Last week I was lucky enough to be part of a tour through the Valpak Manufacturing Centre in St. Petersburg, Florida. Completely automated and lean, it is an excellent example of lean processes and continuous learning.
I could not take pictures in the facility, but the following official video gives an good overview of Valpak and the manufacturing centre.
Some of the key items:
- The factory is built 18 feet above sea level and built to withstand category 4 hurricanes
- They reframed the problem – instead of stuffing coupons into an envelope they build the envelope around the coupons
- They etch their own printing plates and recycle the aluminium afterwards
- Failover is built into the system – such as two print heads per press so that they can change the plates without stopping the printing
- Loose paper is sucked off the factory floor by vaccuums
- The coupons are wound onto rolls and then stored temporarily until needed for collation – these are also buffers for the process
- Automated robots move the rolls around, they are smart enough to recharge themselves as well
- The collation process is ordered to ensure they get the lowest postal prices, right down to the order the pallets are loaded onto the truck
- The process used to take 4 days and now is about 4 hours
- There are very few humans on the factory floor – just highly skilled workers for operations and machine repair
- Continuous learning and improvement – can now insert different offers for different households for example