Al Diggins, Chair, Treasurer and General Manager of Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium (EMC), could not be more pleased with the results of a two-year program designed to help Northern Ontario manufacturers enhance their productivity, competitiveness and business management capacity.
With a FedNor investment of $427,945, EMC rolled out Lean Management System (LMS) training and Productivity Cluster events in 2015 targeting senior management. The term ‘lean’ refers to an organized approach in running an organization that supports continuous targeted improvement by systematically implementing small, incremental changes in processes to improve efficiency and quality.
Diggins says EMC championed the program recognizing that there was a gap in training and support for Northern Ontario manufacturers. The programs for both LMS training and Productivity Cluster events consisted of regular learning sessions, class discussions, personalized coaching and consulting assistance.
“Initially,” Diggins said, “uptake was slow because the lean approach was new to many companies, so people were naturally skeptical. However, upon completion of the training, we had created a pool of believers, many of whom are ready for the next round.”
Digital Engineering of Thunder Bay was one of 57 companies that participated in the Productivity Cluster Program and encouraged its staff to take advantage of the training.
“For a long time we had realized that there was a definite need to improve our processes and drive efficiency,” shared Les Perrault, President of Digital Engineering. “The productivity events that we attended provided us with valuable information on how to evaluate our work flow and the tools that can be used to implement a continuous improvement program. Even more importantly, they have helped us understand the importance of creating an organizational culture that can motivate and engage our employees.”
EMC Lean Management System Workshops generated lots of interest across Northern Ontario.
“Knowing where to start is very important,” confided Diggins. “A lean advisor worked with companies and recommended what tools they needed to accomplish their goals, focusing on one specific area at a time. As part of this project, each company that participated in the LMS Training selected a project that would result in a minimum return on investment of $50,000.”
The results speak for themselves. Based on feedback from participating firms and managers, the LMS program generated significant return on investment, as well as significant economic, financial and employment benefits. In addition to boosting employee morale, enhancing staff engagement and reducing wasted time, the 10 companies that shared feedback cited initial annual savings of $10,000 to $499,000 depending on their area of focus.
“When we first started talking about Lean, staff really did not understand,” recalled Lorne McDonald, Production manager, Metso, Mining and Construction Technology. “In many cases, they feared headcount reductions or added work. However, over the last two years, we have seen great change. We now have visitors, both company employees from other sites and vendors, commenting on how much we have changed: for example, tool boards in place of large tool boxes and our safety stats are improving. We are now over 932 safe days. So, the question is why? It’s because people have an opportunity to suggest and implement ideas. It is truly a great opportunity to create ownership and pride!”
This project is but one example of the types of initiatives funded by FedNor that support of the federal Prosperity and Growth Strategy for Northern Ontario. Learn more about PGSNO.