Simon Pearce – Turning Pottery One Piece At a Time with Help from VMEC
Founded in 1981, Simon Pearce is a family owned business located in Windsor, Vermont. There are three (3) manufacturing facilities – Windsor, Vermont, Quechee, Vermont and Mt. Lake Park, Maryland. The company manufactures handblown glass and handmade pottery which they sell through their own retail stores and website. They also sell wholesale to distributers. Their products are “high end luxury” items. They currently have 330 employees, of which 200 are full time. This success story pertains to the pottery manufacturing division in the Windsor, Vermont facility.
The client manager attended a VMEC Lean 101 workshop and saw that Lean principles would be a good fit for Simon Pearce. The pottery division was selected for the pilot project. They were challenged with excess Work in Progress (WIP) and finished goods inventory, several bottlenecks restricting product flow, lack of organization, not enough room, a lot of time spent looking for tools as well as the next job. They ran very large batches that contributed to inventory issues.
The project started with an on-site Lean 101 workshop attended by key employees. The next step was a Value Stream Map training and exercise detailing the flow of a typical pottery product from start of manufacture (release of job) to sale in retail store. All pottery personnel as well as representatives of marketing, sales, retail, finance and operations attended the VSM Kaizen. Changes and improvements were identified during the VSM process that included setting up supermarkets for WIP at a key location as well as in finished goods, determining that the workplace needed organization and visual controls to direct work flow. The task of organizing the workplace was accomplished utilizing a 5S Kaizen event. The department manager stated that these projects changed the mindset of the whole division; people became vested as a team to succeed. The division has since incorporated a suggestion process that requires an employee to present a suggestion to the team for review bi-weekly and the team implements improvement if approved. They have implemented many improvements as well as sustained the involvement and morale.
Quality: Able to maintain same defect rate while manufacturing more difficult product. Division manager states “Mindset has made us focus on the areas with the potential for greatest financial and quality impact.” Finished Goods Inventory: Reduced 25% in warehouse due to ability to produce smaller batches. Production: Increased 40% with only a 10-15% increase in labor. Raw material: Turns improved from 3 to 4. WIP: 40% reduction in amount of WIP maintained on shop floor
“By implementing the tools learned in the workshop, we have improved morale of the people on the shop floor because they feel more vested”, states Neil Cockwill, Director of Pottery at Simon Pearce.