The Art of Lean: Prioritizing Packaging at Keystone

Lean at Keystone

One of the most exciting things that happens during the manufacturing process of our products is watching the process of perfectly smooth rod transform to precisely threaded rod. It’s a lot more interesting than watching it packaged for shipment, but packaging plays a critical role, nonetheless. Its purpose is to safely transport threaded rod products from our warehouse to our customers. The more efficiently we package, the more efficiently we move product out and deliver it intact. 

At Keystone, we frequently use shipping tubes to package our threaded products and have an entire floor space dedicated to this packaging process. By design, tubes can’t be stacked or organized like other types of packaging materials, and they can easily become mixed up, cluttered, and take up more space on the floor than necessary. As part of our continuous improvement efforts, Patrick Weyrick, Engineering Manager at Keystone, performed an audit of this space and found it could benefit from applying the 5S method, a component of the Kaizen principle of Lean Manufacturing.

The 5S Pillars for Our Packaging Process

At Keystone, we use two different sized (2.5” and 3” diameter) 12-foot tubes to package our products. Each has individually sized caps.

The goal was to find a way to sort and set these items in order to improve organization and efficiency. Using his engineering expertise, Patrick created two color-coded, wall-mounted container systems (one red, one blue) that meet all these requirements.

“It’s a visual management tool… the red ones are always going to be 3 inches and the blue ones are going to be 2½  inches. They are dispensed like straws. You only take out one at a time.”

Each dispenser has numbers that run vertically up and down the middle. The numbers take the guess work out of restocking by identifying exactly how many tubes are missing. 

By grouping like sizes and providing an at-a-glance restocking method, not only are our packaging tubes and caps organized, but the wall-mounted design also saves floor space, an added benefit of our new packaging process. 

5S: A Continuous Process

Overall, 5S strives to organize products and processes to make the job easier and more efficient. But even the best of intentions don’t always hit the mark. Case-in-point, the cap dispensers on our container systems aren’t being used as intended and that means soliciting feedback to find out why. 

This is a really important part of nurturing change: allowing employees to inform the decision-making process. We want to inspire our people to develop their own 5S processes for operating efficiently in their space and empower them to make changes that better fit their individual needs. 

Interested in learning more about our products or processes? Contact us at 216.524.9626 or today!