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initiatives for achieving process and
production excellence. Adapted from
the Toyota Production System, RPS
encompasses tools and approaches that
enable achievement of quality, cost and
lead-time goals, explained Randy Fedie,
global RPS continuous improvement
manager. “It’s not about the tools, but an
enabler for improvement by creating the
framework for tool application,” he said.
The company’s values inspire day-to-day
progress (customer focus, speed, etc.)
melded with its universal principles such
as respect for the individual, embracing
scientific thinking, constancy of purpose
and focus on process.
The four-step process for deploying and
sustaining RPS advancement powers
ongoing CI progress. Its regular cadence
of detailed assessment reveals perfor-
mance gaps. Prioritized action plans
spell out needed changes. Coaching is a
critical element, helping to build under-
standing and buy-in for targeted improve-
ments. Follow-through status reports
ensure that progress can be sustained.
The RPS assessment scale initially fo-
cused on elements in operating rhythm,
build-in quality, lean and culture; safety,
problem-solving and standardization
were added later.
All 17 of the Rockwell Automation manu-
facturing facilities adopted RPS by 2009.
They use its assessment criteria (referring to
a related guidebook that serves as a “how-
to playbook’” for improvement) to identify
performance gaps and create an action
plan to close them. In turn, each facility
creates a “4 up” status report on key met-
rics, improvement activities and execution
performance for action items, Fedie noted.
Such reports feed global monthly reviews
to check and adjust activities/results (part
of the PDCA — Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle).
Evolution: White and yellow belt
training + safety and problem-solving
A crucial aspect of Rockwell Automa-
tion’s CI progress is the company’s
openness to tweak RPS strategies and
elements. “White belt and yellow belt
training was later introduced to train
production associates and support per-
sonnel the what-how-why of CI tools,”
Fedie said. “Candidates of this training
go through a certification process to
ensure an understanding of the training
Recently launched transactional yellow
belt training is “taking off like wildfire,”
according to Fedie. “It’s like a light switch
turned on, with bursts of excitement.”
Safety and problem-solving gained
increased RPS attention in 2010. The
safety section, linked to global safety
initiatives, fosters understanding about
appropriate tools and methods for
various issues. The company also began
working with global functions in engi-
neering services to better align industri-
alization, process and test engineering,
reported Fedie. RPS assessment was
revamped in 2011 to improve integration
with key performance indicators (KPIs).
“We turned our focus on looking at the
end-to-end value stream, from order entry
to shipment to the customer,” added Fedie.
Targeting waste in transactional areas
proved rewarding. (See “Global Perfor-
mance” at left for information on Rockwell
Automation results during its CI transition.)
Rockwell Automation set its sights on
standardization of critical processes
across the company in 2012. Best prac-
tices were identified and initiated across
similar facilities (later, globally) to make
sure the same methods or process con-
trols were used. A timeline on pages 26-27
reflects improvements in the CI process.
At the Rockwell Automation Champaign (IL) Distribution Center, a Lego© training simulation demonstrated
the effect of yellow belt tools. Pictured from left to right are Frank Lucente, Adam Cook and Randy Fedie.
Rockwell Automation’s focus on
continuous improvement during
the past eight years has yielded
significant performance gains,
• Total safety recordable rate
reduced 64 percent.
• Reduction in parts per million
defects by 50 percent.
• Lead time (order to shipment)
decreased 50 percent.
• On-time delivery rose from the
mid-80s to 96 percent.
• Productivity improvements
averaged 4-5 percent annually.
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