How Kaizen helped Pearson overcome growing pains

Since last year, Pearson’s production floor has been busting at the seams, jam-packed with all types of secondary packaging equipment at various stages of completion – not to mention all of the product and case samples that accompany new projects. While it is reassuring that robust, high-quality products and industry-leading delivery times contributed to this growth, our company knew that these qualities had to be actively protected – now more than ever.  

Maintaining quality standards and short lead times despite continuously increasing order volumes can be a challenging undertaking. However, with the help of our experienced continuous improvement manager, a six-sigma master black belt, we’ve already successfully addressed this concern once before. During a week-long Kaizen event in 2014, we were able to streamline our machine build process and improve lead times on our most popular machine by 30% without compromising quality standards. This time, our objective was to “create” more space that would allow us to accommodate more orders simultaneously.

The obvious - expanding the current facility – was not an ideal solution. A hefty price tag coupled with possible disruptions to production made that option a last resort. Instead, a Kaizen event was once again organized, devoting ten employees with unique perspectives and from various departments to embark on a journey to “find” more space where none evidently existed.   

The team examined the current state of the production floor and all the operations occurring within – observing traffic, parts deliveries, build bay organization and talking to key stakeholders. Historical data relating to build trends and machine stay durations was also analyzed. Days of thorough research yielded opportunities for improvement: from underutilized items or spaces like inventory shelving and aisle ways to re-purposable areas and better organized layouts, the group explored the impact of each improvement idea on current production, quality, efficiency as well as return on the investment. Positioning areas with significant back-and-fourth travel in closer proximity would minimize traffic and save employee time. Additionally, devoting an uninterrupted space to manufacturing would allow the flexibility to better house any “mix” of machines and better accommodate large and complex system layouts during build, QA testing and customer demonstrations.

The result of the event: an impressive 20% increase in manufacturing space allocations, enabling us to house, on average, an additional 23 machines on the floor at any given time. Ultimately, the changes equate to a superior experience for our growing customer base: we can maintain our high quality standards without having to prolong lead times due to increasing demand.