Vitamix Lean DC

Vitamix Lean DC

“Until we attended the Lean 101 training provided by NVIE, we really had no knowledge of the Lean culture. Additionally, our NVIE Project Manager has been a valuable asset in our Lean journey. Her knowledge and experience with Lean and her ability to facilitate kaizen events on-site was very instrumental in our Lean transformation. She continues to follow up and provides coaching and support, which allows us to sustain the changes we’ve implemented and continue to improve our processes and procedures.”

– Guillermo Garcia, Distribution Center Manager, Vitamix

The Client

Vitamix, privately owned and operated since 1921, manufactures and markets superior blending and mixing products directly to the public and the restaurant/hospitality industry. Vitamix is recognized as a leader in innovation in the direct marketing industry, having created the infomercial genre in the late 1940s and developed the first true commercial blender in the early 1990s. Leading consumer magazines rank Vitamix as the highest quality consumer blender. The company’s commercial customer list reads like a “Who’s Who” of major restaurant chains, and gourmet chefs worldwide say their Vitamix machines are more important to them than their knives. Nestled in Olmsted Township, Ohio, the company employs more than 900 people, has a global presence in more than 100 countries and continues to win awards for product innovation.

The Situation

During the past five years, Vitamix has experienced tremendous growth and demand, with production volumes quadrupling. Not only has the volume increased, but the number and types of customers Vitamix serves has grown as well. In order to effectively handle this tremendous growth, they needed to change their ways of doing business – they needed to go Lean. They have been on their Lean journey for about three years at their corporate headquarters and operations center in Cleveland, OH. Having experienced significant benefits from their Lean implementation in Cleveland, they needed to expand their Vitamix Lean Enterprise (VLE) system to their distribution centers (DC). Vitamix has worked closely with the MEP affiliate in Cleveland (MAGNET) throughout their Lean journey with much success, so reaching out to NVIE for support in Reno was an easy decision.

The Solution

The main objective in 2014 was to educate their employees on Lean principles and to implement foundational elements of their VLE system. The first step involved sending all of the Reno DC employees to Lean 101 workshops. Throughout Vitamix, more than 600 employees have been educated with this eight hour, learn-do style workshop. The class exposed their employees to fundamental Lean concepts, galvanized a common Lean language, aligned them around the continuous improvement objective, and clarified reasons why Vitamix is committed to this Lean transformation. The foundational elements that were implemented included: Management for Daily Improvement (MDI) management system comprised of daily standup meetings, metric boards, and leader standard work; visual management throughout the DC; and 6S workplace organization. Throughout the implementation, our Project Manager from NVIE acted as the technical liaison between the Reno DC and the Lean Department in Cleveland. She supported the implementation through weekly visits to the DC to ensure the systems were being sustained, coaching the employees, and facilitating 6S kaizen events.

The Results

The 6S kaizen and visual management efforts transformed the work area from one of clutter and poor flow to a safe, organized workplace with a layout that promotes flow. At a glance, employees are able to know how material should flow through the facility and see normal versus abnormal. The 6S and layout resulted in a 200% increase in throughput in our receiving department and a 35% increase in throughput in the returned product refresh process.

The implementation of the MDI process has standardized how the business is managed on a day-to-day basis. Throughout the facility, communication has improved through the daily stand up meetings. It’s easy to see when a goal is missed on the metric boards; the root cause of the abnormality can be identified and effective countermeasures put in place. The leader standard work ensures consistency across the leaders. They audit their processes regularly and follow up on corrective actions.

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