ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- The depot’s Cleaning, Finishing and Painting Division is one of several areas on the installation currently going through Lean initiatives.
Lean is a continuous improvement process, which focuses on finding and eliminating waste in processes. That waste often comes in the form of time, which is one of the areas currently under review in the division.
Though they are only in the beginning phases of the Lean event, Wilburn Sparks, the division chief, sees improvement.
“Lean has helped us get the line moving more productively,” said Sparks.
The biggest changes have been ones to assist the employees with planning their work.
One of the first changes made, in February, was to add a lane for work to be performed that day and one for the next day, known as “Today” and “Tomorrow” lanes.
“The employees can see what they are working on tomorrow,” said Sparks.
After that, lanes in the paint area were color-coded, using signs which change as production needs change.
“A lot of painting depends upon the prep,” said Sparks. “Prep is what takes the most time.”
With lanes color coded and dated, employees can move parts which need to be coated with the same paint color together, ensuring longer, more efficient paint runs.
“We can already see a difference in the time and the quality,” said Toney Twymon, one of the depot’s paint leaders. “If everything is running and everything is going well, we are doing well.”
The division has seen an uptick in production, despite numerous personnel changes.
Approximately half of the employees currently working in the division were hired in the last year.
“Yet, we are still able to produce more conveyances than we were in January,” said Sparks, adding the painting area is able to complete about 450 conveyances a week.
According to Twymon, employee buy-in of the changes made through the Lean project has contributed to the increase in production.
“Employees are seeing the improvements and buying into the changes,” he said.
The Lean initiatives are going hand-in-hand with renovation projects in the largest of the division’s facilities, which gave employees a new breakroom and gave the production area new sandblast booths, new paint lines, new sandblast tables and new cleaning vats.
“We gained one more line, which has essentially given us one extra day a week of production,” said Sparks, explaining the division now produces as much in five days as it previously did in six.
The new breakroom holds at least three times more people than their former break area, which helps with employee morale.
“It gave us more space and made employees more comfortable,” said Twymon.