• Joe Rizzo. Director of the New England Lean

RECAP: Lean Leaders Meeting, Volk Packaging Corporation


November 8th, 2017

The New England Lean Consortium held its November Lean Leaders Meeting at Volk Packaging in Biddeford, ME. Volk Packaging is one of the leading producers of corrugated boxes in the state of Maine. The facility in Biddeford celebrated its 50th anniversary in September of this year. The company hosted an Open House on September 8th, with over 500 people in attendance.

The attendees included members from two new member companies, Applied Materials of Gloucester, MA and Wunderlich-Malec of Winslow, ME. Cathryn Majorossy, the Virtual Assistant for the NELC also attended for the first time and had a chance to meet the members of the NELC.

After the introductions, Joe Rizzo gave an update on the New England Lean Consortium. The Lean Consortium continues to grow with three new members in September and another six potential members ready to join.

Rich Wills, the General Manager for Volk Packaging, gave the company presentation on the history and current state of the company, along with some highlights of the company’s recent Lean efforts. It had been two years since the last Lean Leaders Meeting at Volk Packaging. The members were anxious to see and hear of the improvements since the last meeting.

One of the major Lean implementations was incorporating much more information on the labels for the boxes in order to give the operators more information on how many boxes and/or pallets were in the order, and whether the order was a split order or a total order. The additional information led to an increase in productivity.

A second major improvement was the development of a system to stack “bales” of boxes on their edge rather than on the flat surface, as that was a new request from the customer. The maintenance crew was able to develop a system to turn the bundle of boxes on its edge with an automatic drop and lift device.

In the last two years, the company has experienced significant growth. In order to keep up with the demand, the company has focused on quick changeovers, as the nature of the business is high mix/low volume.

After the presentation, the attendees were taken on a very extensive tour of the facility, where they could see the dynamic nature of the business and the problems of material storage and material handling.

The meeting concluded with a Plus/Delta session where the attendees could give their feedback to the host company. The Pluses would be the things that the attendees liked and would like to implement at their own facility. The Deltas are the improving ideas that the attendees suggest to the company.

One of the major pluses was the use of scanners and computers on the fork trucks. Since material handling is one of the major activities of the plant, the fork truck drives rarely have to get off the truck and are able to spend the majority of their time in value added activities. One of the major Deltas was the suggestion to incorporate Gemba boards at major locations in the plant and to conduct a regular Gemba walk with the management team. In addition to providing production related information for the operators and the management team, the Gemba boards become problem solving stations, as problems are resolved during the Gemba walk. The other major advantage of the Gemba boards is they engage the people.

The use of Gemba boards and regularly scheduled Gemba walks epitomizes my preferred definition of Lean: the total engagement of people for problems solving and improving ideas.

Other Plus/Deltas are shown below.

Read these related article on Volk Packaging:


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