BWA Members Get a Shot of Lean from Vokes Furniture!

BWA Plant Tour Focus Groups engage members in each others plants to address Continuous Improvement. Read on to learn about Vokes’ success with Lean!

Oct 30, 2013 marked the date of BWA’s regular Plant Tour Focus Group events. These events are based on Continuous Improvement and the adoption of Lean Principles to drive waste out of our processes and focus onvalue for the customer. This month’s event was hosted by Vokes Furniture of Owen Sound.

Vokes Furniture has been on a lean journey for four years. As Vokes’ President Mike Vokes will attest, it includes successes as well as mistakes along the way: “When we hit a stop sign, we just go around it”.

Members enjoyed a presentation by Mike Vokes on how their lean journey began and the various themes they needed to focus on to move forward.

“One piece flow” is one aspect of lean principles that opposes traditional manufacturing thinking with “batch processing”. When examining all of the inputs and variables involved in manufacturing solid wood furniture, it was necessary to re-think everything in order to reduce waste in inventories and WIP. As with all lean principles, it is necessary to adopt them in such a way to make them work for your unique manufacturing business model. Regarding one piece flow, Vokes has adopted a “one day batch” approach so farthat gets closer to the mark. Their strategy is to make sure product moves everyday completely through the system, minimizing costly finished goods waiting to be shipped, and WIP.

To adopt lean principles it is necessary to be strategic in how you engage and involve your employees in the changes. Making the employees drive the changes and soliciting their buy-in was critical to Vokes’ success.

Members enjoyed a plant tour with Mike Vokes through all of their processes from solid wood breakout to finishing and shipping. Through the discussion and debrief, the following results and themes were discussed and shared between members:

·     Increase of throughput and reduction of leadtimes to customer by 45%

·     Employee driven organization strategies

·     Visual boards to support employee involvement

·     Application of 7 Deadly Wastes to driveimprovements

·     Use lean to grow business and reduce waste, notreduce workforce

·     Standardized Work: key to consistency inquality, safety, equipment use, etc.

·     Itemizing components across variety of product skews: strategic processing

·     22% labour rate to sales down from 34%

·     Smart metrics: Choose the ones that make sensefor your business model

·     Employee flexibility/cross training: critical torespond the fluctuations in production and absences

·     Transition to cordless hand tools from compressor powered

·     Employee ideas driving change


If you would like more information about this event or about the BWA, please contact BWA Manager Mike Baker:[email protected]




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