Cultural Shift at Proform Thanks to Lean

In early 2010, Proform Plastics, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of ‘large-part’ thermoformed plastic automotive accessories took the first steps on a journey that would change the culture of the company by opening up conversations and challenging processes like never before.

A leading producer of pickup truck bed liners, cargo liners and canopy shells, Proform supplies a network of distributors and OEM customers in over 50 countries around the world. The company’s success has been due to innovative thinking coupled with a strong desire to please customers. Proform combines novel materials, tooling methods and manufacturing technologies to produce world-class products at competitive prices.

Proform has a simple customer philosophy – they aim to achieve the very best in product design and development, short lead times, excellent product quality, value and responsiveness to meet customer’s needs.

Through 2009, Proform had engaged a Lean consultant to help change the culture and drive improvements. What they found was that the consultant told them what to do, rather than teaching them. The outcome was that they “did Lean” one day a week – on the day the consultant was there – and as a result the culture was not changing sufficiently to drive long term sustainable improvement.

After attending a Lean Provider workshop in Hamilton in mid-2009 and researching a number of companies they chose Skills4work to deliver the next phase of their Lean training. Skills4Work’s approach differs in that they aim to equip the managers and staff with the skills and knowledge needed to use Lean tools and develop Lean processes so that Lean becomes self-sustaining. Proform were attracted by this holistic approach to Lean and realised it was vital for the Leadership team to learn how to lead and manage their own Lean journey.

Talking to Nick Smith, the General Manager, it soon became apparent that the programme has given the company a common language to address issues. As a result, functional and cultural silos have been broken down and people are now communicating better. Another benefit of the programme has been the understanding that people now manage the “Value Stream” rather than their individual “bit” of the business. There is a renewed focus on doing the right thing for the customer to allow the product to flow through the facility.

Proform is now looking at taking the next steps in its Lean evolution and identifying ways in which to add greater value to their customers. More advanced techniques such as flow, SMED and TPM will lead to greater customer intimacy and profits.

Congratulations to Nick and the team at Proform for a successful implementation of Lean and here’s to the future.

SO WHAT IS LEAN? Lean is a way of working that has everyone in an organisation contributing to minimising waste. Lean tools include 5S, kaizen (continuous improvement), and Value Stream Mapping. But just knowing the tools does not make for a Lean organisation. Only 20% of any Lean programme is the actual Tools, the other 80% is split evenly between Management Commitment, Training and Implementation Methodology.