean Manufacturing means and what we are doing to implement these practices to make our factory more efficient.

carlos velez conty, fireclay tile lean manufacturing director

Based on the Toyota Production System (TPS),  Lean Manufacturing is a systemic method for eliminating waste within a manufacturing process.  The idea is to emphasize the obvious ways to add value and efficiency to your manufacturing process, and to reduce everything else.  According to Carlos, Lean Manufacturing comes down to three things, people, business, and processes.

To achieve lean manufacturing at our factory, Carlos follows two waste reduction models – the 5 S model and the Tim Wood Model.  Lets take a look at what each of these means.

1.)  5S Model

The 5S model stands for Sort, Shine, Set in order, Standardize and Sustain

Sort - Sort means turning the useless into useful.  It is about organization and eliminating the unnecessary to prevent obstacles.

Shine - Is about keeping the workspace clean.  This prevents problems with machinery and make workflow smooth and easy.

Set in Order - The third "S" is setting things in order.  All items should be arranged in a way that they can easily be selected for use. Carlos has worked on organizing the factory to meet 20 second rule.  Everything our team members need they should be able to reach in 20 seconds or less.  

Standardize - This means standardizing your best practices.  Every manufacturing process should have a standard.  This helps keep everything organized and clean, making manufacturing more efficient.

Sustain - The last "S" is all about sustaining the previous "S"'s.  Team members should be trained properly on these best practices to keep everything in working order.

handmaking tile in aromas california

2.) Tim Wood

The Tim Wood model stands for the 7 areas of manufacturing where waste can occur, and figuring out ways to prevent it.

Transportation - The idea here is to reduce transportation time.  The movement of product between processes is a source of waste.  The more we can do to eliminate the time and resources spent on transporting items the more efficient we can be.  This comes back to the idea of the 5S Model and organizing everything so you have it where you need it.

Inventory - We don't like keeping inventory.  We need a certain amount of inventory to keep operation moving but too much is a bad thing.  To prevent inventory waste Carlos has set up the Can Band system.  This is basically a visual representation of inventory levels.  It is set up like a thermometer with 3 color levels, green, yellow and red.  The optimal level of inventory is green.  When your inventory gets down the yellow level it is time to re oder.  Inventory should never get to red.

Motion - The waste of motion is the movement involved within a task.  We are working to reduce the amount of steps it takes to do something, through workspace organization and standardizing our processes.

Waiting - The waste of waiting can come from a variety of sources, machinery, inventory, people.  The idea here is to make sure your processes insure that no time is spent waiting, that is why we plan and schedule.

Over Production - Over production is when we produce more than we need.  We make every thing to order so we should only be producing what we need.

Over Processing - Over processing means doing work that doesn't necessarily need to be done.  The idea is to only spend time focusing on what is necessary and useful yet still ensures a beautiful product.

Defects - Quality is key.  Having to do re-works takes a lot of time and money so it is important to get it right the first time.

aromas california tile manufacturing process, fireclay tile

Want to learn more about our manufacturing processes?  Check out our Sustainable Manufacturing page.