New Opportunities Are “In the Bag” For McNairn Packaging
By Karen Myhaver, Project Support Coordinator, MassMEP
“There are no easy answers or quick fixes to make everything better at once. Pick the right projects and the right size projects to focus on, get some successes under your belt, and then sustain the improvements. Sustaining is the biggest challenge.” – Dave Tirrell, Production Manager, McNairn Packaging
McNairn Packaging was on a mission to increase their competitiveness. And improve they did. Over a two-year period, they increased production by 28%. This meant they were able to produce more in five days than they had been able to produce in seven days…with the same number of people. The additional capacity made room for new business in new markets. In parallel with employee training, the company invested $5 million in five new machines that were brought down from their parent company in Canada. When the opportunity arose to add new product lines and train people on the new equipment, they were able to do so efficiently, economically, and profitably.
- 30 new hires
- 120 people trained
- 28% productivity improvement
- 7 days of work now done in 5 days with same number of employees
- Traditional 8 hour work days
- $5 million invested in 5 new machines
- $200,000 invested in workforce for training and skills development
New Opportunities = New Markets
The improvements McNairn Packaging made allowed the company to take advantage of new opportunities. This led to exciting new markets, like Artisan Bread Bags.
But how did McNairn get to this point? They recognized that an important first step was to revive their Continuous Improvement work. With assistance from the MassMEP, they were awarded a significant grant from the Workforce Training Fund Program. That helped kick off the initiative.
In July 2011, McNairn started training their workforce with three introductory events facilitated by MassMEP. These events provided employees with an overview of basic Lean terms and tools, and how they are applied. It was important to ensure that everyone knew what was going on and that their ideas and opinions were appreciated.
Employee teams learned how to use Value Stream Mapping to identify areas of waste in specific processes throughout the facility. Next, the waste was addressed during Kaizen improvement events like 5s. Employees cleaned and organized work, storage, and floor space, as well as cell flow, which improved the layout and the flow of information, materials, and product in their plant.
In 2012, five additional basic Lean training classes were provided to ensure that every McNairn employee had the same foundation. Training within Industry (TWI) events were also facilitated. This training process was developed during World War II when many were called away to war and companies needed a way to train new employees quickly and effectively. The TWI procedures allowed McNairn to rapidly develop and deploy standardized methods and instructions for more effective employee training.
During the two-year period, all McNairn employees received training to strengthen capabilities at all levels. Added responsibilities often required instruction for enhanced expertise. This resulted in several internal promotions at the company. As overall efficiency improved, McNairn was able to move away from 12-hour rotating work schedules to more employee-friendly 8-hour days, and continue to meet production goals.
The company successfully addressed housekeeping issues by organizing, labeling, and cleaning then rearranging and relocating machinery and work stations to optimize flow throughout the facility. Managers and team leaders learned how to develop and communicate ideas and expectations in a clear and unified way, and to give and receive feedback. Training procedures were enhanced and standardized to ensure quality and repeatability.
Employees became comfortable using Value Stream Mapping and Kaizen to identify wastes and inefficient processes. They initiated changes to improve or eliminate them. Employees now regularly utilize what they have been taught during ongoing, company-wide improvement activities.
“Whenever you deal with people, you also must consider cultural and behavioral influences,” says McNairn’s Plant Manager, Dave Tirrell. “These can be a big hurdle and are important factors of any continuous improvement plan.”
McNairn’s Leadership Team worked to blend the cultures at the company to one of mutual respect where all employees are engaged and their contributions are encouraged and rewarded. Continuous Improvement teams were formed to make sure that these important activities remain part of the company’s daily routine. There are plans to make the entire facility more visual which will play an important role in sustaining changes.
New Market = New Product
Bread bags — not the common plastic version with the twisty tie, but the delicate paper bags with the cellophane inserts — allow a glimpse of the golden crust and the aroma of just-baked “artisan breads” to waft around your local market. Warm, fresh loaves can’t be put into plastic bags with no air circulation, and stay crusty and delicious. Paper allows the moisture to escape and the aroma to entice. As consumers enjoy a wider variety of breads, the market for these specialty loaves and the bags they are sold in has grown and McNairn was ready to produce.
Focusing on objectives, managing the supply chain, and continuing to make production improvements has made McNairn Packaging more competitive. This, in turn, has led the way to successful expansion into the Artisan Bread Bag market. Further indication of the company’s commitment is evident in the various certifications the company holds with regard to the quality and safety of their products, and their work to preserve the environment, enhance the community, and sustain positive change.
McNairn Packaging is located in Westfield, Massachusetts. Based in Canada, their parent company began manufacturing waxed paper in the late 1800’s. For over twenty years, the Massachusetts facility has produced the coated papers used in the food industry for wrapping meat and in bakeries. The company now has about 120 employees, fifteen of which were added to facilitate production of the new bread bags.