Executive Briefings

Implementing Lean Material Flow at Pentair

Pentair is a $3bn global manufacturer that serves two segments. Its water segment makes residential and commercial water control and filtration products as well as pool products. Its enclosure business makes protective enclosures for sensitive electronics and other materials.

Lean processes are integral to everything at the company and underpin a continuous improvement philosophy that is reflected in the company's motto, "Improving Every Day," says Tom Pettit, vice president-global manufacturing and supply chain.

Pettit says that Pentair's Integrated Management System - the name for its lean program - is focused on eradicating waste and improving velocity in all processes. Waste is defined as anything that doesn't add value to the customer.

Since beginning its lean journey in the late 1990s, Pentair has made significant progress in improving performance. Just since 2007, Pettit says, the company has moved from number 16 to number 6 in a ranking compiled by Super Factory, a third-party firm that evaluates public companies that have adopted lean policies. "Our goal is to become number one," says Pettit.

Lean Material Flow is a lean process that Pentair implemented to optimize material flow inside the four walls and in its overall network of factories and distribution centers, Pettit says. The goals are to improve customer service and shareholder value, and to improve cash flow and return on invested capital by operating more efficiently and freeing up valuable floor space, he says.

"We recognized at Pentair a few years ago that we were missing a lot of delivery times, and in about half the cases this was due to materials and about two-thirds of the time it was due to errors that were within our control," says Pettit. "Moreover, we found that we were consuming a lot of space with materials and we had a lot of cash tied up in materials, so our objective was to put in place a world-class Lean Material Flow process to improve all of those areas."

Pettit summarizes several of Pentair's Lean Material Flow principles:

  • Have a plan for every part. "This is the DNA of our business that fuels the rest of the process," he says. "We start with database around all the parts that we buy, everything from packaging size to where it is used in the plant, where it is stored, and information related to kanban and replenishment.
  • Create a super market of purchased materials. "This is where we consolidate all raw materials from the plant into one key storage point. This frees up floor space and makes material easier to find."
  • Create a three-year plant flow plan. "When you are making changes on plant floor, you have to move machines and materials like a chess game - you need to think two or three or four moves down the board. So a three year vision for material flow is figuring out all those moves and sequencing them in way that creates the most value and does it in logical fashion."
  • Create pull replenishment that is based on consumption of the end customer and goes back to the supplier.
  • Optimize schedules using a principle of every part, every interval. "Using an every part, every interval schedule optimizer helps you balance the set-up time of machines along with an optimal sequencing of that machine. This scheduling methodology is designed to make the best use of equipment. It reduces cycle time and improves delivery for the end customer.
  • Replenish using timed delivery routes. This is comparable to taking a scheduled bus rather than a taxi to the airport, he says. It is much more efficient.

To view this video in its entirety, click here.

Pentair is a $3bn global manufacturer that serves two segments. Its water segment makes residential and commercial water control and filtration products as well as pool products. Its enclosure business makes protective enclosures for sensitive electronics and other materials.

Lean processes are integral to everything at the company and underpin a continuous improvement philosophy that is reflected in the company's motto, "Improving Every Day," says Tom Pettit, vice president-global manufacturing and supply chain.

Pettit says that Pentair's Integrated Management System - the name for its lean program - is focused on eradicating waste and improving velocity in all processes. Waste is defined as anything that doesn't add value to the customer.

Since beginning its lean journey in the late 1990s, Pentair has made significant progress in improving performance. Just since 2007, Pettit says, the company has moved from number 16 to number 6 in a ranking compiled by Super Factory, a third-party firm that evaluates public companies that have adopted lean policies. "Our goal is to become number one," says Pettit.

Lean Material Flow is a lean process that Pentair implemented to optimize material flow inside the four walls and in its overall network of factories and distribution centers, Pettit says. The goals are to improve customer service and shareholder value, and to improve cash flow and return on invested capital by operating more efficiently and freeing up valuable floor space, he says.

"We recognized at Pentair a few years ago that we were missing a lot of delivery times, and in about half the cases this was due to materials and about two-thirds of the time it was due to errors that were within our control," says Pettit. "Moreover, we found that we were consuming a lot of space with materials and we had a lot of cash tied up in materials, so our objective was to put in place a world-class Lean Material Flow process to improve all of those areas."

Pettit summarizes several of Pentair's Lean Material Flow principles:

  • Have a plan for every part. "This is the DNA of our business that fuels the rest of the process," he says. "We start with database around all the parts that we buy, everything from packaging size to where it is used in the plant, where it is stored, and information related to kanban and replenishment.
  • Create a super market of purchased materials. "This is where we consolidate all raw materials from the plant into one key storage point. This frees up floor space and makes material easier to find."
  • Create a three-year plant flow plan. "When you are making changes on plant floor, you have to move machines and materials like a chess game - you need to think two or three or four moves down the board. So a three year vision for material flow is figuring out all those moves and sequencing them in way that creates the most value and does it in logical fashion."
  • Create pull replenishment that is based on consumption of the end customer and goes back to the supplier.
  • Optimize schedules using a principle of every part, every interval. "Using an every part, every interval schedule optimizer helps you balance the set-up time of machines along with an optimal sequencing of that machine. This scheduling methodology is designed to make the best use of equipment. It reduces cycle time and improves delivery for the end customer.
  • Replenish using timed delivery routes. This is comparable to taking a scheduled bus rather than a taxi to the airport, he says. It is much more efficient.

To view this video in its entirety, click here.