Lean Manufacturing

With a reputation for innovation, Horton’s recent revamp of its manufacturing process comes as no surprise. Adopting the principle of lean manufacturing in 2011, Horton changed its operations from bay- build to a single-flow line. In a traditional bay-build process, ambulances sit stationery for 3 to 30 days while being worked on. Time is not a critical factor due to build length times. While certainly an acceptable way to build ambulances, bay-build is not the most effective, wasting various resources (most notably time).

With the switch to lean manufacturing, time spent constructing components became vital. Horton performed studies to determine optimal time to complete each step in an ambulance build and set plant standards. In some cases, that meant completely reworking the process to meet standardized takt times of 277 minutes.

What are the elements of lean manufacturing?

Kaizens

"Kaizen" is a Japanese term meaning “good change,” and refers to the activities in lean manufacturing that work towards continuous improvement. Kaizens can apply to any process – from sales to logistics to accounting. Improving upon past process through kaizens allows us to eliminate waste and standardize daily activities. At Horton, we encourage all employees to submit kaizans and reward the most effective ideas with awards and prizes.

5S

"5S" is a method used in lean manufacturing that encourages workspace organization. All beginning with the letter "S," these 5 phases include:

  • Sort
  • Set (in order)
  • Shine (clean)
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

Kanbans

"Kanbans" are visual signals used in lean manufacturing, used to clarify the work process. The term can be applied to several different processes, all improved with visual cues. Horton uses kanbans in several ways include including parts identification, cross-plant communication and scheduling.

Value Stream Mapping

Pioneered by Henry Ford and perfected by Toyota, value stream mapping is a technique that analyzes the flow of materials and information during a manufacturing process. Value stream mapping takes note of current steps, delays and information flows that are required to complete a particular product. A mapping team then identifies areas of waste and makes recommendations for a future, optimized value stream.

What are the benefits of lean manufacturing?

In short, lean manufacturing results in greater productivity - more output in less time with fewer resources. Operations using the principles of lean manufacturing principles result in a higher quality product with fewer defects. It also encourages innovation, leading to product and operational improvements.