Whirlpool Manufacturing, Rio Claro, Brazil: Vinicius Tokuda Kouichi

Everything starts with a purpose! Nothing matters without it. World Class Manufacturing (WCM) wasn’t different, and it’s 100 percent linked with the Strategic Imperative of Reinventing our Value Chain at Whirlpool Corporation.

World Class Manufacturing in BrazilFirst question: How can a company with decades of WPS (Whirlpool Production System) based on Lean Manufacturing concepts improve its processes? The answer: it’s not easy, but we benchmarked the best practices of multiple production systems, and WCM has proven to be the best option to take us to a complete next level.

The natural feeling after this very first step was to be afraid of the unknown, mostly because of the ZERO Optimum Concept, which is the “mantra” of WCM. ZERO is a beautiful number when talking about potential accidents, consumer complaints or waste. Then comes the second question: Is it really possible to reach ZERO? In that case, the answer is easier: YES, it’s possible! To put into practice and make it happen is not as simple as the answer, hence comes the key figure of all this process: the PEOPLE!

A successful process goes far beyond having the right tools and methods to address all issues, It’s totally based on the right people at the right opportunity, scope or position. The beauty here is how leadership requirements go to another level; forget about regular skill sets, rockstar profiles or role model pupils. Now, we really understand the importance of having a diverse team, with different skill sets and thoughts, with different views on learning, thinking and making decisions. 

Each pillar requires a different knowhow and approach. Every team member should be chosen based on having a mixed team as much as possible, achieving the best results for the program and for the company. Team building is a continuous process. People keep rising in knowledge, capabilities and positions. Every operator is a key figure within the program, and leadership is accountable to show them the purpose of getting into WCM, and the benefits of living it.

World Class Manufacturing in BrazilHaving the team set, nothing can happen without Senior Leadership Sponsorship, and now that’s often happening! I have been saying that working in manufacturing has never been better than today. For each improvement, the leadership is always engaging and supportive.

So now that we have Senior Leadership support and the right team set, let’s make it happen! But this is not a one way/short time trip. It’s a long journey of changing processes and people’s lives. For Whirlpool, this journey started about two years ago, and it’s impressive to see how the changes at the factories so far, with the model areas and several expansion areas. It’s a good example of how our plants can be a benchmark in a short period of time, and reaching the ZERO Optimum Concept is starting to become real.

I have mentioned changing people’s lives, and this is the most valuable part. It’s so substantial that you can feel it on the shop floor. We can easily see people rising in their roles and achieving the company’s results. The WCM journey has just started. Some of our plants were granted their very first recognition of becoming Bronze Level, which is related to the transformation of part of our shop floor. So far, these great achievements keep our teams engaged and excited to maintain the RIGOR and PACE to accelerate evolution!

– Vinicius Tokuda Kouichi, Plant Lead – Rio Claro