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Belden Goes Lean

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RICHMOND, Ind., January 2, 2013 ¾ BeldenInc. has grown from a familiar supplier of a multitude of cables and wires toinclude many industrial networking products, especially involving Ethernet. TheBelden plant in Richmond, Ind., makes cables of varying sizes and compositions.Some cables may even have fiber optics in the core.

The company has implemented lean manufacturing over the past couple of years.Upon entering the plant, there are many ways you can see that it is practicinglean. In fact, sometimes even on the outside. One sign, "Lean Boards,"is prominently installed in each area, cell or department depending upon theorganization. According to Jerry Rose, director of manufacturing services,Belden has been practicing lean for about two years. The Lean Boards, site ofthe daily shift meeting, includes rows displaying KPIs, Pareto charts, 5 Whynotes (the way to determine root causes) and corrective actions taken to date.The daily team meetings update the entire team on the status of the cell. 

 Belder Braider
High-speed cable braider at Belden Plant in Richmond, Ind. Photo courtesy Belden Inc./
Automation World

While each production shift team has a brief dailymeeting at the beginning of the day, the plant management team meets everyafternoon at its lean board, which summarizes all the other boards to reviewthe day. This eliminates the "he said/she said" problems ofcommunication about situations, because everyone hears the same thing.

With average employee seniority in the plant at 28 years, mindset was perhapsthe biggest obstacle to overcome. It's the old "we've always done it thisway" idea embedded in the mind along with the "they never listen tome anyway" syndrome. But Belden made it a point to involve the olderworkers in providing ideas for lean without threatening them because there’ssometimes a fear that an idea will put them out of a job. That's why trust isone of the keys to lean. Belden plant management was able to set thatenvironment, and they were able to get buy in from most of the employees.

The plant has 50 extruders filling 1.1 million square feet. Extruders, ofcourse, are big energy users in the form of heating elements. Combining energysavings, lean and automation, Belden tackled the problem of energy wastedkeeping the heaters on too high over weekends and other downtimes. Operatorsliked to leave heaters on a little higher over a weekend so that they'd havefaster startup on Monday morning. A team looking into simple automation appliedautomatic timers so that the extruders would start on Monday morning soonenough so that they were ready to go when the operators were ready.

Source: automationworld.com, © 2013 Summit Media Group Inc.

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