May 17th, 2021


Schlam Welder

We have six guiding principles that define how we need to behave as a business every day to become the business we want to be.

For Schlam, these principles are lines in the sand that will not be crossed. They determine our behaviours and are qualities that we search for when hiring new people to join the Schlam team.

The principle we will be exploring in this article is do what's right, not what's easy. The essence of this principle is that we do what we say we'll do and have the courage not to make excuses or blame others when things go wrong. But it also relates to finding ways to improve rather than rest on our laurels.

Continuous Improvement, Lean Manufacturing & 5S

We hear all about Lean Manufacturing and Continuous Improvement, and although they might seem to go hand-in-hand, that is not necessarily the case.

What is Continuous Improvement?

Continuous improvement is taking an established production process and looking for ways to improve the production process incrementally. Although individual changes may not seem to have a major impact, the aggregate means significant change and improvement to the manufacturing process. Taking small measured steps, as a course of everyday activities, also allows for improvement while eliminating the risk of making one massive leap to achieve the same effect.

Schlam Payload Solutions Operations Manager, Ryan Archibald, says that those steps could be as radical as incorporating robotic welding or something simple as rearranging the location of consumable items to increase time spent welding in our manufacturing area.

“We have a digital continuous improvement ideas board. People make suggestions and go through them in monthly meetings.

“So far, suggestions left on this board have been adopted and have resulted in significant efficiency gains,” said Ryan.

What is Lean Manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing is a process that focuses on eliminating waste – reducing and controlling manufacturing and production costs all to increase efficiency, profitability and ultimately, value to the customer.

Ryan says that Lean Manufacturing is how companies like Schlam are seeking ways to drive improvement through improved flexibility, sharpening of production processes, and increasing output, all while reducing costs.

“It may be called lean manufacturing, but all types of businesses have some sort of waste.

“Whether it’s idle workers or unused materials that cannot be recycled or repurposed, the results are the same: a drag on productivity,” said Ryan.

What is 5S?

The Operations General Manager says that an essential cornerstone of Lean Manufacturing is 5S.

5S is a system for organising spaces so work can be performed efficiently, effectively, and safely. This system focuses on putting everything where it belongs and keeping the workplace clean, making it easier for people to do their jobs without wasting time or risking injury.

“We went through a rigorous 5S campaign when I first started throwing out old remnant plate, clearing access for designated walkways, and moving unused consumables into storage. With this the employees felt a change and starting thinking outside the box. They started to question why they stored certain materials and made changes to processes, which resulted in further efficiencies.

"With the workshop's leaders on board, 5s now seems like part of our day-to-day business, and we constantly get praised on the housekeeping for such a busy workshop," said Ryan.

5S began as part of the Toyota Production System (TPS), the manufacturing method started by leaders at the Toyota Motor Company in the early and mid-20th century.








Eliminate whatever is not needed by separating needed tools, parts, and instructions from unneeded materials.



set in order

Organise whatever remains by neatly arranging and identifying parts and tools for ease of use.




Clean the work area by conducting a cleanup campaign.




Schedule regular cleaning and maintenance by conducting seiri, seiton, and seiso daily.




Make 5S a way of life by forming the habit of always following the first four S’s


Six Principles of Continuous Improvement

Ryan says that continuous improvement is intended to improve productivity, increase profits, foster greater teamwork, improve employee morale, and streamline workflows. This is done through the adoption of six principles:

1. Improvements are based on small changes, not only on major paradigm shifts or new inventions.

People tend to dislike change, especially major changes such as how a task has been performed hundreds of times. Major changes can have a negative effect on productivity, staff performance and profitability.

By approaching change in small, incremental steps, the continuous improvement model reduces the fear factor and increases speed to improvement.

2. Employee ideas are valuable.

The continuous improvement model relies significantly on employees, not only top management, to identify opportunities to improve.

Employees are typically closest to the problems and better equipped to identify and solve them.

3. Incremental improvements are typically inexpensive to implement

Many employees' ideas involve eliminating processes rather than adding them, which is an excellent way to ensure that every activity adds some value to the customer and reduces waste.

Incremental improvements add up too. Suppose an employee came up with an idea to shave 10 minutes out of an unproductive daily task. That one improvement would result in a gain of over a weeks’ worth of extra productive time over the course of a year from just one employee.

4. Employees take ownership and are involved in improvement

As established, people tend to dislike change. However, people are less likely to complain if they are the ones who brought about that change.

Continuous improvement empowers employees to take charge of their work, identify problems or opportunities for improvement, follow through on implementing their ideas, take credit for the job, and see a measurable impact from their efforts.

5. Improvement is reflective.

Constant feedback is an essential aspect of the continuous improvement model. Open communication during every phase of executing an improvement is critical to both the final results of the improvement and employee engagement.

6. Improvement is measurable and potentially repeatable.

Changing something does not equal improvement, and not every change will improve processes. 

For Ryan, this means having employees rethink and believe in the company culture.

“With change and improvements, employees will adapt and rethink the current process. So, both the company and employees can make continuous improvement the standard culture,” said Ryan.

Visit our IDEOLOGY PAGE for more information on Schlam’s principles.


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