Still going

When you think of batteries, odds are, you think of Energizer.

That’s not by chance. Energizer’s objective, says Steve Hockridge, the company’s director of global lean enterprise, is to provide customers with solutions to their portable power needs better than anyone else.

Today’s global consumer wants it better and cheaper, says Hockridge, so two years ago Energizer implemented the Energizer Value Improvement System, based on lean thinking and the Toyota production system.

The system’s goals were to drive several improvements within five years — doubled labor productivity, a 90 percent reduction in throughput time and inventory and a 50 percent reduction in defects and time to market. And the plan included doing so while reducing capital investments.

“We needed to change our approach to delivering value to our customers through speed, flexibility and responsiveness, while driving nonvalue-added activities out of all of our processes, whether manufacturing or administrative,” Hockridge says.

That required a change in how people thought about the company, as well as how the company was managed. Efforts focused on improving the flow of material and information through the company to better meet customer needs. Value Stream Maps provided the road maps for improvement, Hockridge says, and organizationally, the company made changes to better align with this approach.

One example is the Lean Office, a support function that was created to provide guidance to the various value streams and to assist with creating the vision for where Energizer was headed and how it was going to get there.

“The plants then developed annual plans for improvement efforts and kaizen (continuous improvement) events were scheduled and conducted to drive rapid, step-change improvement to our processes, again with a focus on the customer,” Hockridge says.

Today, Energizer has made strides toward its goals — more than 500 kaizen events in 20-plus locations involving in excess of 2,500 people that have generated more than $10 million in savings.

“We also have seen individual value streams in the operation that have achieved over 90 percent reduction in inventory while improving customer delivery performance with 15 percent lower costs,” he says. “We’ve seen significant reductions in time-to-market on new package types and new lighting products which have allowed for enhanced customer value and growth within the business.”

“Overall, although very early on in our journey, we have seen some significant, sustainable gains in our performance,” Hockridge says. “But more importantly, I’d suggest that we’re better able to see the future opportunities yet to be captured.”