LMJ visited Eaton Hydraulics for the announcement of its £2m investment at its manufacturing plant in Havant, Hampshire. The investment is set to create one hundred jobs at the site over the next five years. The firm employs 182 people at the Havant plant and the expansion will enable it to meet industry-leading times for its products across the globe.

Plant manager, Mark Foreman, said the expansion would “reduce wait times by approximately half of current industry standard”.

A reduction in wait time is the tip of the iceberg for the Havant plant’s lean journey, which discovered lean in 1999 during the Vickers-Aeroquip acquisition when Eaton integrated its global Hydraulics operations. Tyrone White, manufacturing manager, who is passionate about the UK’s ability to innovate and deliver manufacturing excellence to the global market place, securing growth, jobs and stability UK manufacturing, told LMJ:

“We have been continuing our lean journey since 1999; our lean strategy is delivered through the EBS (Eaton Business System) throughout all plants across all 180 countries – in all three regions and across all five divisions.”

Tyrone, who joined Eaton three years ago, said the company, since his arrival, has implemented a significant drive on continuous improvement to enhance lean.

“Incorporated as part of the Eaton Lean Six Sigma (ELSS) toolbox, we have the Continuous Improvement Framework (CIF) comprising of eight building blocks to create a sustainable CI culture. Our secret sauce to sustainable CI can be defined as ‘management systems that foster the unique synthesis of standardisation and employee engagement (in problem solving) create a fast learning, adaptive culture.’”

Since embarking on its lean journey, the organisation has implemented eight tools to ensure it is continually eliminating waste and adding value

ELSS – Eaton Lean Six Sigma tools

1). Value stream mapping (VSM)
A value stream map is all the actions (value adding and non-value adding) required to bring a product through the essential process flows.

2). 5s
A 5-step technique to stabilise, maintain and improve the safest, best working environment to support sustainable lean improvements.

3). Standardised work
The optimum combination of operators, machines and materials to ensure a task is completed the same way every time with the minimum of waste.

4). TPM
To ensure the machine keeps making good quality parts, at the desired production rate, every time you want it to.

5). Error proofing
A systematic approach for anticipating and detecting potential defects and preventing them from reaching the customer.

6). Set up reduction
Reduced set up times makes smaller batch sizes possible, without the economic penalty, resulting in reduced overall lead times, inventory and storage needs, and reject rates.

7). Continuous flow manufacturing
Movement of material from value added process to value added process without transport time or storage in buffers. Processes are organised such that one person can build the entire product. If volume increases, additional people are added to match the tact time.

8). Pull system
Acts as a system of information that integrates the plant, connects all processes one to another and connects the entire value stream to the customer demand

A lean action plan is all very well, but getting the entire team on board is a different issue, after all, a lean toolbox is only as successful as the people putting it into practice.

“Lean is for everyone, but is merely a set of tools and processes to find sustainable solutions to problems faced within your business. Without a committed, engaged, motived and educated team, any lean or CI journey will be fraught with setbacks and will ultimately not deliver the benefits you’re looking for.

“The team are the biggest asset in the journey and they will have strong views and expectations for the program. For example, we have had two different proposals on how to solve a problem from within a team working on a CI project. Both ideas had the potential to yield good results, so as not to lose the commitment and passion from the teams, we agreed a simple solution to try them both with clear expectations and milestones defined.

“When one solution failed to deliver against the plan, the programme was shut down, we agreed that if it was going to fail we would, fail fast, share the learning and move on to the alternative. All stake holders feel that they have made a good contribution to the project and learned more about the lean process.”

At the Havant plant the operations team deliver the lean and CI message by deploying tools within the EBS system, the team have adopted a culture called LIFE (little improvements from everyone).

“This has helped embed a continuous improvement culture for everyone – we all have a level of ownership on our CI journey and there are a number of programmes and processes that we have in place at the plant to enhance this and to realise benefits for both the business and our customers.

“By creating the right environment, where anyone can raise even the smallest of suggestions every day through a structured program, we are continuing the journey of improvement. This strategy has enabled us to make significant progress on our journey and ensure the team on site see the benefits and believe in the program ultimately delivering improvements to our customers.

The greatest benefit for Eaton is the measurable improvements as a result of their lean programme:

“We needed to fill our cost out pipeline with ideas and use a simple one page document to allow the teams on site to identify the barriers that prevent them for meeting their production and quality targets. It is quick, easy and visual and now provides a significant number of ideas each week showing a real commitment to the CI journey we are on.

“An example worth mentioning would be the ‘hard turning project’; we experienced an issue with repeatability of certain components with very exact tolerances of the surface finish – we were soft turning components, heat treating them and producing the final surface finish with grinding, the proposed solution was to apply a different technology, which was hard turning.

“It was a revolutionary step forward – after completing comprehensive trials to meet the required standards the new technology proved to be very successful. By implementing hard turning we have experienced significant improvements in yield (by 90%) and cycle time (by 75%).”

When asked his advice for an organisation looking to implement lean, Tyrone told LMJ:

“Before embarking on the lean journey, ensure your team is committed and engaged in the process; they are the resource that will ultimately deliver a successful program so invest in them wisely with training and education, ask the right questions; what do you want to gain from your investment in lean? And deploy the correct tools.”

So what’s next for the flourishing hydraulics plant? Lean is not just a start and stop operation for the plant, it is a way of life for the firm:

“Continue the improvement journey by providing coaching to our workforce; through our green belt programme, we tutor two to three people a year on site with Six SIGMA.

“Our onsite master black-belt is Gary Browning – OPEX (operational excellence) six sigma quality project leader – provides internal training and co-ordinates and delivers successful lean projects at the Havant plant, as well as, at other Eaton facilities across the EMEA region.

“To ascertain the effectiveness of the lean tools, we regularly audit ourselves internally so that we can understand how effectively the tools are being deployed and whether we are achieving the desired results.

“This type of self-assessment provides a clear overview of how well each area within the Havant plant is performing. Continuous improvement is deeply embedded within our culture and has ultimately become our way of life; it has resulted in better control of quality and cost, as well as better products and services for our customers.”

Tyrone White at a glance:

Manufacturing Manager at Eaton Hydraulics

Working in the UK manufacturing industry for over 20 years

Experience predominately within Oil & Gas, Medical & high precision engineering industries