Wausau Equipment Company: a Lean Journey

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Wausau Equipment Company has had some success with Lean implementation in their MSD division, but they face challenges such as a shortage of experienced labor and reliable equipment, employee resistance to change and low morale. To improve further, they can introduce the Kanban system to manage inventory, reduce setup time, idle time and rework/scrap to increase OEE. The company needs to expand Lean thinking to other divisions and train their staff to think and work in Lean methodology. Defining each employee’s work responsibilities and statistically interpreting Lean’s accomplishments into recognition of each division’s effort can keep the employees motivated. Quality at the source can keep production activities at an acceptable level. Wausau should continue to track the result of Lean process and recognize its success to inspire managers and employees to continue working on Lean process.

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Lean has had some success at Wausau. What should the management’s next steps be in: a) Making further Lean improvements Wausau is facing a shortage both in experienced labor and reliable equipment. They rarely hire new employees, and older employees are close to retirement. Furthermore, Wausau generally has a culture suspicious of change, and employees and managers are resistant to Lean progress. Employees are not motivated to accept lean or previous management methodologies because of the feeling of insecurity, and employee morale is low.

Wausau is facing other challenges as well. Along with the labor issues, equipment downtime is increasing, and OEE is decreasing. Also, inventory is high, and the company even lost some customers because of slow response time and poor delivery service. The high volume of inventory takes resources in cash flow, maintenance labor, space and operations management. To reduce WIP materials, the Kanban system could be introduced for inventory management. The Kanban system is easy to install and understand.

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It responds to MSD’s demand without taking much extra resource or labor. Wausau is also experiencing issues with the manufacturing process. Figure 1 shows major areas of total loss. Figure 1 Figure 1 According to Figure 1, setup time, idle time engineering or qualification losses and rework or scrap contribute 73. 53% to total losses. According to Appendix 1, SU loss has been reduced by 0. 5 out of 1. 8 hours per shift, Idle time has been reduced by 0. 2 out of 0. 56 hours per shift, respectively. OEE at present is 60%.

There is space for further improvement. The consulting company, Lean Dynamics, deployed lean process in short terms so that employees can be convinced of its power. However, further improvement requires the lean improvement cycle to be implemented over time. Because Lean has been proved to be effective in MSD, Wausau’s next step should be expanding lean thinking to other divisions. Part rework is reduced by 70%. According to the running chart, at one point, rework is only 1, compared to 365 before Lean was introduced, but the tendency is unstable.

To sustain its achievements, Wausau has to continue LP’s 20-week project and meld it with its own culture. No operator/staffing, schedule imbalance, return compacts and oversize holes are the starred items in figure Idle time possible causes. No operator/staffing and schedule imbalance can be eliminated by re-planning process layout. Return compacts and oversize holes are concerned with quality. MSD should deploy quality at the source in its manufacturing process. Quality at the source can keep production activities at acceptable value added level. What should the management’s next steps be ) In the implementation of Lean? The current lean implementation is assisted by Lean Dynamics.

However, to make continuous improvements, Wausau Equipment Company has to train its staff to think and work in lean methodology, starting with Vice President Patterson. Patterson and his MSD had an unsuccessful experience with another consulting company, which lead to his reluctance and biased view of lean thinking. The Lean Journey has achieved significant success in reducing part rework, which is an important index of quality (rework/scrap contributes 11. 6% to total OEE loss). Wausau should track the result of lean process and recognize its success to show what it has accomplished so that managers and employees can be inspired to continue working on lean process. It is noticed that most MSD did not have firsthand knowledge of the process. Defining each employee’s work responsibilities should be the first step to further improvements. To keep its employees motivated, Wausau should statistically interpret Lean’s accomplishments into recognition of each division’s effort.

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Wausau Equipment Company: a Lean Journey. (2017, Jan 04). Retrieved from


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