April, 2024

Driving Continuous Improvement at Weidmann Medical Through Lean Manufacturing

At Weidmann Medical Technology, our implementation of Lean production practices has led us to discover a brand-new management approach underpinned by values of transparency, efficiency, and agility. What started out as the adoption of Lean management methodologies in our medical manufacturing has grown beyond our shop floor management (SFM) system, and we’re now on a journey of company-wide cultural transformation that benefits our customers, partners, and employees.

What is Lean

Lean is based on the kaizen philosophy of “change for the better” or “improvement” through incremental changes that create a big impact. Created in Japan in the 1970s to optimize automobile production, the methodology has since been successfully adopted in many industries.

Facing the problem: medical manufacturing without Lean

As an independent life science partner, we heavily rely on our SMF system to fully support our efforts to deliver industry-leading injection molding solutions. Prior to embracing a Lean medical manufacturing approach at Weidmann Medical Technology, our shop floor operations ran reasonably smoothly, however there were some aspects that we felt could be improved.

The SFM system was not being managed by those who were responsible for it and internal updates on our medical device manufacturer operations were shared through informal consultations without KPIs. As communication channels operated organically, conversations didn’t always result in trackable, action-oriented measures. We noticed that teams were receiving slightly different information, and although this didn’t greatly impede team performance, we recognized that it probably didn’t help much either.

Occasionally, our attention was drawn away from optimizing our medical device manufacturing processes, and we became quite good at putting out fires. To prevent fires from starting, we needed to evolve our existing organizational structure into one that would be lean, agile, and transparent.

Above all, we saw an opportunity to improve our knowledge sharing systems and production management approaches so that they performed more consistently and could enable us to thrive. We want to empower our employees at all levels to achieve their goals on a day-to-day basis.

Shifting towards a Lean methodology

We began by establishing a common understanding on what the future shop floor management system should look like. Top management set out a clear framework based on the company’s objectives, helping us ensure that goals were prioritized properly. Using this framework, we set targets for each department, focusing on a maximum of three meaningful key figures to help make effective assessments.

We have replaced our informal communication channels with structured, cascaded shop floor meetings where key information is shared. We introduced daily voting to help solve problems and implement measures to review day-to-day progress. The new communication system was now a Lean process that created a basis for holistic information sharing and action implementation at all levels.

Scaling Lean production

We took into account the different needs of managers and their teams and the rollout took place in stages, allowing us to implement the new system effectively across the shop floor. Employee participation was fundamental, so we facilitated intensive goal-oriented workshops that provided theoretical and practical training. After the workshops ended, training continued, led independently by departments, with managers coaching their teams to ensure sustainable implementation.

Although the changes were relatively small, we took their implementation seriously and felt their impact on a large scale. In only a short period, our shop floor was transformed. We could now confidently focus our attention on our customers, with the knowledge that our new system fully supported our contract manufacturer operations. We hung up our fire-fighting gear and embraced our new, sustainable operational processes.

Our future with Lean

Our goal is to anchor our improved shop floor management practices firmly in the culture of Weidmann Medical Technology. Along with our values of quality, efficiency, and innovative technology that guide our manufacture of medical devices, we are now focusing on embedding a culture of improvement, with kaizen activities visible throughout the entire system.

Our current efforts have brought us great success and the next challenge for us is the introduction of a sustainable problem-solving process. This will begin with a pilot project at the Bad Ragaz plant, before gradual extension across the entire organization. We plan to roll out our Lean methodologies to all shop and office floors across our organization.

Our lean management approach provides the basis for a healthy environment in which the whole organization can grow. This enables us to establish ourselves as a leading medical technology partner in our industry.

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