I have a confession to make…being in sales is hard! In my field, the packaging industry, there are so many competitors that salespeople must find ways to differentiate themselves. You have to be able to offer something that no one else is willing to offer.
Many of my customers practice Lean principles and routinely hold Kaizen or Rapid Improvement Events. At first, I didn’t get it. Even though I understood what they were trying to do, the lingo was weird. It was when I saw them reduce their cycle time by 40% that I really started to pay attention.
It was when I saw them reduce their cycle time by 40% that I really started to pay attention.
Seeing the Same Waste
Last Spring I completed my GoLeanSixSigma.com Green Belt Training and immediately started looking for ways to apply what I learned to my job. My role in packaging sales gave me a great avenue to affect change from the outside in. As a result, I now speak the same language as my customers and can see through their eyes.
The biggest way that I’ve applied Lean is by eliminating Waste. I mainly see the following wastes:
- Extra Processing
Once identified and, most importantly, the customer agrees they are wastes, then the work to change the process begins.
$30,000 and 6 Minutes Saved
Here’s how this played out last year. Shortly after getting my GoLeanSixSigma.com Green Belt Certification, I went to visit my prospect (we’ll call her “Sally”) to discuss how we could help her and her company. We made small talk and touched on some of the challenges she faced. I asked Sally if we could look at how they made and packaged her product. She generously agreed to show me around.
Immediately, the wastes stood out to me! The bottleneck was obvious and Sally said she wished they could make and package their units faster to keep up with demand. I got my supplies out, sketched their production line, clocked some cycle times, and asked clarifying questions. This was going to be huge! As we parted that day, I made an appointment to come back a few days later to present a solution.
With the new way we packed each case 6 minutes faster… yes, 6 whole minutes!
I brought enough samples on the return visit to pack out a case – 12 units. We clocked the time to pack the case the old way and then clocked the cycle time using the new method. With the new way we packed each case 6 minutes faster… yes, 6 whole minutes! Given how many cases they go through, a conservative estimate would be $30,000 per year in labor savings with no change in packaging costs. This was a conservative estimate, because we didn’t know what would happen when we actually rolled out the changes. Sally agreed to go forward with the new design and we delivered the first order.
A few days after delivery, I checked on Sally to see how things were going. Their CFO, Mike, approached Sally as we were talking and he appeared to be a little flabbergasted. He said to Sally, “I think you need to go back and check your numbers on the last production run. Your time is way off… like 40% lower than any other run we’ve ever done.” Sally said, “I know. You can thank Ryan. Oh…and Mike, we only used about half of the new boxes on this order. The next run will be even better!” There are few sensations that match what it feels like for a sales person to hear this.
Your time is way off… like 40% lower than any other run we’ve ever done.
How Did We Save So Much?
So, what did we do?
1. Change the Box Style
First, we changed the style of the box from a “reverse tuck” to an “autobottom.” This allowed for faster box setup by not having to fold flaps before filling with the product. This style of box works really well when you are dealing with a product that has decent volume or demands shorter Takt times (the time required to meet customer demand).
2. Create Clear Visuals
Second, we pre-printed barcodes and product information to clearly identify the product and eliminate the need for someone (2 people, actually) to stick labels on the box. This actually reduced the waste of Non-Utilized Talent since now these two people could go do something else that was of value to the customer.
3. Match Quantities
Third, we planned our production run with the buyer and forecasted demand to make sure she had the proper number of boxes coming in to match the scheduled orders. This seems like a simple idea, but you would not believe how many people neglect to do it. It took a little time, but the savings that it afforded were well worth the time it took to compile the information.
This seems like a simple idea, but you would not believe how many people neglect to do it.
Start & Keep Winning
The application of Lean Six Sigma in packaging turned out to be extremely easy and was a great place to start a process improvement journey!