Innovative Workshop Focuses on Parts Cleaning in a Lean Operation

Learn how lean manufacturing practices have been applied to a major manufacturer’s parts cleaning process, increasing efficiencies and decreasing downtime.

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The central premise of the discussion involved seeking an answer to the question, “How can lean manufacturing practices be applied to a cleaning system to address a number of key concerns?”

Ransohoff National Sales Manager Jim Mills—part of the Cleaning Technologies Group website—recently wrote a summary describing an innovative workshop held at the American Axle and Manufacturing (AAM) plant in Guanajuato, Mexico.

According to Mr. Mills, Curt Buttermore and Pankaj Patel from AAM listened to their internal customers who asked the central question “How can lean manufacturing practices be applied to a cleaning systems to address a number of key concerns?”

AAM Mexico is rapidly expanding and floor space, operator efficiency, and p.m. downtime are now major concerns to ensure production volumes are achieved, so they reached out to their supplier base about their lean concerns. Ransohoff stepped up and offered its assistance, proposing conducting a lean workshop in Mexico. Ransohoff formed a team headed by Greg Allen, innovation engineer, whose favorite quote by Peter Drucker formed the outline for the meeting: “The buyer rarely buys what the seller thinks he’s selling.”

The workshop included employees from all of AAM’s departments, including maintenance, engineering, and plant workflow and layout. The workshop format used an online survey to gather information prior to the meeting, coupled with group exercises and idea-capturing yellow cards. The basics of the workshop involved an open dialog flow of information to ensure all departments had equal input in all aspects of the system. The outcome of the meeting will be a new system that addresses the open concerns while ensuring the overall cost of the new systems are held at a minimum.

Mr. Buttermore and Mr. Patel agreed that this format was great, and they feel it will open up a “team approach” between all levels of the plant and corporate engineering. Learn more about the process in PM's Parts Cleaning Zone.

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Representatives of all departments within AAM had a seat at the table during discussions focusing on lean manufacturing, as it applies to parts cleaning.