Managers focus on production efficiency during training at ECU

A lot goes into making a great sandwich — just like a lot goes into making any great product. But making that sandwich efficiently and safely is essential for having a great business.

That’s why more than a dozen production and business managers participated in a Lean 100 training session Wednesday at the East Carolina University College of Engineering and Technology.

Darryl Land, left, and Brandon Godard work on their simulated sandwich production line during the Lean 100 training session.

Sponsored by ECU’s Center for Sustainable Energy and Environmental Engineering, the session in the Science and Technology Building focused on Lean concepts in manufacturing and production.

“Lean is a philosophy but it’s also a methodology,” said Dr. Janet Sanders, associate professor in the Department of Technology Systems and instructor for the training. “From a business philosophy, Lean is doing more with less, and that’s throughout the entire process, from supply chain all the way through production. Basically, it focuses on reducing waste, trying to synchronize the workload and manage the variability in the production process.”

Sanders said the systematic approach could be used anywhere — such as in making a sandwich. Those attending the training broke into teams to create sandwich shops and used Lean techniques to look at how they could make their sandwich shop more productive.

While one team began using separate people for bread, meat, vegetable and packing stations, they experimented with using one person to do all tasks with each order. They theorized that such a method would reduce communication issues that could result in incorrect orders while also increasing the speed at which orders could be processed.

“Everybody and every company has room for improvement,” Sanders said. “The good thing is when you recognize it.”

James Pritchett works as a supply chain manager with Yamco, a Snow Hill company that makes aseptic vegetable purees.

“I’m looking for ways to implement Lean manufacturing into our supply chain,” he said. “We make things year round for our customers that they’ll need next year, so any tips and practices we can implement to help me know how to better manage that is something I would greatly appreciate.”

Pritchett said Yamco believes the Lean training could be important for the future.

“We’re trying to move things forward and do bigger and better things for the company,” he said.

From left, Jacob Lofton, McGarrett Smith, Tommy Askew and David Auge work on their simulated sandwich production line.

McGarrett Smith works as a production supervisor for Flagstone Foods in Robersonville, where workers create and package nuts and trail mix for a variety of large retailers. He had a couple of reasons for wanting to attend the training.

“I just want to help the company grow,” said Smith, who has been working for Flagstone for 15 years. “Hopefully this will help the company run smoothly and be more efficient.”

The training explored eight types of waste — everything from defects and overproduction to inventory control and underused workers — and how using flow charts and value stream maps could help identify those areas of waste to maximize production.

Smith oversees about 40 employees working on seven production lines, so he appreciated the training.

“I liked what we did,” he said. “The instructor is very good and did a very good job. She was outgoing, and that’s what you want in a classroom. She made it very relaxed.”

Funding for the training was through the Environmental Protection Agency and was supported through ECU Continuing Education and Professional Education.

The Center for Sustainable Energy and Environmental Engineering focuses on collaborative research in areas of sustainable energy and ecological systems for the conservation of natural resources, and also partners with industries and organizations on a variety of sustainability issues. The center strives to enhance public awareness and promote renewable energy technology and natural resources through a focus on research and workforce training.

Along with Wednesday’s training, the center is also hosting a free summer webinar series designed to connect industry with resources and sustainable solutions. Sessions are scheduled for July 8, July 29, Aug. 19 and Sept. 9. Registration information and details of the sessions are available online.