Kaizen is a Japanese term that means “change for the better,” and it’s also the name given to projects at Whirlpool Corporation plants worldwide that are aimed at generating savings, eliminating waste, and improving efficiency, safety and quality. They’re an essential part of Whirlpool Corp’s World Class Manufacturing system (also known as WCM), and the central feature of a series of new “Kaizen Power Pitches.”
These power pitches are used in competitions between manufacturing plants. Winners are judged by a panel of leaders and peers in a multi-tiered game format that creates excitement for participants and results in the sharing of best practices between plants not only in North America, but in the other regions where Whirlpool Corp. does business — Asia, Latin America, and its Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) region. “The best part of the competition is sharing information between the regions and finding solutions from other plants that we can apply in our own region,” said Latin America Region South WCM Lead Andre Libio.
We’re all competitive by nature, and by making a sort of game of it, our teams are more inspired and can add a little bit of playfulness to their everyday work. We are more engaged, energetic and proud to share as a result, and we’re building this expanded network of support for each other across regions.”
“It’s great for connecting with our colleagues across the globe who work on similar projects and to network with people we would not normally meet,” said WCM EMEA Lead Valentina Trombetti. “We use the competition to share technological tools as well as methodological knowledge and examples with each other.”
Instituting this K.P.P. program has helped to further ingrain the World Class Manufacturing system into the culture of plants around the globe.
“The Kaizen Power Pitch has been very successful for us,” said North American WCM Lead Stefano Meloni, who initially created the competition. “When we compared the level of detail and understanding of projects between the beginning of the competition and the end, we saw incredible growth among the competitors.”
The first global event concluded in early 2022, with the North American plant in Monterrey Horizon, Mexico winning the grand prize for implementing an “Ideal Production System” that increased efficiency and reduced safety risks on the production line. Other projects that made it to the finals included improvements to welding processes, rotation systems on production lines, and other processes that improved production speed and product quality.
“The mindset of our plant teams has changed since the pitch competition started,” explained Meloni. “We see them approaching all projects with the Kaizen mindset now.”
“We’re seeing better results in terms of safety and quality in the plants as well,” said Libio.
In addition to recognizing the plants for delivering manufacturing excellence, the competition motivates employees to deliver products with a deeper understanding and application of WCM methodology. “Every day employees at our plants are making improvements, but now they are being more widely recognized for those efforts,” said Meloni.
“Every team in the competition was excited to present to leadership and have a higher visibility with the leadership team,” said Libio.
Competition spurs that excitement, said Trombetti. “We’re all competitive by nature, and by making a sort of game of it, our teams are more inspired and can add a little bit of playfulness to their everyday work. We are more engaged, energetic and proud to share as a result, and we’re building this expanded network of support for each other across regions.”
The results of the competition are better productivity and quality, as well as the reduction of activities that aren’t “value added,” along with savings in sustainability.
“In the presentations that our region did, saving energy was one of the top benefits for us,” said Asia Region India WCM lead Siva R. “We look forward to the next competition to keep the momentum going on this important global mechanism for improving performance at all of our plants.” The next competition will begin in spring of 2022.
In early 2022, the overall winner of the competition was announced, but there were also special awards given for “Best WCM Methodology,” “Best Presenter,” “Best Innovation,” and “Best Product Improvement.” During the entire competition, there were 85 Kaizen “Battles” with 151 Kaizen’s presented to various cross-functional judging committees. A total of 618 project team members took part, with 197 committee members. Manufacturing practices that were put in place as a result of the competition resulted in millions of dollars in savings at the plants.