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Making Productivity Gains Through Material Handling and Kaizen

The effects on productivity when using Kaizen to engage material handlers

At Faith Technologies, continuous improvement and innovation are at the heart of our work. Through focused, gradual improvements over a nine-year span, Faith has increased primary, or value-added, time from 39 percent to 66 percent. This represents a 69 percent improvement in time spent on what the customer pays us to do, while the construction industry overall has stagnated at 42 percent primary time throughout the same period.

These efforts have put Faith at the forefront of productivity within the industry. Perhaps the most recognizable effort pioneered by Faith’s Productivity Team to reduce waste is our 30’|:30 initiative; Faith’s employees have adopted a productive mindset, keeping all materials within 30 feet or 30 seconds of their task areas. As we continue to dedicate ourselves to increasing productivity, we are now implementing Strive for 5’|:05, using 5 feet or 5 seconds as our goal. We recognize that new initiatives and techniques must be culturally adopted across the organization to continuously improve.

The manufacturing industry has many key cultural components that Faith is adopting to become more productive, including Kaizen continuous improvement processes, which my colleague, Larry Baker, wrote about in an earlier blog article. All employees who perform work must have the authority and responsibility to stop their work when they recognize a deficiency, or opportunity to improve a process, and to provide recommendations to implement improvements.

The heavily integrated use of detailed, structured logistics and material handling plans in manufacturing has also paid dividends in productivity. Successful manufacturing ventures use material handlers to assist in inventory replenishment, non-value-added tasks, and next task setups, permitting line workers to maintain their focus on the task at hand. While a construction site is not an assembly line, implementing a well-coordinated logistical effort can significantly increase productivity. When electricians have all materials and tools made available for their task, with a material handler integrated within their crew to assist in replenishment, task setup and support, it eliminates excess movement about the job site and increases productivity and safety.

Faith’s Productivity Team has undertaken an effort to demonstrate the value of logistics and material handling support using Kaizen results. Throughout 2018, the team has performed short duration Kaizen improvements during Productivity Time Studies (PTS) on job sites, assisting electricians in identifying and recording possible improvements to a task. The productivity specialist then engages the studied crew, their foreman or lead person, and a material handler in determining and implementing any process improvement, usually in 20 minutes or less. After the suggested improvements are made, a second study of the same task is completed, with results shared with the crew to provide immediate feedback on the implemented process improvement.

The results of these short events have been overwhelmingly positive. On average, Kaizen improvements with material handling support have increased primary time more than 21 percent (60 percent to 73 percent) and have decreased waste 80 percent (10 percent to 2 percent). Our data has also shown a 70 percent average increase in worker output on value-added tasks. A major factor in this increase has been the ability of the material handlers to take the electricians’ focus off logistical efforts, allowing them to fully focus on installation tasks. Most importantly, the team has recognized that anyone on a job site can conduct a Kaizen; it doesn’t require a Productivity Specialist!

Our Productivity team is prepared to capitalize on two opportunities to further effect change on Faith’s culture: training field leaders to utilize Kaizen, and facilitating the integration of material handlers within crews to support our Strive for 5’|:05 efforts with fully supplied task areas. In 2019, we’ll continue to challenge our crews to utilize Kaizen and material handling more efficiently to decrease waste and increase safety and job site productivity.