For over 50 years, Onex has been serving the combustion and refractory needs of companies in Erie and the tri-state area. After starting as a small refractory distributor, our commitment to our customers has enabled us to steadily grow into a solutions provider offering a full range of products, services, and OEM industrial furnaces. Today, Onex uses continuous improvement techniques in order to grow.
Like many of you, we have experienced up and down cycles. During these challenging times, it is appropriate to reflect on what has been most effective over the long term. A few ideas that we always come back to are a commitment to continuous improvement, process optimization, and lean principles. Beyond the immediate benefit of cost reductions, these approaches also tend to help us focus on what is most important for the longer run. Not only do we apply these methodologies at Onex, but we also assist our clients.
Continuous Improvement Techniques
By now, you are no doubt familiar with terms like Lean. Kaizen. Agile. But, no matter how you say it, continuous improvement is a powerful way to make your existing processes, procedures, and workers more efficient and effective.
Onex has the benefit of deep industry experience with many clients. We can assess your unique operation and help you implement continuous improvement programs, processes, and training solutions to optimize your work. This also includes monitoring and using feedback to proactively address issues before they lead to a costly shutdown.
Organizational Culture is Important
We have found that an essential success factor is an empowered and trained team. Your employees are closest to the processes, products, and services and are one of your greatest assets. Some thoughts about how employees can contribute:
- Never underestimate an employee. Many great ideas come from those already working on the shop floor. They may see things every day that you don’t.
- Encourage employees to feel free to express concerns and potential solutions. Most workers will be excited to show you what they have learned on the job.
- Include them when it comes to decision making and implementation.
- Ask for their opinion on the results. “How have these changes helped or hurt your workload?”
Once you create a positive environment, your employees will be more comfortable reporting issues and innovating solutions. Then, it becomes much easier to make meaningful changes that last for the long term.
In addition to procedures and continuous improvement practices, the process of doing the work is often inefficient or prone to errors, failures, and ultimately waste and cost. Process optimization is commonly applied to manufacturing activities and is often enhanced through a continuous improvement culture. Process improvement and optimization includes assessing the flow from start to finish, removing extra steps, simplifying labor, predicting fluctuations, and enhancing communication to mention a few items.
It is important to note that process improvement can be applied anywhere and is not limited to the factory floor. We often see companies implement a Business Process Optimization strategy in times of change and business uncertainty like today. Similar to the manufacturing process, you assess your business management and strategic operations. Instead of continually creating a new business plan, you can achieve more organizational efficiency by evaluating existing processes, optimizing them, and measuring outcomes in a plan, do, check, act (continuous improvement) cycle. This creates greater consistency, compliance, and quality, which can help companies steer through uncertain times.
An Real Life Example
For example, today, we are experiencing a substantial drop in oil prices. With cheaper fuel, rail transportation loses some of its cost advantage vs. trucking or flying. The direct implication for our business is that there is less demand for steel and increase demand for aluminum used in automotive and aerospace. Using this information, some of you may be able to make changes to your operation to enhance capabilities and handle more aluminum.
The process is simple, using data and market information, consider the opportunity for you:
- Determine what processes could be optimized to leverage that new opportunity. (This would be an excellent opportunity to ask employees what they think!)
- Study the situation to identify waste. How could this process be improved?
- Put the plan into action! Remove unnecessary steps or complicated procedures.
- The results are in, time to see if the plan worked.
Most importantly, remember you are not alone! Onex can help you implement these business methods through our expert consulting services.
Onex’s 50 plus years in the industry makes us a top choice for your partner in quality and success. If you want to jump on this current change but are not sure how to get started, Onex will help you implement a PDCA (plan-do-check-act) project cycle to support a culture of continuous improvement. We will help develop a corrective hypothesis, support the implementation of the new method, evaluate the results, and adjust accordingly. Onex will help you implement continuous improvement techniques improving your performance in areas such as energy costs, reduced labor, and increased product quality.