During the process of manufacturing natural rubber latex tubing, numerous defects can occur. So, it’s important to have an organized system for identifying and communicating defects to ensure we manufacture high-quality products efficiently and consistently. With KEP’s recent growth in demand for this tubing, as well as internal growth, we recognized the need to implement a universal system for both our Kent facility, where we manufacture natural rubber latex tubing, and Winesburg facility, where we handle our processing and assembly operations. 

Kaizen Team Established Goals 

After putting together a team consisting of employees from both Kent and Winesburg for a Latex Tubing Visuals Kaizen, they worked to identify areas for improvement. Through the years the Kent and Winesburg facilities have spoken a different “language” when identifying and communicating natural rubber latex tubing defects. In addition, there was no visual guide for machine operators to correct tubing defects at the Kent facility. 

Acknowledging these deficits allowed the team to come up with the following goals for the Kaizen event:

  • Develop a visual guide and standardized language for latex tubing defects. 
  • Develop a troubleshooting guide for correcting visual defects.
  • Explore ways for the supervisors and machine operators to 
    record and track visual defect corrections. 

Implementing a New System 

The Kaizen team updated the Dip Room Visual Inspection Record to include pictures with a corresponding set of operator and supervisor directions for each. This will aide in communication between operators and supervisors. A set will be kept at each operator station specifically for these forms. The team also standardized the language for types of defects and then updated all necessary work instructions.

As a result of creating the standard work for visuals, both accountability increased and it allowed for better communication between operators and supervisors – leading to better quality results and time savings. This standardization was also designed to assist operators in identifying specific visual defects and provide them with the exact steps they need to take to correct them. Additionally, it would be used as a training tool for current and future operators. 

Improvements in Retrospect

After a one year review, the developments made as a result of this Latex Tubing Visual Kaizen have proven to be valuable for troubleshooting and correcting visual defects and has greatly improved our facilities’ overall communication when addressing issues. The improved communication has also benefited training newer operators in this area. The new system is still intact and no enhancements were needed in the first year. 

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