Lean Manufacturing at GDM

March 15, 2022

“When we think of Lean, we often think of efficiency management. At GDM, it’s about much more than that, it’s really about providing value to our customers.”

Michael Eden, Managing Director, GDM

GDM are strong advocates of, and local leaders in Lean manufacturing. We first adopted Lean processes nearly 20 years ago and have never looked back. By working in a Lean way, we work smarter, improve our processes, ensure reliability, and decrease our costs – all of which we can pass on to our valued customers.

What is Lean?

Lean is a systematic approach to identify and eliminate wasteful activities within an organisation through continuous improvement. By implementing Lean, an organisation can find ways to flow product at the true demand of the customer, creating value with the provision of the actual features and services customers expect, when they expect it.

Lean manufacturing is not a new concept, in fact it’s long history dates to the days of Ford’s production of the Model T in the early 1900s. Toyota then adapted Ford’s ideas, along with those of Taylor and Gilbreth to form the Toyota Production System.

Toyota took these ideas a step further to give employees involvement and a drive towards constant improvement. It is this continual drive for improvement which embeds Lean into an organisational culture and ensures greater customer value.

Today, some of the biggest manufacturers in the world implement Lean practices, from the initial leaders Toyota, through to Nike, Caterpillar Inc, Kimberley Clark Corporation and Intel to name just a few.

Lean is about empowering staff

Nike implemented Lean following criticism of working conditions in their offshore factories. During the 1990s they suffered a worldwide boycott of their products and were the poster child for the lack of corporate responsibility at the time.

Businesses typically adopt Lean to streamline production and improve efficiencies. Nike saw the benefits of Lean with its ability to encourage all staff to take responsibility for quality control and identify ways to improve overall production. Nike empowered their staff on the factory floor, improved conditions and increased skill sets which in turn, built value for their business.

The story of Nike emphasises that to be successful, Lean involves and respects employees in a continual drive to improve. Therefore, it is imperative that its part of an organisation’s culture.

At GDM, Lean is embedded in our culture. It is also about continuous improvement. Ever since we first implemented Lean nearly 20 years ago, our ability to adhere to it has hit peaks and troughs as we continue to strive for success.

“Two bins” The theory is you have two bins with the same part. Team members pick from the first bin until there is no stock, the empty bin will go behind the secondary filled bin. Before drawing from the second bin there is a barrier with a replenish card to start the replenishing process.

Lean takes time

As our production manager Steve Boult explains Lean isn’t something that happens overnight.

“We have learnt so much during our Lean journey and we are always looking at ways to develop and improve. We can do this by setting an example, and bringing staff along with us, then our Lean practices become every day,” he says.

“To improve efficiencies, we have regular training sessions for new staff in understanding and implementing Lean. Refresher courses and training are also completed by existing staff. Otherwise, it can be a challenge to sustain, and we could fall into old behaviours.”

“It’s all about building trust and confidence.”

All staff work to keep Lean thinking at front of mind in everything GDM does. Processes and systems are in place to empower each and every person at GDM. Staff can challenge the processes and ask the “whys” to suggest and implement improvements in their own working spaces.

Once a team member pulls a glue canister out of the red zone, they are responsible for pulling the Kanban card to trigger the replenishment process.

So what does Lean look like at GDM?

Every workday at GDM starts with a five-minute huddle. There the ‘table is set’, improvements for the day discussed and zero defects agreed upon. Staff are expected to clean up after themselves and rosters are created for areas such as the kitchen and bathrooms. Health and Safety is also addressed as all staff are expected to go home safe.

“We refer back to the 5S’s every day,” says Steve Boult.

“Sustain, sort, set in order, shine and standardise, if we can achieve these we are on the right track.”

Staff are encouraged to come up with new ideas and win stories are celebrated. These could range from named hooks for personal safety gear, through to traffic light systems to reorder stock. When you walk through GDM’s factory you will find everything is labelled and has its place. This type of order doesn’t stop at the factory floor either with Steve’s office immaculate with labelled locations for pens and stationery.

 Our 5S process in action. The standardisation in this photo is that the beam colour matches the thickness colour for steel.
 A Kamishibai board which is used as a visual control for performing daily audits within the manufacturing process, in this case it is around our daily preventive maintenance.

The benefits of Lean

By implementing Lean at GDM, we deliver quality products to our customers when they want it, and at great value. We strive to exceed customers’ expectations and that is why we focus on continuous improvement all day, every day.

Reducing defects is one of our primary goals, as each time a project with a defect is passed on to the next process, it can cost up to ten times more to resolve. For example, it’s easier and cheaper to solve a problem at the design phase, rather than at the manufacturing phase.

With streamlined production and improved efficiency, Lean manufacturing has wide ranging benefits for any organisation.

We find ways to reduce waste to:

  • Reduce rework
  • Deliver in full on time, within spec
  • Shorten timelines
  • Improve information flow
  • Standardise operating procedures
  • Create data integrity

Lean is all about working smarter, not harder. GDM’s “world class” culture is founded on our five pillars: Opportunity for Improvement (OFI), 5S, Health & Safety, Communications & Processes improvement. These all work together and are used in every aspect of our business.

The 5S’s at GDM

Chat with us about Lean

GDM are leaders in Lean, often called on to share our experiences in the manufacturing sector. Chat with our team today about the benefits of Lean and how Lean creates great value for customers.

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