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Case Study for An Aerospace MRO Company - Building Foundation for Operational Excellence

Posted on April 11, 2017 in 5S

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This multi-national company is involved in the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of aerospace spare parts. Its parent company with its headquarters in Europe has embarked on the journey of Lean Manufacturing and has reaped significant benefits to its operations and bottom line. The directive from the headquarters was also, for the facilities in the various regions to adopt a continual improvement programme via Lean Manufacturing.

The company located in one of the South East Asia countries has embarked on this continual improvement journey before but did not experienced much success. The 5S programme that was introduced was not sustainable and went through a slow backsliding to old ways. Soon the workplace became cluttered, disorganized and significantly hampered productivity. Another challenge is the work culture whereby accountability and achievement of quotas are less controlled and emphasized.

Bearing in mind such challenges and obstacles, a dedicated Continual Improvement Program (CIP) department was developed and tasked to champion organisation wide improvement activities. Strategies were put in place to emphasize not only ‘hardware changes’ (operation systems) but also ‘software changes (work culture and attitudes). Buy-ins of the change from the process owners is critical.

The CIP department under the direction of its chief executive officer decided to re-launch the 5S programme. The justification is based on the following consideration:
  • Pressing need as productivity is low
  • Negative impressions to customers during site visit
  • 5S is relatively easier to understand and adopt
Significant and detailed amount of time was spent strategising and planning for the transformation and attaining sustainability. The results – a 3 year programme and the approached was established and agreed by all process owners.

The programme kicked off the 5S programme with much fanfare with official launch and declaration of commitment and policy by the top management. Subsequently, company-wide training was held by external trainers to enhanced acceptance, buy-ins to develop a common and standardised understanding of 5S. The width and depth of the organisational personnel underwent customised, training relevant to their roles and responsibilities in a 5S programme.

Once the training was completed, the execution of the 5S programme was done via a Blitz Event. Blitz Event is a concept whereby improvements are executed at a fast, focused and intense pace. A disorganised and unproductive workplace can be transformed in a matter of 3 to 7 days. Together with the external operational excellence consultants, a 6 days Blitz Event was developed as a pilot project. This event approach enables accelerated practical learning and changes can be realized rapidly. In addition, this approach also enhances buy-ins.

Blitz Kaizen Event Chart

The results were amazing – total transformation.

  • Organized Workplace  – a place for everything

  • Smooth Flow – straight line and work status visible

  • Increased output by about 20%

  • Happy and motivated process owners

Despite the initial success, there were still some sceptics and resistance to the 5S programme.  A total of 10 Blitz Events were held.  By the time the Blitz Event completed the 3rd project, there were a lot of converts on board the 5S programme. Questions were directed at the CIP coordinators on when would be their turn and also why their sections are not listed in the Blitz Event projects. As a result, an update and re-planning was necessary to expand the list for 10 events to 17 events.

Wow! What an amazing turnaround! Not only was there hardware transformation, there was also software transformation. The process owners have come to realize for themselves the benefits and validity of the 5S initiatives to their work and that they would desire it for themselves. A survey with the users of 5S initiatives have these to comment:

"The controlling of Incoming has become more visualize. Outgoing is also easier now." ~ Quality Controller

"The searching time has now reduced. My workstation is more efficient and clean" ~  Zone Leader

The Blitz Event approach took place not only just in the shop floor but was extended to the office environment as well. The reception was encouraging.

Once all the initial excitement of the Blitz Event was over, the challenging part then was  the long term sustenance.

The CIP did not let up. Audit teams were setup to monitor the maintenance and practice of 5S on a regular basis . It’s been 3 years since the last Blitz Events and to date, the 5S programme is still going strong.

In conclusion, the key to a successful continual improvement initiatives can be realized. It takes intentional focus and planning to details . Adopting a proper execution approach is also vital.  Finally, the involvement of every organisational level from the top to the operations can make a difference in moving forward. THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

Tags : Organisational Excellence Article

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