Building Lean Culture for Continuous Improvement | Karcher North America
Karcher North America, located in Camas, Washington, is a world leader in the production of hot and cold water pressure washers. Their extensive line includes over 100 different industrial and commercial pressure washers. The Camas plant employs roughly 250 people.
Already familiar with lean production system strategies, Karcher knew that a stronger commitment to Lean Enterprise would help the organization improve efficiency. The plant had experienced limited success with lean strategies in terms of sustainability. Workplace organization still lacked system balance, production cells functioned in isolation, and production time between cells was out of sync. Lean metrics were in place, but they were not directly tied to process improvement, quality yield, inventory turns and environmental waste and energy.
Karcher wanted to develop a lean culture to support continuous improvement in the company. It needed to build a common language around lean principles that could reach the entire organization, including limited English speakers. The Columbia River Economic Development Council, along with the Workforce Development Council, encouraged plant leaders to meet with Impact Washington. Impact WA helped facilitate Karcher’s access to grant funding to support the implementation of a thorough Lean Enterprise Transformation.
Impact Washington held a week-long lean training seminar to launch the culture change needed to sustain lean efforts at the facility. A course in Lean English Essentials was provided for limited English speakers and a Value Stream Mapping exercise revealed opportunities for improvement to be addressed through future kaizen improvement events.
Impact Washington’s team of specialists set to work. Kaizens were held in manufacturing areas around the plant to improve processes for material handling, customer service, and three assembly lines. The Washington Department of Ecology participated in one of the Kaizens, aiding Impact Washington and Karcher in identifying and eliminating some energy and waste costs. In partnership with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, five Karcher employees became bronze-certified Lean Champions in the Lean Enterprise Certificate Program.
Karcher is now ISO14001 certified. The visual management of production processes is more transparent and accessible to line workers and supervisors and the 5S workplace organization system (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain) is thoroughly implemented throughout the plant. New standards are in place to audit and sustain lean activities. Plant leaders are committed to continual improvement. The company will hold one Kaizen event per quarter, provide additional Lean 101 classes in the upcoming quarter, and use a 3P process for new product introduction. To build training expertise in Standard Work, Karcher will also use Training Within Industry (TWI). Karcher plans to engage Impact Washington in its next phase of lean implementation.
- 24% increase in sales
- $1.6M in cost savings
- Operational efficiency: 24% increase
- Investment in plant/equipment and workforce: $500,000