Pierson Workholding is a company dedicated to advancing the CNC Machining industry through innovative workholding products. On this page, company founder Jay Pierson walks through how we build our products through lean manufacturing. Watch Jay’s latest speech about lean here:

First step, know your enemy… Waste!

The 8 Wastes of Lean:

  1. Over Production – Over production is the most serious waste. Creating (or purchasing) more parts than necessary creates excess inventory, creates more parts to fix if there is a defect, creates long lead times (waiting), ties up machinery and frustrates people with unstable flow.
  2. Transportation – Transportation eats time for breakfast. Whether it’s picking up parts from a local vendor or shipping parts to a customer a few states away, transportation takes time, money or both.
  3. Excess Inventory – Excess inventory is a result of over production or over purchasing. Making or buying more components than necessary requires more storage space, more packaging and ties up valuable cash in product waiting to be sold.
  4. Defects – Every defective item requires rework or replacement, wastes resources, time, disrupts flow and can lead to lost customers. Defects are the easiest wastes to avoid. Defects can also exist in our processes as well! Shipping or ordering the wrong item points to a process that needs to be fixed.
  5. Over Processing – Over processing is simply adding more time to a part or process, i.e. polishing a part no one sees, hand deburring a part that could have been chamfered in the machine, cleaning parts that get cleaned in a later step.
  6. Wasted Motion – Wasted motion happens when things are too far apart. No one should struggle at work. Create U-shaped cells and bring your work up to waist level and your tools within arm’s reach. Excessive walking across the shop multiple times a day is also wasted motion.
  7. Waiting – Waiting disrupts flow and is the second most serious waste. Waiting means the process is broken. Fill time between machine cycles or assembly with inspection orimprovements.
  8. Misused Brainpower – You and your coworkers are a process engineers! Don’t rely on others to see waste or to create improvements. Create flow! Look beyond your task to help others. When mistakes happen avoid the “blame and shame” reaction and look for opportunities to fine tune the process. You also shouldn’t misuse your brainpower by trying to remember things that should be written down and placed in a standardized process. In a nutshell, don’t misuse your brain to remember stupid tasks but use it to create better processes.

How we first started implemented Lean at Pierson Workholding:

After learning and memorizing the 8 wastes we started seeing waste everywhere! We were tempted to jump right in on eliminating these wastes, however it was important that we first created a working environment that wouldn’t get in our way while we changed things up. For this reason, we started every morning with a “3-S” approach. Traditional Lean will teach 5-S or even 6-S, but we kept things simple with only 3 S’s. Our 3-S’s are Sweep, Sort, Standardize. I talked more about this in a company tour.

  1. Sweep – Throw stuff away. When we sweep we get rid of the stuff that is absolutely not needed. Things that immediately go in the trash are old boxes, old papers, large or outdated catalogs, excessive pallets, excessive buckets, broken tools, old rags, scrap parts and dirt on the floor. We were amazed at how much trash was getting in our way.
  2. Sort – Put stuff away. After getting the trash out of our way, we put away the things we need to produce a product. We may not immediately need them for days or weeks, but they’re definitely not trash. The problem encountered with sorting is that sometimes there’s no place to put things. This brings us to the next S…
  3. Standardize – If the stuff doesn’t have a place, make a place for the stuff. New tools, parts and accessories are always coming in. They can’t just be put on any shelf, bin, workbench or drawer. They have to go to a designated place where everyone knows where they are. I made an organization video for our mill setup cart that covers this. You may not be seeing up a mill cart but the same principles apply if you’re setting up your desk.

After getting into the habit of 3-S’ing things got a lot more efficient. We were no longer staring at trash on a bench trying to get our brain to see that gage pin we were just using! Our workbenches were clean and clear. We weren’t walking around the shop looking for the drill motor because we created a spot for it in the “Tools Cabinet” we labeled. We weren’t wondering what happened to that backup endmill because we created a designated drawer for all new tooling. This newfound clarity gave our brains the ability to engage in eliminating waste. Did you catch that? Waste #8 – Misused Brainpower was now being used to tackle the other 7 wastes.

Practical examples of how we specifically eliminate waste:

  • Establishing Flow – Wastes eliminated: Wasted Motion, Misused Brainpower
    We look at our working environment at the personal level. Are we walking around to get tools? Are we bending over? Are we shuffling parts and boxes around while we work? These small movements add up to a lot of wasted motion over time and could be reduced by using some brainpower. A key takeaway from this video is the use of linear and u-shape cells.
  • Kanban Cards – Wastes eliminated: Over Production, Excess Inventory, Misused Brainpower
    The heart of our process. We use these to tell us when we need to start making or ordering more components. The minimum and maximum quantities tell us when to start and stop producing. They carry important information that no one should keep in their head. Download them here
  • Pierson Boards – Wastes Eliminated: Waiting, Over Processing, Misused Brainpower
    ERP’s, MRP’s, CIS’s are great but only when the data is correct, the software isn’t buggy and works on all platforms, when employees are properly trained, and when everyone has access and embraces the technology. I had personal experience with the failures of these systems and wanted a more simple approach. Our production boards (later officially named as Pierson Boards on the Business of Machining podcast) were inspired by Scrum Boards and custom tailored to our specific needs. Here are walk throughs of how they work:
  • Kaizen Foam – Wastes Eliminated: Wasted Motion, Excess Inventory (You only need to buy 1 tool if you always know where it’s at)
    Easy to work with foam that creates a perfect spot for things we use. Here’s where to buy it and here’s how it works:
  • Carts and Bins – Wastes eliminated: Over Processing, Wasted Motion
    It was really important that we standardized our carts and bins so we could easily move and store components without a lot of loading and unloading. We bought these carts and bins in red and gray from uline.com. Red bins are for raw materials or in-process parts and gray bins are for finished parts that can go straight to assembly or ready for an outside vendor for additional processing. They are stackable and three of them fit perfectly side by side on the cart shelves.
  • Part Trays – Wastes eliminated: Defects, Over Processing, Excess Inventory
    Egg crates seem to be popular in shops, but I hate them because they can lead to wastes: They eventually get flimsy and break and dropped parts become defects. They grab dirt which cause us to over process by cleaning parts again. They don’t last long so you have to keep buying AND storing them leading to excess inventory. Instead, we use trays from Ready Made and mark them up which triggers in-process inspection as seen here:
  • Local VendorsWastes eliminated: Transportation, Waiting, Excess Inventory
    For a while, we were buying fasteners from companies in the Midwest because they had the best pricing. Well, best pricing until you factored in the cost to ship them. There was also the time in transit that had nailed us a few times while we waited for them to show up. Another natural tendency is to think, “I might as well double the order since I’m already paying so much to ship them in”. Rule of thumb, buy exactly what you need locally regardless of price (within reason) so you don’t wait, over pay for shipping or over purchase to average down shipping costs.
  • QR codes to Training Videos – Wastes eliminated: Waiting, Over Processing, Defects, Misused Brainpower
    I started documenting my assembly processes in writing and video before I hired my first employee. This way I didn’t have to train every new employee or miss any important points. They could also learn at their own pace at any time. It also frees the trainer to maintain flow on other productive tasks and no one ends up waiting. Additionally, the trainer doesn’t have to over process by training someone AGAIN. We upload our training videos to YouTube and keep them unlisted. We create a training playlist and turn the link into a QR code that can be scanned by any smart phone.
    Sometimes we get lucky and use playlists that are already made like this one for our digital height gage. Our training videos are quick and dirty and look like this:
  • The Part Picker – Wastes eliminated: Over Processing, Misused Brainpower, Waiting
    Embracing lean has a snowball effect which frees up a lot of time to work ON the business rather than working IN the business. I created a custom part loader to run parts unattended freeing up a lot of labor and the inefficiencies associated with it.
  • Order Alert System – Wastes eliminated: Wasted Motion, Misused Brainpower
    When an order comes in, a custom alert plays in the shop. Not only is this great for morale, it also helps expedite our fulfillment process when an order comes in.
  • Communicators – Wastes eliminated: Wasted Motion, Waiting
    We use a multi-platform walkie-talkie app called Voxer that allows us to communicate with anyone in the company at anytime rather than walking around, wasting time trying to find them. It also works on desktops so voice messages sent to our order processing desk play automatically. A few guys listen to music with earbuds and the smartphone app alerts them when a message is sent. Big upgrade over yelling questions across the shop.
  • 100 Things – Wastes eliminated: Waiting, Misused Brainpower
    As an owner, when I see employees standing around without anything to do I see dollars crawling out of my wallet and into the trash can. When dollars keep piling up in the dumpster, eventually the prices of our products will have to go up. How is this fair to our customers? It’s not! That’s why we have a “100 Things You Can Do” chart handy for all employees, even myself. Notice how there’s plenty of room for my employees to contribute.

Additional resources and inspiration from short to long:

  • A 5 minute historical overview of Lean:
  • Watch the video tours by Fastcap that first inspired us:
  • Watch the full tours by John Saunders and John Grimsmo
  • Watch our story:
  • Read “2 Second Lean” by Paul Akers (The best practical overview of people-centric lean)
  • Read “The Toyota Way” by Jeffrey K Liker (Powerful tools for implementing lean from the creators of lean)
  • Read “The Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt (Excellent novel style book for companies fighting to survive)
  • Read “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (Best book for becoming a people-centric lean leader)
  • Read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear (Loaded with powerful principles and tips to achieve huge improvements)