Original Date: 11/12/2001
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Continuous Improvement Process
Frontier Electronic Systems implemented the Continuous Improvement Process to maintain its competitive edge, improve customer relationships, and eliminate waste caused by inconsistent processes between business units. The company realized a three-fold return on investment in the first year.
For many years, Frontier Electronic Systems (FES) operated its three business units (Aerospace, Navy, Ground Systems) under the MIL-Q-9858A quality system with supporting processes and procedures. The system was effective but segmented. Although the processes (e.g., managing contracts, interfacing with manufacturing, controlling documents, optimizing efficiencies) were standardized within each business unit, little cross-company standardization existed. Corporate-level data capture was difficult and often unreliable from the business units. FES identified a need to maintain its competitive edge, improve customer relationships, and eliminate waste caused by inconsistent processes between business units. As a result, the company implemented the Continuous Improvement Process.
Cross-company standardization was achieved by condensing all internal business processes into a single set of processes that are applicable across the company. By standardizing the processes, FES revised 75% of its processes, eliminated process duplications, defined process interfaces, ensured consistent training, and created a structure for consistent process measurement metrics to support continuous improvement. In addition, the Continuous Improvement Process enabled FES to attain ISO 9001 and AS 9100 Certification in 2005. In January 2000, FES became one of three businesses invited to participate in the Lean-Pathways Pilot Program with the U.S. Navy’s Pathways and Boeing’s Lean Initiative Programs. The Pathways Program helped identify corporate business priorities so FES could focus its efforts. The Lean Initiative Program provided many of the tools necessary for change implementation and employee buy-in. Although it spent $190,000 on this program, FES realized a three-fold return on investment during the first year.
After the Lean-Pathways Pilot Program ended, FES established the Continuous Improvement/Lean Initiative Program (CLIP). FES continues to accomplish its mission by utilizing process evaluation and feedback, metrics, benchmarking, change implementation engines, and input from every performance center. CLIP (Figure 2-2) cuts waste from business processes through cross-functional teams designed to leverage existing processes and procedures; utilizes processes and tools acquired in the Lean-Pathways Pilot Program; maintains momentum established in the Pilot Program; and keeps the need to continuously improve at the forefront.
The Continuous Improvement Process enabled FES to reduce cost, improve quality and delivery performance, encourage cross-functional cooperation, maximize employee pride, create a method of capturing real-time data, and continue to improve internal business practices to become a world-class supplier. Senior management stood behind its commitment that no jobs would be eliminated due to lean implementation. The company’s revenue and profits continue to increase while maintaining quality and delivery. On-time delivery rose from 60% in 1996 to 99% in 2001, and 100% in 2003 while revenue generated per employee increased by 44%. Over four years, FES increased its operating efficiency by 285%, earned Boeing’s prestigious Gold Supplier Certification for quality and on-time delivery; and was selected as Boeing’s 2001 Supplier of the Year in the Avionics category and 2005 Supplier of the Year in the Small Business category.
Figure 2-2. CLIP
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