June 8th, 2012
True to Lean Principles
It is not easy for New Zealand manufacturers to compete against the world, mainly because our staff costs and overheads are more expensive than countries like China and Mexico.
However, what we can’t compete against, we can overcome with a smart and agile workforce with a knowledge of lean principles.
is the world’s leading manufacturer of livestock weigh scale systems and milk metering equipment. They’re also world leaders in electric fencing and traditional fencing tools, and they’re based right here in New Zealand.
In 2007, Tru-Test embarked on their lean journey through a continuous improvement programme known as TRACC
. Competenz joined the collaboration in 2010.
“What Competenz brings in is a nationally recognised qualification that reflects the effort of every employee” says Jeff Tuffnell, training provider for Tru-Test group,
“The Competenz Unit Standards for Competitive Manufacturing
aligned with what TRACC is trying to achieve.”
Over the years Tru-Test has reaped the benefits of their training, and more importantly employees can quote just as many improvements as their management team.
“The end result of this training is huge – our factory floor reduced by half, while improving output efficiency,” says George Hayes, Front Liners Team Leader.
“Products that used to have two days of manufacturing lead time now only take two hours.”
“Electronic circuit change over used to take two hours, now it’s only ten minutes” says Rosemary Song, Mover’s TRACC Work Group Team Leader.
“Our customers can order products and they will be dispatched on the same day – much faster than waiting for overseas suppliers – that can take months.”
Halving the size of their factory floor is no easy feat – and is one that Tru-Test is particularly proud of. Fred Hanson, Manufacturing Manager, explains the key drivers behind this achievement are the people, not the process.
“Our workers implement two “Kaizen” (improvements) a month, and the impacts have been enormous – within a year we were saving up to hundreds of thousands.”
“During training, we demonstrate an actual production process and ask employees to identify waste. They can do that very quickly now.”
“The workers’ competitive knowledge eliminates the need for superfluous inspectors and checks. We have great quality control and ultimately products end up cheaper than other countries.”
Both Fred Hanson and Jeff Tuffnell are strong believers that New Zealand can compete globally in manufacturing, not only in niche products but also commodity products, given that the workers are well trained.