Daman’s Journey to Continuous Improvement

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It’s been a while since we reminisced about our foray into Lean, a process developed to maximize customer value and minimize waste, so we thought we’d take a step back to review just how far we’ve come.

More than two decades ago, Daman’s growing pains were culminating in a state of chaos throughout the company. Something needed to change beyond simply moving into a larger facility. After a lot of anxiety, we followed the advice of a trusted advisor and took a huge leap of faith embracing an unconventional approach known as Lean.

Lean promised cost savings, reduced chaos in the shop, and improved quality in our production, but it required a complete transformation to our way of thinking as well as total commitment. Little did we know it would be the catalyst that started a cultural conversion at Daman.

Learning From Our Mistakes

In manufacturing, our goal was to eliminate waste, streamline processes, and increase efficiencies. We began by separating the shop floor into autonomous work cells making employees accountable for their own performance and by establishing standard operating procedures.

Regrettably, we did not get input from the people operating the cells. Instead, they were thrown into a system they didn’t help design without training. As you can imagine, this caused a lot of discord. ”We did a great job on planning the physical layout,” said Larry Davis. “What we did wrong was not training our people well enough.”  It was a mistake that cost Daman two years but also taught us a valuable lesson about trust, accountability, and creativity which has guided our improvement efforts ever since.  (See video: This is Your Part of the Business. Run it.)

Once our employees began driving the projects that affected their daily operations, there was a dramatic improvement in commitment, energy, enthusiasm, and pride.  We learned that empowered employees naturally evolve into innovators. They bring new ideas to the table, map out development plans for new products or services, and launch concepts into the marketplace fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

The Creative Team Is Born

In 2010, a small group of mid-level leaders from every area of our company formed the Creative Team. Their plan was to chart a new course for product development. Rather than engaging in traditional R&D, they were encouraged to build new ideas and identify the resources necessary to carry them out.  But the culture that fosters innovation encourages behaviors that take people out of their comfort zones. It can be a painful process.

Our Creative Team established a pipeline for organizing new ideas, seeking knowledge, tracking progress and eventually launching new products or services. Concepts enter the system and flow through a series of evaluation stages called stage gates. Only about 20% of the ideas make it through the stage gates, so they try to have a dozen ideas in the works at all times.

Some of the most recent ideas in the pipeline include:

  1. Flexible Standard Manifold Solution
  2. Integrated Valve Solutions
  3. Cavity Body Testing
  4. In-line Cartridge Bodies With Sun and Common Cavities
  5. Accumulator Safety Blocks
  6. Valve Test Stand

For more information about Lean and Continuous Improvement, please read our white papers :

Or watch videos from our library and Gemba Academy’s Gemba Live! series:

Gemba Academy videos:

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