Archive for Lean Manufacturing

Lean Principles in Plastic Thermoforming Design

Most people familiar with the manufacturing industry associate the words “Lean” and “Process Improvement” with operations directly on the manufacturing floor. However, a manufacturer that strives to be a Lean Enterprise incorporates the practice of perpetual improvement and reducing waste (resources or time spent on non-value added functions) to every facet of their business.

One of the processes that is both critical to a project’s success and an ideal candidate for lean practices is the design engineering process. This is where customer designs are matched and adapted to the appropriate thermoforming technique, material selections are made, and proper tooling is assessed or engineered, setting the stage for a successful part run. This is a process with many variables that can have a large impact on quality, lead time, and cost.

Lean Principles in Thermoforming Design at Productive Plastics

What are the benefits of working with a manufacturer that utilizes Lean practices in the design process?

  • Working with a manufacturer that has standard operating procedures and practices documented and employed to take your project from design to production as quick as possible while avoiding common pitfalls and any non-value added endeavors
  • Design assistance for a seamless transition from the client’s required design specifications to a thermoforming process ready design
  • Savings in cost and time
  • Increased part quality and lower part defect rate

How does Productive Plastics apply lean principles to the design process?

As an example of how lean principles and process improvements can be applied to design practices in the thermoforming process, reference the chart below for functions we have identified as actual or potential waste, the actions we have implemented to eliminate or mitigate waste, and the results.

Identified Waste

Process ImprovementResult

• Late tooling and assembly component quotes and delivery from suppliers

• Incomplete/inaccurate data

• Concurrent Engineering

• Gantt Chart Development

• Standard Operating Procedures & Guidelines

• Reduced lead time

• Reduction in resource utilization

Unnecessary/Incorrect Processing

• Incorrect material or process selection

• Incorrect manufacturing technique

• Early involvement and collaboration with client in part design

• Value Engineering Review

• Reduced lead time

• Maximize part consolidation and weight reduction

• Reduced defect rate

• Potential cost savings

Unnecessary Movement

• Development and design process requires revision due to inaccurate information

• Standardized Contract and Scope Review

• Standardized Design Review and collaboration with client engineering

• Define & discover collaboration

• Reduced lead time

• Reduction in resource utilization

Defects• Standardized Design Review and collaboration with client engineering

• ISO Certification

• Reduced lead time

• Reduced defect rate

• Potential cost savings

Unused Team Resources

• Losing time, ideas, skills, and improvements by not engaging employees

• Investment in people and company culture

• Company core values

• Collaborative planning, goals, and accountability

• Maximize employee engagement

• Reduced lead time

• Expertise and professional development within employee group

Productive Plastics is top contract manufacturer for heavy gauge thermoforming, including vacuum forming and pressure forming. Contact us or request our complimentary thermoforming design guide for more information.

Please contact Productive Plastics for more information on the thermoforming process
Please download our complimentary thermoforming design guide for more information on the thermoforming process

Lean Culture, Process Control, & Improvement

You may have heard the saying “If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Well, at Productive Plastics, we take this saying literally, and since we are always striving for innovation, efficiency, and a superior quality thermoforming, we are constantly evolving our business practices and processes to achieve these goals. Since 1998, Productive Plastics has adopted a lean culture approach to our business both on and off the manufacturing floor and, in recent years, we have integrated TPS (Toyota Production System) as the means to implement lean tools and practices.

Process control and improvement - lean manufacturing at Productive Plastics

What is lean?

“The core idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.

A lean organization understands customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously increase it. The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer through a perfect value creation process that has zero waste.” Lean Enterprise Institute

So what does this mean for your project?

From experience, we have learned that the benefits of this approach are, in fact, tangible for both the customer and the manufacturer. Substantial reduction of lead time, associated costs, and attaining a consistently high part quality are just a few of the advantages resulting from a truly lean approach to manufacturing and business.

Look for further content in the near future exploring in greater detail some of the features and benefits of working with a manufacturer that utilizes lean techniques in the design and manufacturing process. You can also visit our manufacturing page for more information.


Evan Gilham - Productive Plastics COO