Article By : SME Posted By : Kevin Meyer
The Technicolor facility in Livonia, Michigan, serves the worldwide entertainment industry with VHS replication, packaging, and logistical services. Because consumers have embraced the DVD format faster than predicted, Technicolor Livonia has been forced to operate more efficiently to remain competitive in a shrinking VHS market.
Three years ago Technicolor started to implement their version of the Toyota Production System, a lean manufacturing strategy some of the management had been trained in. After they were trained, they tried out lean tools like 5S, value stream mapping, and visual work instructions. Disappointingly, the tool-focused, management-driven activity did not deliver the expected results. Some improvements deteriorated and progress was difficult to maintain.
A year later, when Technicolor managers realized their lean activities were not properly focused, they decided to tap into employee ideas. Norman Bodek became the coach and trainer for the program.
Bodek’s idea-generating principles are simple: First ask the operator what would make the job easier, and then try to make the person submitting the idea its implementer.
Bodek found that Technicolor managers knew what to do with employee ideas, but they were simply not doing it. As they implemented Bodek’s recommendations, ideas began flowing. Technicolor was soon on target to reach a goal of two implemented ideas per employee each month. Now, thousands of ideas have been implemented, making work easier.
Technicolor found that lean won’t succeed just because some employees know lean techniques, but that lean works when you engage people at all levels of your organization.
The TIP Program
In the early stages of the improvement process, Technicolor started a suggestion program called the “Technicolor Improvement Program,” or “TIP” for short. After some initial disappointments in the number and quality of ideas submitted, and training in how to motivate employees to submit tips, management saw more forms being filled out and better ideas being submitted.
The TIP Process
In the Technicolor idea process, an idea is written down on a TIP form. The simple forms ask only a few questions:
- Describe the situation before and after the improvement.
- Describe the intended effect of the proposed change.
- Give your name and the date.
With each tip submitted in writing, Technicolor can count them to see if it is reaching its goal of two tips per month per employee. Response to the program has grown. In 2001, when Technicolor launched the TIP program, employees implemented 113 tips. In 2003, Technicolor received over 12,000 tips and implemented 5,628 of them.
This huge increase in the number of tips has helped to provide cost savings for Technicolor clients, more satisfying work for Technicolor employees and a much improved work culture that benefits everyone.
The TIP Program in Action
Geoff Coseo, a tape loading technician, and other employees used TIPS to help quiet a noisy vacuum system. Coseo described the situation:
The system recycles the shrinkwrap from videotape packaging. Plastic is peeled off the cassettes by de-wrappers in the in-feed area. The material goes through a blower and is sent to a baling unit where it is recycled.
The system worked well but created a lot of noise. The employee team and engineers made tests and found that the noise was in excess of 106 dB in some areas. OSHA requires hearing protection where noise levels are over 85 dB.
The TIPS program was a rich source of solutions. The first idea implemented was to put a muffler on the air exhaust, which reduced the dB level a bit, but not enough. A consultant suggested encasing the blower units in a sound-proof room, which would have cost over $35,000, with no guarantee it would work.
Another idea was to cover the accumulator with sound-absorbing blankets. This helped isolate the sound, but the noise still vibrated through the system, so it did not help much. Other ideas were to isolate the pipes, buy rubber hangers for the pipes or vibration mounts for the blower unit, and buy a sound-canceling system.
Persisting despite the setbacks, the team changed the fan speed. Slowing the fan and reducing its RPMs lowered the noise level to the team’s target — 30 dB — at little cost. Tips came from managers, hourly employees, engineers, and tape loaders. Employees had the satisfaction of solving the problem and making Technicolor a much nicer place to work.