Lean Enterprise & a Culture of Continuous Improvement
Over the past five years, the Midwest Fire team has worked hard to implement lean manufacturing processes and a culture of continuous improvement throughout our organization. In the manufacturing world, lean is a philosophical & methodical approach that strives to provide ever-increasing value to the customer through total employee involvement in the reduction of non-value-added activities & their associated cost (waste).
The Midwest Fire team has transformed & improved virtually every process inside the company. Companies that are successful with lean have deep understanding of the ‘why’ behind lean – for us this is simple. Lean allows Midwest Fire to perform at our best for our customers. This proven operating system allows us to produce exceptionally reliable trucks at very competitive prices.
A few of the key initiatives have included:
- Kanban – a system for the manufacturing of our trucks. The Kanban system is a ‘pull’ system meaning the Midwest Fire team builds trucks based solely on customer demand. We base our material purchases on what the customer demands. This allows Midwest Fire to be nimble & responsive to the customer & to provide a unique hands-on customer experience throughout out build process.
- 5S mindset – the 5S’s are sort, set in order, shine, standardize & sustain…we add a 6thS which stands for safety. Our facility is professional, orderly, clean & safe…it’s how we operate.
- WeMAD – (We Make A Difference) – this is Midwest Fire’s customized simple improvement plan. Team members are encouraged to notice, document & suggest simple improvements as they work. Our employees submit hundreds of simple improvement ideas each year. This gives each employee a voice in the improvement process & it provides the foundation for our culture of continuous improvement.
- Standardized Work – work is carefully organized & standardized & paced to the rate of demand by the customer. We focus on optimizing the use of resources & implementing best practices in order to deliver best productivity & quality while making the job easier & safer for the employee.
Unfortunately, lean manufacturing is very often misunderstood. It’s seen as a cost-cutting methodology designed to squeeze more out of employees. When implemented for the right reasons & with an ‘everybody, everyday’ mindset, nothing could be further from the truth. Midwest Fire is proud of the transformation & improvement we have made by embracing & implementing lean manufacturing. Companies that successfully implement lean often describe it as being on a journey. Our lean journey has been a challenging but successful one to this point & we are excited to see where it takes us in the future. We know this, lean has helped us to become a better, stronger, faster, more nimble company that is well-positioned to & focused-on performing for its customers.