Just right-size it!

Mike Wroblewski, Batesville Casket Company
Tags: talent management

Just right-size it!

By Mike Wroblewski, Batesville Casket Company

One of the challenges in kaizen is getting people to see beyond their perceived boundaries to what is possible. One example is using right-sized equipment. Many times, we end up buying the best value of equipment for the money with as many bells and whistles possible, just in case we need them in the future. With this thought process, we end up with larger equipment with unused capabilities than what we actually need.


Driven by our “finance thinking”, we can take advantage of our newly acquired, multi-purpose machine by herding more parts to it. How many of us have actually searched for parts to load up the capacity of these types of machines? This helps pay for the machine and proves (on paper, at least) that we really needed it. Agreed?

Using larger equipment – including workbenches, tables, fixtures, etc. – beyond what is the absolute minimum required for the current process is muda (a.k.a waste). Many of us understand this concept and attempt to use the right-sized equipment principle. As lean thinkers, we also prefer to utilize small, dedicated machines to prevent process bottlenecks and separate our process flows.

A perceived boundary we struggle with in using right-sized equipment is only seeing what is offered. Most equipment manufacturers do not customize their equipment design for our particular process. As a result, we end up selecting the best off-the-shelf piece of equipment closest to our needs.

Here lies a great opportunity. The two best alternatives are to: 1) build your own equipment; or 2) modify off-the-shelf equipment to fit your needs.

As seen in the above photo, at Batesville Casket Company, we believe in right-sizing equipment to our needs. It took a moment to realize (see the possibility) that we were not limited to the standard table saw size. In this example, we cut down (modified) a table saw to reduce the foot print to the smallest as possible for this line. This is just one kaizen implemented helping us reduce the overall floor space by 42 percent a few weeks ago.

About the author:
Mike Wroblewski started his lean journey with instruction in quick die change from Shigeo Shingo. Mike is currently the lean sensei at Batesville Casket Company in Batesville, Ind. He also writes a blog called “Got Boondoggle?” featuring lean and Six Sigma topics. Check it out at http://gotboondoggle.blogspot.com/. Mike will be a featured lean track speaker at Noria Corporation’s “Lean, Reliable and Lubed” conference, May 20-22, 2008, in Nashville, Tenn. Learn more about this event by visiting www.driveyourplant.com.