Top Plant 2012: Masco Cabinetry
Real time, just in time: Masco Cabinetry reduces lead time, waste, energy costs, and downtime.
Just as kitchen cabinets are more than just boxes with doors, manufacturing them requires more than just gluing and nailing pieces of wood together.
One cabinet manufacturer that takes making kitchen cabinets seriously is Masco Cabinetry in Sayre, Pa., the 2012 Plant Engineering Top Plant winner. Masco Cabinetry manufactures kitchen cabinets under the KraftMaid, Merillat, and QualityCabinets brand names. The Sayre facility manufactures fronts and doors for the KraftMaid cabinet line, and plans to soon add the Merillat and QualityCabinets lines. The Sayre facility is one of three component plants among the 12 in the Masco Cabinetry division.
“Being chosen as a Plant Engineering Top Plant is very rewarding and humbling,” said Robert Hawthorne, plant manager of the Masco Cabinetry plant in Sayre. “Most often, we focus only on day-to-day execution and project management, and don’t take a moment to step back and look at how far we have come and the changes we have made. The Sayre facility has come a long way, due mainly to the efforts of our entire 300-employee team. I feel proud and lucky to represent this excellent group.”
Steve White, manager of facilities, maintenance, and engineering, agrees. “We work as a plant, a whole; we’re not segregated,” said White. “We work together to reduce waste and to improve our efficiencies. We work as one.”
Communication is integral to the operation of the Sayre facility. “With about 300 employees here, if we want to win a tug-of-war, we need to have all 300 people on that rope,” said Mark Thurston, manager of continuous improvement. “One of the things that makes us successful is doing our very best to get all 300 people on that rope and pulling in one direction.”
Making cabinet components
Orders that the plant receives are entered immediately and scheduled electronically. This triggers an electronic cut bill, which is routed to the dimensioning department along with the schedule. From rough, dried lumber, the dimensioning department produces the sized sticks, or wood pieces, that will go into the final products. The cut bill contains the dimensions for each stick.
The schedule is also routed to the panel department. “We have three different panel designs,” said Margaret Miller, production supervisor. “Solid center panels are glued into blanks and are profiled downstream. Pressed panels have an MDF (medium density fiberboard) or particle board substrate with veneer pressed on both sides. Flat panels are thinner with veneer also pressed on both sides.”
The panels are then sanded and placed onto a cart, ready to be married up with the stiles and rails for the next step in the process. The sticks created in the dimension department are used to frame the door. In the cabinet-making industry, the sticks that create the outside frame of the door are referred to as stiles. However, before the sticks and panels are assembled, the sticks are routed to the molding department where their inside profiles and final dimensions are formed. The panels and sticks are then assembled and clamped. Once the glue has dried, the doors receive the outside profiles, are finish-sanded, and routed to shipping.
The doors and cabinet fronts are not stained or varnished at the Sayre plant. “That’s done during final cabinet or finished product assembly at another plant,” White said. “That way, the shells and components are stained the same color and shade.”
Reducing lead time
White said the lead time for making cabinet doors and fronts at the Masco Cabinetry Sayre plant was 21 days. “Now, our lead time is three days,” said White. “We made the three-day lead time our goal; we achieved it, and we’re still striving to improve. Eliminating inventory and reducing work in process has contributed significantly to our success in reaching this goal.”
The sticks are cut in real time from the cut bill. “They’re cut in real time so when the center panels come off the sanding line, the exact size and quantity of sticks are pulled from the dimension department and routed to the molder,” White said. “Our work in process between the sanding line and the clamps is four hours maximum. The longest work in process time is waiting for the solid panel glue joints to dry. It’s all about getting as close to just-in-time processing as possible.”
The Sayre plant has eliminated workflow buffers from its manufacturing processes because buffers increase work-in-process (WIP), inventory costs, and the cost of production. “We strive to have right-piece-flow or single-piece-flow as much as possible, which allows us to reduce inventory and lead times,” White said. “Actually, those buffers we used to have added to our lead time.”
Production lead Tim Porter agrees. “Adding inventory between machines allows time for production to continue if a machine goes down,” said Porter. “However, we’ve taken the Lean approach: prevent the breakdowns all together. If you have no work in process between your processes and something goes down, you will eventually affect both downstream and upstream processes anyway. So correct the failing process, and make it better. Work-in-process buffers may seem like ‘comfort levels,’ but they really just get in your way.”
Reducing WIP also reduces waste. “When the wood sits around in racks or around the machine lines, it could become damaged,” Miller said. “The sooner we can move it through, the fewer defects we have, the less motion we have, and the less inventory we have.” There is no finished stock inventory in the Sayre facility.
Identifying and eliminating waste is fundamental to Lean manufacturing. “Lean is an area that the Sayre plant thrives on,” said Hawthorne. “Our challenge is keeping all of the activity focused on our goal of ‘Free, Perfect, Now.’ Sayre makes heavy use of value stream mapping to keep all projects and Kaizens focused on improving the customer experience.
“About five years ago, equipment availability was a major challenge for Sayre. As our Lean culture grew, knowledge of TPM and a focus on repairing equipment to OEM specifications—or better—have really been the key improvement drivers,” Hawthorne added. “By involving operators in the events, and encouraging their involvement in the daily PMs, maintenance and operations have a constant focus on this metric with excellent results.”
When the Sayre plant started its Lean program, the teams explored Kaizen events and implemented Kaizen actions in the plant. “We started doing small events,” said Thurston. “We implemented a 5S program. Every month, we have a 5S audit to look for opportunities to improve a particular zone.”
The leadership team looked for ways to reduce the plant’s material costs. “Our biggest cost is wood,” Thurston said. “In 2011, we focused our value stream mapping on reducing wood waste. We looked at how much material is required to make a door and how much of the material was being thrown away. We looked at all the waste being thrown into the dumpsters and at that cost. When the teams investigated, they found that when the glued panels were produced, they were much larger than actually needed. The leftover wood from those panels was thrown in the dumpster. Now, we’re producing those pieces very close to size. After gluing, there’s minimal material being wasted.”
According to Thurston, the plant has a very strong Lean program. “It really has affected everybody on the plant floor,” Thurston said. “Being Lean is a never-ending goal. It may start with a goal, but success with Lean comes from the people—education, training, wanting to grow—it is a circle.”
During the first three quarters of 2012, Masco Cabinetry saved about $2 million in costs associated with process improvements. And of that $2 million, $500,000 was directly attributed to eliminating waste.
Maintaining equipment, production uptime
One-piece workflow and just-in-time manufacturing requires maximum equipment availability, which can create challenges for operations and maintenance departments. “The closer you get to just-in-time, the more integral machine uptime is,” said White. “If a machine is down for more than four hours, it could shut the entire plant down. So, the maintenance group must generate preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, and improve response times to ensure that downtime is minimized.”
The Sayre plant started implementing TPM in 2007. “That helped us considerably,” White said. “It reduced a lot of downtime. Every day, we had downtime on a piece of equipment that squares, clamps, and pins (fastens) the cabinet doors. We repeatedly had problems such as air leaks, manifold problems, out of square, pinning issues, and insufficient pin penetration.”
“With TPM, we got both operations and maintenance involved so we could work as a cohesive unit to keep the machines operational,” said White. “The operators were given tasks to perform each shift, at start-up and at shutdown. They were asked to handle some of the daily machine checks. Also, tool room personnel developed a program for pin gun maintenance to ensure they were working consistently every hour of every day. Between operations and maintenance, we developed a program for squaring checks to ensure that the machines were always square at the start and end of every shift.”
Thurston agrees that TPM has helped the plant significantly. “Our productivity was about 50% to 60% five years ago,” he said. “Now, we run between 75% and 80% productivity. Our productivity has increased because of TPM and the teams taking care of the equipment.”
The Sayre plant conducts annual energy audits, which focus on consumption of electricity, natural gas, and water. Lighting, compressed air, and production equipment are included in the electrical audits. In regard to energy management, Hawthorne said that a multi-layered approach has been critical. “At the plant floor level, our focus on ISO-14001 and its commitment to continuous improvement has us turning off lights and fans,” he said. “And at the management level, tools like ‘Eco-valuation’ (a corporate-led environmental analysis process) have helped us reduce some of our larger energy consumption, such as that from air compressors and machines.”
The Sayre plant installed an automated system to monitor its four air compressors: one 100 hp and three 200 hp units that operate in parallel. The monitoring system automatically turns compressors on and off in response to demand to maintain the required 92 psi. White said the control system runs the 100 hp unit first and then starts the 200 hp compressors one at a time as needed. “Based on our demand scheme, we run the 100 hp and only one of the 200 hp compressors at any given time,” he said.
Plant lighting has been changed from metal halide to T8 fluorescent. Motion sensors were installed in offices and point-of-use switches were installed for task lighting over equipment. A plant-wide energy management system monitors consumption and demand. Alarms provide immediate notification when parameters such as voltage, current, power, and demand setpoints are exceeded so that corrective actions can be taken quickly.
Dual-fuel biomass/NG boilers operate almost exclusively on wood waste. Minimal gas is used to provide hot water for restrooms and for office HVAC systems in winter. Sawdust from the manufacturing processes is removed by a dust collection system and goes into a silo along with scrap wood pieces. The silo feeds two 20,000 lb boilers, which heat the plant and provide steam for kiln drying operations.
“Both of these boilers are capable of using biomass or natural gas for fuel,” said Ed Bustin, manager of environmental, health, and safety. “We rarely run two of them—usually, it’s just one. The only time we run natural gas in the boilers is either when we have an extended biomass fuel feed failure or when we run out of materials in the silo, (usually around extended breaks when production doesn’t run, such as holidays). Our boiler technicians do an outstanding job managing this system, and the results are lower fuel cost and decreased greenhouse gas emissions.”
The Sayre plant has worked more than 1 million hours without a lost-time accident, a run dating back to March 2011. Continuous improvement is alive and well within the Sayre safety culture. The plant reduced recordable injuries in each of the last 12 years, leading to a current incident rate that is significantly below the national average for kitchen manufacturing.
“We had to get past normal,” Hawthorne said. “You can get used to seeing brooms leaning against equipment and pallets lying on the floor—they eventually seem normal there. However, these fairly normal situations can lead to unsafe conditions that must be noticed and corrected.”
Each employee receives initial safety training during the first week of employment. This training includes lock-out/tag-out, emergency evacuation, mobile equipment, PPE, hazard communication, general practices, and job-specific requirements. Examples of job-specific training include confined space entry, fall protection, respiratory protection, and advanced electrical training such as NFPA 70E standards.
Bustin said that regarding safety, the plant has a high level of employee engagement. “Every day starts with a review of five key metrics,” Bustin said. “Safety is always the first one that we review, and we have conversations about how to improve those metrics. And as a result, we have developed a culture where identifying ideas and identifying safety hazards is a daily event. We also have a group of employees, including managers, supervisors, leads, and our safety committee, that has one-on-one conversations with employees in the plant every day.”
Jack Smith is an industry consultant and writer, and served as an editor for Plant Engineering. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.