Lean Manufacturing in Practice – Bittercube

bittercube-productsIn this blog series, I’m showcasing products manufactured in my home state of Wisconsin. In addition to sharing some fun facts about the various companies and their products, I’ll be highlighting the Lean Manufacturing Principles that are best exhibited at each respective organization. These principles are derived from the Japanese manufacturing industry and center on making obvious what adds value while reducing waste muda. The six Lean Manufacturing Principles are: 1) Workplace safety, order, and cleanliness 2) Just in Time (JIT) production 3) Six Sigma quality 4) Empowered Teams 5) Visual Management 6) Pursuit of Perfection.

A cocktail renaissance has swept across the country, inspiring a new fascination with the ingredients, techniques, and traditions that make the American cocktail so special. The use of bitters, liquor that is flavored with the pungent taste of plant extracts, has been gaining popularity over the past decade. Originally developed for medicinal and digestive purposes, bitters now serve mainly as cocktail flavorings. The alcohol functions as a solvent for botanical extracts as well as a preservative.

Milwaukee has contributed to this cocktail renaissance with the help of Bittercube. Founded by Nicholas Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz in 2009, Bittercube handcrafts eight varieties of artisanal bitters, using only naturally sourced ingredients. By happenstance, the operations are run from the location that Foamation once occupied. Milwaukee was perceived as an untapped market with room to grow. Also, the low cost of operating expenses allow for maximum revenue generation.

Henry Ford created the first all-inclusive manufacturing strategy. However, it was Eiji Toyoda, a Japanese engineer, who after analyzing Ford’s methods, improved upon them by keeping an eye out for waste. Waste (or muda in Japanese) refers to any kind of wasted motion, effort or materials in the manufacturing process. Toyoda popularized the concept of Reducing Waste, which has become a basic tenet of Lean Manufacturing and falls under the principle of Pursuit of Perfection.

The objective of Lean is that every step must add value and be waste-free. A non-value added, or wasteful activity is one that neither adds value to the customer nor provides a competitive advantage to the organization.  Some non-value added activities include waiting and inappropriate processing. Waste can also take a tangible form, such as idle raw material or defects. Although transportation is an important aspect of the manufacturing process, it is a non-value added activity, as it adds to cost but not to value. It should be noted that some non-value adding activities like accounting and regulations are important and cannot be avoided.

Lean-manufacturing-bwThe continuous Pursuit of Perfection encompasses the idea that one must always strive to eliminate waste in the organization, while constantly making improvements, even if those improvements are small and incremental.  Improving processes results in reducing or eliminating variation, and improving the process flow or speed. Learning and consistent measures for improvement should be part of all processes if an organization intends on growing.

Bittercube has reduced waste by improving on their processes. In the past, they used a generic, high-density plastic container to process the bitters. There was no way to remove the botanical material after the batch was processed, other than to climb into the container and physically remove it by hand. Although this left the person who cleaned the container smelling of cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla, it wasted time and did not add value to the process. They have since updated to a custom-built processing/cooking tank with a bottom compartment where botanical material can easily be removed and cleaned.

Bittercube previously used generic boxes that weren’t cost efficient to ship. They have since opted for custom-made boxes with dimensions that maximize the number of bottles in each box, thus reducing wasted space and shipping costs.

Lean supports the notion that nothing should be wasted and a use must be found for everything. Bittercube has also reduced tangible/physical waste by reusing and recycling the processed materials. Instead of discarding the used botanicals, Bittercute has begun composting these materials. The finer botanical sediment will be reused in other products, such as an ingredient for Purple Door Ice Cream.

Autumn is upon us! Try this seasonal Maple Old Fashioned recipe!

2 oz. Johnny Drum Private Stock Bourbon, Fat .25oz. Maple Syrup, a dash of Jamaican #2 Bitters, a dash of Bittercube Bolivar Bitters, Garnish: Fat orange peel

To view other recipes and product offerings, visit Bittercube.

To read more about bitters, visit The History of Bitters

For more information on Lean Manufacturing see: Lean Waste Stream by Marc Jensen, Lean Enterprise: A Synergistic Approach to Minimizing Waste by William A. Levinson and Raymond A. Rerick, and Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Create Value and Eliminate MUDA by Mike Rother and John Shook

Lean Manufacturing in Practice – Foamation

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In this blog series I will be showcasing products manufactured in my home state of Wisconsin. In addition to sharing some fun facts about the various companies and their products, I’ll be highlighting the Lean Manufacturing Principles that are best exhibited at each respective organization. These principles are derived from the Japanese manufacturing industry and center on making obvious what adds value while reducing waste muda. The six Lean Manufacturing Principles are: 1) Workplace safety, order, and cleanliness 2) Just in Time (JIT) production 3) Six Sigma quality 4) Empowered Teams 5) Visual Management 6) Pursuit of Perfection.

When you tell someone that you’re from Wisconsin, it’s almost certain that you’ll be associated will be the iconic Cheesehead® hat, worn by devoted Green Bay Packer fans. In the mid-1980’s the term “cheesehead” started being used to describe Wisconsinites at baseball games. Rather than be insulted by this term, Ralph Bruno, founder and owner of Foamation, decided to embrace and reappropriate the concept. He cut up his mother’s couch, and the first foam Cheesehead hat was born. For nearly thirty years, Foamation has been producing Cheesehead hats (along with a wide array of foam merchandise). If you placed Cheesehead hats back to back, they would stretch across America and into the sea!

Although the Cheesehead hat still leads in sales (especially during football season), this company continues to add new items to their product offerings, along with fulfilling high quantities of custom orders. “Even though we’re associated (not officially, but in some consumer’s minds) with the Green Bay Packers, you don’t have to like the Packers to like our brand. What other fun, goofy, silly thing can we do?” stated Production Manager, Mario Busalacchi. Should you already own a Cheesehead hat, you could purchase other headgear or accoutrement, such as: a baseball hat, cowboy hat, hanging dice, tie, bad-call brick, fireman hat, or ice cream hat in chocolate, strawberry, or mint chip.

Lean ManufacturingThe factory floor is the core of any manufacturing company, but a lean factory alone does not make a lean enterprise. There are also other functions that support manufacturing and contribute to the Lean Pursuit of Perfection. Design Engineering falls under this general category and includes the following attributes: Designing for Manufacturability (DFM), Being Reasonable about Critical Parameters, Having Knowledge of Logistics and the Need for Standardization, Driving New Product Design from Marketplace Needs, and Shortening the Design Process all while considering the Voice of the Customer (VOC).  (For more on VOC, see: Critical to Quality Trees, Kano Analysis, and Customer Segmentation.)

Lean companies include the customer in new product decisions so as to avoid wasting design efforts on an undesired product that will flop. In order to embody the Pursuit of Perfection principle, companies must constantly strive for improvement with an anti-waste mindset and understand that the organization exists primarily to provide value to its customers.

Foamation pursues perfection by constantly evolving and enhancing their products based on customer feedback. Through online analytics, social media, and general observations, this company identifies opportunities and sets the development process in motion. Foamation discovered that there were opportunities to better serve women and children by producing products geared toward their preferences.  Women who would rather not wear a foam hat, now have the option of showing off their brand loyalty through other products such as Cheesehead earrings, and children now have the option of wearing a smaller version of the Cheesehead hat.

Foamation is also aware of the importance of technology in their customers’ lives. They are Driving New Product Design from Marketplace Needs by offering NFCheese key chains and necklaces that have Near Field Communication tags embedded within the foam. With this Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, fans can converge their digitally enhanced Cheesehead product with their mobile device.

Here’s to a great season…Go Packers!

To view all of the Cheesehead products, visit Cheesehead.com.

For more information on Lean Manufacturing see: Learning to See by Mike Rother and John Shook, published by The Lean Enterprise Institute (www.lean.org), The Lean Turnaround by Art Byrne, and Creating a Kaizen Culture by Jon Miller, Mike Wroblewski, and Jaime Villafuerte.