Plastic Packaging Technologies’ Journey to Improve Safety, Quality & Customer Satisfaction

The Columbus, OH facility of Plastic Packaging Technologies LLC has come a long way since it was founded in 1968 as Cello-Poly Corp. At the time, the focus was on cookie wrappers and paint brush packaging. It was all rubber plates and only a 4- to 6-color printing capability.

Plastic Packaging Technologies purchased Cello-Poly Corp in 2009, and the facility saw some upgrades. Now there are two flexographic printing presses, two adhesive laminators and three slitters at the 5-acre plant. Customers are in a wide variety of industries, including pet care and food, dry and frozen food, snack and bakery, lawn and garden, health and medical, and specialty consumer products.

The Columbus location of Plastic Packaging Technologies began its “lean journey” in 2017, and the corporate facility is now being led in the same direction.
All photos courtesy of Plastic Packaging Technologies LLC

This location of Plastic Packaging Technologies also began a “lean journey” in 2017, with a renewed focus on safety, waste, visual management and a new-hire certification process. Not only have company operations improved as a result, but it is now also a finalist in the 2019 IndustryWeek Best Plant awards.

“The best part about changing a work culture is when people start to realize things are getting better, and they really become grateful that we have all helped make our facility a safer place to work,” says Phil Winkelmann, continuous improvement manager at the Columbus location. “I was fortunate enough to have gone to one of the first Best Plant conferences 25 years ago, so it always gave me inspiration and an understanding of what we could achieve.”

Improvements All Around

The lean journey began when Todd Riley became Columbus’ plant manager in early 2017. Riley, who is now director of operations and leading the company’s corporate facility in the same direction, supported Winkelmann, who implemented more than 30 lean processes over all aspects of the Columbus facility. It started with safety, standardizing processes, training and focusing on eight types of waste: defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion and excess processing.

Plastic Packaging Technologies’ focus is also on providing the training and tools to team members so they can generate root cause solutions for all of the company’s key performance measurements (KPM). All KPMs are now tracked daily, discussed at each Tier Board Meeting and bonused every month. A daily safety message is read at the shift start meetings, and accidents have been greatly reduced by challenging all team members to discover dangerous situations to prevent accidents.

“We discuss how we did yesterday, share any safety opportunities or near misses from the previous day, as well as brainstorm any action items,” says Winkelmann. “The key to our culture change and continuous improvement is team member involvement. We train and communicate on a regular basis that our team members are the experts and that we need their great ideas to continue to improve.”

Improving the new hire certification process was important for the facility, as it resulted in increased morale of the new team members. “We now provide them the tools and training and support they need to feel confident to be successful and happy,” Winkelmann adds. “Improving this training has also helped the new team members understand how important safety and quality are in our culture.”

“The key to our culture change and continuous improvement is team member involvement. We train and communicate on a regular basis that our team members are the experts and that we need their great ideas to continue to improve.”

Phil Winkelmann, continuous improvement manager at Plastic Packaging Technologies’ Columbus, OH location

Another early focus was improving quality systems, which included retraining all team members on the importance of quality, and the development of a Corrective Action/Preventative Action (CAPA) process, discussed in weekly meetings. “Our entire management support team works with all team members to develop true root cause analysis and corrective and preventative actions,” Winkelmann explains. “Everyone now knows that we are all quality managers, as we capture opportunities at the source, and meet to discuss preventative measures for all future jobs.”

There is also an improved focus on visual management—making sure everything is labeled with tape, paint, signs or shadow boards, so everyone knows where everything belongs. A weekly “Gemba Walk” allows all supervisors and managers to split up and audit every department and area of the facility, verifying everything is in its place.

Each month, team members have “Meaningful Conversations” meetings with supervisors where they can submit ideas; ideas can also be shared at shift start huddles, and during every CAPA project and Kaizen event. All completed suggestions are rewarded with $10 toward a quarterly prepaid gas card, given out to team members by the president of the company.

Each month, 19 percent of the workforce conducts “Layered Audits” in all different departments. They observe and work with other team members to validate the company’s procedures and review other opportunities for safety and quality. A different 21 percent of the team conducts “Behavioral Based Safety Audits” on their own every two weeks in different departments. In addition, bi-annual anonymous internal surveys are used to understand how employees feel about the company’s culture and leadership and if there are opportunities for improvement. A review of supervisors during the other two quarters helps the team understand leadership opportunities.

“After each survey, the management team gets together to discuss the results, review the comments and ideas, and most importantly develops an action plan to improve our biggest opportunities,” says Winkelmann. “These actions and survey results are communicated and posted so all team members can see what we will do to improve their culture.”

People & Projects

After two-and-one-half years of focusing on quality opportunities, Plastic Packaging Technologies in Columbus began to focus on improving supplier reliability and customer satisfaction.

Tier 2 meeting with supervisors, sharing numbers from the day prior, what happened that evening, and what they need to watch out for that day.

“By standardizing our customer charge back process, we now communicate with our suppliers in a more structured and standard format, improving communication throughout the supply chain,” Winkelmann explains. He adds that the company prides itself on being customer-focused by having a flexible production system, which has the ability to shift its schedule to meet its customers ever-changing needs.

“Our cultural change focuses on improving safety, quality and communication with all team members, but the end result is a tremendous improvement on all of our key performance measurements and customer satisfaction.”

There has also been emphasis on developing and improving manufacturing technology with new equipment and capital projects focused on increasing safety, quality and efficiency in conjunction with process improvements. “We do not move forward with capital investments until we exhaust all efforts to reduce waste inherent in these systems,” Winkelmann notes. “We communicate and discuss [capital expenditure] projects with our team, so everyone is aware of all the improvements we are working on, and when each project should be completed. This way, our team better understands our long-term improvement strategy and understands the impact of projects to our KPMs.”

The Future

Winkelmann admits there is always room for improvement. The Columbus plant has a long-term Hoshin Plan for developing more lean tools, such as Leader Standard work, hour by hour boards, capital expenditures, and an aggressive sales strategy to develop new customers and markets.

“We have a lot of work to do, not only with future projects or process development, but also with sustaining the processes already in place,” he says. “This is the best way to continue to change our culture and help us continue on our journey. We need to continue to improve and move toward World Class, because if you are static, you fall behind.”