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Safelite Goes Lean; Receives $30,000 Grant for Effort

Safelite Auto Glass recently made some measures to become more efficient and lean at its Enfield, N.C., manufacturing plant, and also received a $30,000 grant from the state of North Carolina to assist with this effort. (CLICK HERE for related story.)

As part of this process, the company expanded its annual windshield production by 20,000 units annually at the facility with the addition of new grinding equipment that has enabled it to add exposed edge windshields to its product offering.

In addition, the company has installed a fourth line where glass is cut and painted prior to going into the furnace to be shaped, along with the capability to produce acoustic windshields. Likewise, Safelite has made some efforts to become more energy-efficient at the facility-incorporating environmentally friendly lights into the plant, and also replacing Styrofoam packaging with cardboard.

Rich Glover, assistant vice president of manufacturing and distribution for Belron US, says the company timed the updates to the plant based on "the volume growth of exposed edge parts and a desire to improve our finished product for our customers."

The company received the lean grant from the state of North Carolina through the Incumbent Workforce Project for Lean Manufacturing training by working with local contacts in the area, along with its involvement with the economic development committees in the Enfield region.

As part of the grant, 55 Safelite employees received Six Sigma "lean" training-and Glover hopes to continue this effort. According to information from the Six Sigma website, www.isixsigma.com, Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects in any process. As part of this program, Kaizen events, like the training received, are events during which company employees together establish what needs to be done and how it can be accomplished continually. The Kaizen philosophy, a part of the Six Sigma program, is one of continual improvement-that every process can and should be continually evaluated and improved in terms of time required, resources used, resultant quality and other aspects relevant to the process. It also is based on the philosophy that all involved in the process-from management down-should be included in the improvement planning process.

"We plan to continue the Kaizen events in different areas of our operation to further optimize our process," he says. "Our mission is continuous improvement and the lean philosophy along with Six Sigma methodology will be used to accomplish further improvements in our operation."

According to Glover, Safelite officials hope to incorporate the lean methodology into all areas of its business.

"A lean strategy is a tool that we can us in any setting-not just manufacturing," he says. "This thought process is yielding results in our distribution operation as well."

CLICK HERE for more information on Six Sigma.

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