Cutco Cutlery

Cutco workers and executives stand around a table.

The management team at Cutco Cutlery in Olean, NY, always strives to improve operations – whether in engineering, quality, or any other department of the kitchen cutlery company. While pockets of success have emerged, employees of the 428-person workforce have too often been recruited for new quality initiatives that disappear before momentum takes hold. But a recent approach – the Lean methodology of reducing waste – is showing staying power and erasing worker skepticism that it’s just the new “flavor of the month.” Cutco has dabbled in Lean before, but at the level of using one LEGO brick to build a house, as machine operator Jason Graham put it. Graham compares the adoption of TCIE’s full-fledged Certified Lean Professional (CLP) training program to, “We’re going to build a house and here’s a box of LEGOs. Here are the tools.” The effect has been the spread of a consistent mindset for making processes better. It’s forcing greater attention to analysis among everyone, rather than managers fixing issues that were incorrectly assumed as problems. More discussion between company functions – like the mechanics and machine operators working more collectively instead of pointing fingers at each other when things go wrong – are disintegrating silos. And perhaps most resoundingly, Lean is empowering long-time employees who have felt their voices were underutilized in the past.

The Approach

  • Employed TCIE’s CLP training program through a tailored version that involved:
    • An application process – extracting leadership traits, ability to overcome adversity, aptitude for working with others, etc. – to choose four CLP candidates to undergo training and each facilitate a project
    • Selection of 12 employees to receive CLP training and serve on one project, providing support to the facilitator
    • 139 hours of education in fundamental Lean concepts, including mistake proofing, value stream mapping and more

The Impact

  • Decreased unanticipated down time of a machine (lasting two hours to up to three days) from an average 5.5 times per month to 3.3 by standardizing preventive maintenance (PM), allotting proper time to mechanics, and implementing an electronic PM database
  • Will eliminate unnecessary tasks typical of manufacturing change requests by exchanging a flawed and outdated process for a detail-oriented form and computer-based system
  • Reduced work in process for one department by nearly 68 percent, partially by reversing a long-ingrained company philosophy that excess inventory is always paramount
  • Improved safety and organization by minimizing inventory from accumulating
  • Elevated employee pride by encouraging critical thinking, leading to shop floor personnel taking greater initiative and job ownership
  • Will save close to 1,800 hours per year by replacing a manual loading operation with an automated conveyor, allowing more time to be spent where the manpower is needed
  • Enabled company leaders to devote more attention to business growth