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MYERS CASE STUDY
From Loss to Profitability; Our Journey to Become Lean
By Rick Smith
you ever wonder about the real benefits of Lean, about the powerful
transformation Lean can make in a company's future? Here's what
John Cutt, CEO of Myers Container Corporation, has to say:
“There is not a single person in our organization who
has not embraced with enthusiasm the Lean strategy at every location.
Once introduced to the program they have thoroughly accepted its
principles. Every manager, every employee in the plants is very
anxious to implement Lean and once they have tasted of success there
is no holding them back.
Our reconditioning plants are clean and bright, as
are our new drum plants. Equipment and the plants themselves are
being painted and maintained. 5S has taken control of offices, plants
and yards and we get better each day.
But more than anything else there is a spirit of camaraderie
and competition that has never existed previously. We are so proud
of all of our employees.
One thing I can assure you of at this stage of the
game is that we'll never go back to being what we were. It has become
our way of life.”
Myers Container Corporation was founded in 1984 as a privately-held
company. With over 250 dedicated people working at 8 U.S. locations,
their goal to make Myers Container the best container company in
2004 was a dreadful year for Myers. Rising steel prices, coupled
with other economic conditions, drove off any hope of profitability.
Late that year, the Myers management team decided to take strong
action to restore profitability. Kyle Stavig, then Vice President
of Sales, learned about TCA's work with Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing
of Bend, Oregon. He contacted TCA and invited us to visit their
drum manufacturing plant in Portland to see if similar performance
improvements could be realized.
For every journey, there is also a map – or, in this case,
a series of maps – directing the path to continuous improvement.
Myers’ first map was a current state Value Stream
Map. This map indicated the constraints to throughput and identified
profit-eating cost drivers.
With this map in-hand, TCA then led 24 members of the Myers
management team through a series of workshops and planning sessions.
Together, the team learned how to use the tools of Lean to improve
throughput, collapse lead times, reduce costs, improve quality,
and restore profitability.
As part of those sessions, the management team created a future
state Value Stream Map. Operationally, the future state showed how
the company would operate with all of the constraints to flow removed
and all of the operations functioning in a least waste
In addition, Myers management went through a mini-strategic planning
process to redefine the operations mission and formalize
objectives. The Myers leadership team could now see how
to transform the company so that they could restore profitability.
quickly can we make this happen?” was their next question.
A plan was needed to transform the business from the
current state to the desired future state. To accomplish this, TCA
introduced the Transformation Map or T-Map. It visually depicts a 3 year
process (a series of improvement projects and kaizen events) for
achieving the objectives of our operations mission over
the next 3 years.
With T-Map in hand, the management team continued their journey.
Armed with a vision of the future, guided by a clear strategy, and
practicing sound leadership skills learned from the TCA workshops,
they set out to transform Myers Container through a series of improvement
projects and kaizen events. A holisti” approach to
improvement was used. Each improvement project was aimed at developing
a customer-focused workforce; teaching the proper
use and application of the Lean tools to improve quality,
enhance throughput, increase productivity and drive off all non-value
added activities to reduce cost and improve profitability.
Key Lessons Learned
Kyle Stavig, now President of Myers, sums up his company's Lean
journey: “Preaching continuous improvement is a way of life
for us now. Getting our people together, capitalizing on the collective
intellectual knowledge and improvement ideas of everyone has been
the key to our success.”
Just 16 months into Myers Lean journey, Kyle and
Jim Bise, Myers’ Lean Coordinator, shared some key lessons
they learned. Their lessons are valuable for any Lean executive:
• Always begin at the top of the business with a strategic plan.
• Update the future state Value Stream Map often.
• Manufacturing cells are great for manufacturing, but they work
other places too. Implement cellular concepts in all areas of the
• Keep score of key performance
metrics to focus Lean improvement projects on business areas
that require attention and improvement.
• Maintain a Continuous Improvement List in every cell and department.
• Conduct as many Kaizen Events as you can.
• Use the 5S system to clean-up the facility and
John Cutt recently summed up the results Myers Container
has achieved through Lean:
“By the way, we ended up with a very good year in 2005
thanks in good measure to TCA’s guidance and direction. We
achieved nearly every major goal we had established for ourselves
back in the early days of 2005 including a 50% reduction in our
inventories, increased revenue per employee by over 23% and, finally,
reduced the number of employees by 15%, all through attrition. Now
there's a success story for you.”
As the Myers management team can attest, a journey of a thousand
miles begins with the first step. In Myers case, the company found
itself facing continued losses and unable to respond effectively
to difficult economic conditions. A step in the right direction
made the difference, and led to immediate and sustained profitability.
Congratulations to the entire Myers team of dedicated and committed
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