Lean Management  

Clients’ satisfaction increased dramatically thanks to lean management. 

At Steelcase, 'lean management' is perceived as a holistic concept based on listening to and satisfying the customer. It includes lean in the office and lean manufacturing.

Steelcase Production System is a continuous improvement system based on standardized tasks, relying on streamlined workflows, where production is pulled to meet customer demand, and where the elimination of waste is a constant priority.

Our lean journey started in North America from 2001 in manufacturing, and from 2003 in the office. In Europe, we started in 2002 in manufacturing, and in 2008 in the offices.

All the departments of Steelcase consider customer satisfaction as their highest priority. Every action and project is analysed; if one action does not bring direct added value to clients it is either deleted or modified so that it has a positive impact on the final customer. To comply with this objective, training is key. In Europe, we trained more than 300 people to lean office principles in 2008. Our goal is to train every employee of our European offices and plants.

In Europe, the lean team includes eleven consultants, including one lean expert per factory. The team takes care of the complete value stream: from supplies of raw material to delivery of the finished products to the clients.

The results of lean initiatives in Steelcase
In North America, lean management and lean in the office had very positive impacts on the customer satisfaction and at the same time increased our productivity. In European as well, Steelcase had very positive impacts thanks to lean management. Here are 3 examples of European lean initiatives

Export department
In July 2007, Steelcase Europe first lean in the office initiative was focus on the export department, in Strasbourg, France. The goal of this Kaizen was to reduce the waiting time of the trucks’ drivers. On average a driver had to wait more than 2 hours to get the shipping documents (invoice and customs document) before he could go and deliver the products. The team analysed every steps of the process, and after a two day workshop, reorganised it all so that the average lead time would be of 30 minutes. After a year of practice, this very ambitious goal is nearly reached: the average waiting time of the driver is of 45 minutes to get its shipping document, and this, with less stress from the export team.

The team is far more serene and have now the time to focus on other tasks. The new process also enables the team to print fewer documents: the team reduces its paper consumption by 75%, equivalent to 675 archives boxes a year! Finally, the drivers are very pleased about this improvement which enables them to gain time on their delivery, and peacefulness.

This impressive improvement was managed without any heavy investment on IT support or people.

Order management
One of the targets of the first Value Stream Map in the customer service in Rosenheim, Germany, was to reduce the use of paper and thus, to decrease the process time for placing an order. A third of the orders received was not in an electronic format and had to be placed manually by the order manager. The new process is now supported by an electronic archiving system and the order managers work with two screens. On one screen they can see the order and on the other they work with SAP to place the order; no printing of the order is necessary anymore.

After an initial investment for the two screens, for each order manager, the elimination of printing enables us to make some saving. Moreover, as there is no paper archiving anymore, the reduction of the process time is around 25 minutes per order manager, per day. This gain of time enabled the team to absorb serenely an increase of 30% of placed orders in 2008 in Germany.

Pedestal manufacturing
The pedestal production line in our Wisches plant in France was completely reorganised, following lean principles.  The first phase focused on continuous flows and “pull” production control: understanding the clients’ demand to reorganise the production line accordingly. “Pull” production control activates the manufacturing process only after receipt of the order.  The second phase was based on reducing our wastes and better balancing the different workstations.  The third phase focused on error prevention (PokaYoke), ergonomics of workstations and optimisation of materials flows to the production lines. The fourth phase was based visual indicators. The latest and fifth phase focused on material flows and their complete integration on the production system. Alongside all these 5 phases, we worked constantly on continuous improvement, training of our employees and visual animation and indication.

This took 6 years to be implemented and the results of this reorganisation are tremendous: the number of default products decreased by more than 50%. Moreover, the complete process to produce a pedestal (from the purchase of the material to the shipment to the client) dropped from 36 days to 12 days! The productivity if each operator increased from 8 pedestals per person and per day to 21.
And in the meantime, the production surface was optimised and decreased from 2250m² to 850m².
Our tem keep working on improving these results.

More figures about our improvements
99,7% of our products are produced on time.
98% of our products are delivered on time.
94% of our products are default-free, in our plants.
95% of our orders are confirmed within 24 hours.