MARYSVILLE, Ohio—Step into the conference room of Veyance Technologies Inc.'s Marysville belting plant, and everything has a place. A projector and two speakers rest on the main table, each with an assigned spot carved out by three white boxes of tape and appropriately labeled.
Next to the arrangement is a fourth box, seemingly housing nothing. Look closer, and that box is labeled “cord,” and within it is a coiled up cable connecting the equipment to the appropriate outlet.
That's the kind of detail the firm brings to its manufacturing practices.
“If you can't do it in this room, you can't do it anywhere,” said Troy Nix, executive director of the Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers, the group Veyance hosted for a recent tour of its Marysville facility.
The 110,000-sq.-ft. facility rests on a 10 acre plot, was built in 1966 and employs 292. It currently utilizes about 65 percent of its total capacity, Plant Manger Chris Flint said. Marysville primarily produces fabric and steel belting. Belts account for about 45 percent of Veyance's sales, with mining being the primary industry.
And the firm brings the same attention to detail into every belt it makes, all the way down to the raw material supply, which it produces on a made-to-order basis. Veyance's facility in St. Mary's, Ohio, feeds Marysville with about 300,000 pounds of raw material per day, Flint said.
Veyance makes its fabric to order because if it ordered from a standard supplier, it may have to cut anywhere from 200 to 300 feet off to accommodate the non-standard sized belts it manufacturers. Producing raw materials on a made-to-order basis eliminates tons of unnecessary waste.
“Nobody wants to be the person putting that in the landfill,” Flint said. “Nobody wants to waste all that labor, time and raw material to stick something in a landfill because the customer called and wanted a 1,628-foot belt and not 2,000.”
In 2010, Veyance embarked on a company-wide lean initiative, and the Marysville facility has taken greater strides in reducing waste and maximizing its resources. It trained the work force and began hosting kaizen, or continuous improvement, events every other week with a kaizen meeting every Thursday focused on improving its manufacturing process.
Flint said the average savings per event is $83,000 with some events leading to savings approaching $300,000.
Flint refuses to manage from the office. In fact it's one of his biggest pet peeves. He and the rest of the Marysville executive team take two gemba—which in Japanese business means go see—walks per day, one at 7:30 a.m. and the other at 3:30 p.m. The staff will engage its employees and gather feedback on how to improve the manufacturing process.
“We had somewhat of a learning platform or a reason to change,” said Tim Jarvis, director of manufacturing. “With the company going into private equity, we had some tough goals that we had to satisfy in the very short term. We had to change our business philosophy, and we used lean to do that.”
The firm was divested by Goodyear to the Carlyle Group in 2007 and earlier this year Continental A.G.'s ContiTech business unit entered an agreement to buy Veyance from the equity group. That deal is projected to be finalized by the end of 2014, Jarvis said.
Less waste, more lean
Marysville held a kaizen event in 2011 designed to reduce the amount it spends on poly film per year. The film is used to protect the belt and the rubber during the manufacturing process, but it is not shippable to the customer and is removed after the belt is constructed. Veyance compacts it into cubes after the process and sends it back to be recycled.
The facility uses poly film to wrap some of the plies that it assembles for building the carcass of the conveyor belt to prevent the compound from sticking to the liners.
In 2010, the facility spent $1.2 million on poly as an operating supply. And while it reduced that cost to $997,000 in 2011, it wanted to do even better. The kaizen event set a goal of cutting 15 percent of that cost out of the process.
Marysville discovered it needed to understand better how much poly was required per application. In some cases, it was replacing some of its fabric liners—which are reusable—with poly film, thus consuming poly unnecessarily. Prior to the event, there was one standard size of poly for every type of belt, but in many cases the poly was too wide or too thick—sometimes not even touching the product.
By utilizing several sizes, Veyance reduced the amount of poly not being used on the product. The result was despite a 30 percent increase in output volume for 2012, the firm used 14 percent less poly and spent about $700,000 on the supply, saving nearly $300,000.
A more recent lean journey occurred in March, and it is still ongoing through the end of 2014. The facility found it was spending about $750,000 on waste product and set a goal to reduce that by 5 percent, Flint said.
It examined its core product types and found that one was creating about 70 percent of the total waste. Marysville worked to standardize the job, discovering that its four shifts were not doing the same process the same way.
While that solved some of the problem, the bigger issue was the liners, which hadn't been replaced on that particular line for at least 10 years. While they were still effective, the firm found if it spent $64,000 to replace them, it would see a return on its investment in a year.
Flint said the facility is already 75 percent toward its goal without having the new liners in place yet. That investment is expected in September.
Kaizen events don't always lead to these macro changes, and the process isn't always easy.
“There are days we have to look at each other and say "no, what you're doing is wrong.' We've had operators up in this room get pretty livid with each other because they both think that their method is the best way. But lean is about trying to find the least waste way to do what we do,” Flint said.