Lifetime Products: A “Lean” Manufacturing Leader - Learns from Toyota

Lifetime Products: A “Lean” Manufacturing Leader - Learns from Toyota

Lifetime Products: A “Lean” Manufacturing Leader - Learns from Toyota

Toyota.JPGThree of our executives--President, COO, and VP of Research & Development--recently had the opportunity to visit Toyota’s assembly plant in Japan. Their visit was not to see how cars and trucks are built, but rather to learn more about Toyota’s “Lean” manufacturing ways. Lean is a term used frequently here at Lifetime. Basically, Lean is centered on preserving value with less work. Lifetime has been implementing Lean methods for more than ten years however; there has been renewed emphasis the past two years. Some of which include flow of material and plant layout.

The concept of Lean manufacturing is growing in popularity around the world but it originally derived from the Toyota Production System (TPS) in Japan. Our executives said Japan, in general, is an unbelievably clean and neat country which is directly reflected in their daily work environment. The streets are clean, the vehicles are immaculate, and even the taxi drivers wear white shirts and ties.  At Toyota, improvement is obviously a natural part of their workplace culture with the second most important goal being teamwork.

To achieve teamwork, Toyota follows Kaizen principles.  “Kaizen” is a Lean term meaning continual or incremental improvement. Kaizen emphasizes cost reduction or the elimination of waste. Lifetime began its own Kaizen program where employees can submit ideas for improvement. Many of the improvements focus on making Lifetime a “visual workplace”, meaning a self ordering, self explaining, self-regulating and self-improving work environment. Where what is supposed to happen does happen, on time, every time, because of visual solutions. Through these employee-suggested process improvements, Lifetime has been able to cut a large percentage of finished inventory since Lean implementation!

As evident with the Toyota tour, Lifetime is constantly learning the most up-to-date Lean practices.  This quest for continuous knowledge and improvement has not gone unnoticed. After partnering with various organizations including the Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Utah (MEP), Lifetime is now a recognized force in lean manufacturing. In fact, Gwendolyn D. Galsworth, PhD, a pioneer in visual workplace procedures, recently asked Lifetime COO Brent Allen to write the forward for her book titled, “Work That Makes Sense: Creating and Sustaining Visuality on the Value-add Level”. In his forward, Allen explains, “Work That Makes Sense teaches us that visual devices translate information into exact behavior. That is its primary purpose: embedding and sustaining exactness through visual solutions. And this can only come about in a culture of free will—an I-driven culture. The third element for enterprise excellence—for creating the continuous improvement work culture I have sought for Lifetime—is exactness: the exactness that visuality, and every other improvement method, requires for its success”.

Lifetime has always been a company focused on innovation and transformation. Learning these new Lean terms and workplace techniques is definitely a new experience and challenge for all of us at Lifetime.  All employees attend regular Lean workshops and trainings. However, it is exciting and rewarding to see the dramatic results of our efforts. 
So, what does all of this mean for you, our consumer? In a nutshell, it means we are learning to how to use safer and quicker processes to create a better product that is less expensive to manufacture.

Katie

Katie

Katie_Salter0014_blog - Copy.jpgName: Katie

Position at Lifetime Products: Former PR/Communications Manager - but ALWAYS a fan of Lifetime products!  (Katie's blog posts were written while she was Communications Manager at Lifetime.)

My favorite Lifetime Products: 4ft x 2ft fold-in-half table, 30" Personal Table, Camping table, 6' fold-in half tableRound Picnic Table, Fold-up Utility Trailer.

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