Creating innovative solutions starts with company culture. If a manufacturer can’t look at itself and find new ways to improve and perform, how can it be expected to solve customers’ problems in a timely and cost-effective manner?

Draper’s continuous improvement program, also known as lean manufacturing, does just that. Lean tools allow us to address problems that seem like internal issues but can have a big impact on customer satisfaction.

There are three main reasons continuous improvement is important for our customers.

You get what you expect.
First of all, we’re continually improving quality to make sure what you get is what you ordered, and that it performs as it should.

Draper lean champion Shaun McDougle.

“Draper’s lean program creates, documents, reworks, and re-documents our production processes. This gives us a standard that every change and new idea is compared against,” said Shaun McDougle, Draper’s lean champion. “This devotion to consistency enables anyone on the production line to recognize when something is different or perhaps even wrong. Corrections are made without skipping a beat.”

You get what you expect when you expect it.
Our lean program also directly impacts how quickly we deliver to you. Efficient production processes and information systems are keys to getting orders out quickly. Developing them is a bit like solving a jigsaw puzzle.

“There are only so many hours in a day. It is Draper’s responsibility to use those hours as efficiently as possible,” said Shaun. “We break the process into individual elements, remove that which isn’t adding value for our customers, then put the process back together.”

You get what you expect when you expect it for the cost you expect.
The lean process also helps us keep costs down by reducing waste. Waste costs money wherever it is present.

“The most direct example I can think to apply is scrap raw material. This scrap is literally waste and has practically no value,” said Shaun. “However, that scrap material is purchased along with the rest of the raw material and we pay the same price for it. That cost adds up and needs to be passed down to customers.”

Members of an RIE team considering their next step.

Of course, Draper isn’t the only manufacturer out there using lean principles to make themselves better. But the way we use continuous improvement differs. When we first started our lean program in 1999, it was mostly focused on so-called rapid improvement events (RIEs). These RIEs brought a group of people together for a short period of time and focus on a specific area or improvement. While we still utilize RIEs, our program has evolved to include new tools and approaches.

We’re ready for the future.
“As a corporate culture, these have the potential to initiate true continuous improvement at all levels of the company,” said Shaun. “With little changes happening all the time, at all levels of the company, big things can happen!”

It might sound counterintuitive, but this focus on standardization is great for flexibility. A recent spurt of fast growth provides an excellent example of this. After setting up a manufacturing area according to sales forecasts, we soon found a huge sales spike had the potential to swamp us.

“Draper management knows its processes because they are standardized. They know when they are approaching capacity, because it is documented. And, they know how they can shift that demand to other areas with open capacity when needed, because their capacity is also documented,” said Shaun. “In the end, we expanded capacity quickly, met the needs of our customer, and exceeded the expected production by over 100% because we knew these processes in detail.”

This lean thinking has served Draper well many times over the past 19 years and continues to help us navigate the changing markets better than many of our competitors. Whatever disruptions occur in the future, our commitment to lean will help us continue to deliver what you need, when you need it, at a fair price.