Over the last several months, we’ve been buzzing about our $6.5 million-dollar plant expansion to Hamilton’s new corporate headquarters next door (happening June 21st, fingers crossed). We’re talking new fiber lasers and robotic welders! The CNC machines are gonna be huge! And while it’s easy to focus on the bells and whistles of the new space, the unsung hero of this whole journey has been the herculean effort and planning that goes into such a mammoth move.
To take on such a challenge, Hamilton took advantage of a unique planning system called obeya, which literally means “big room” in Japanese. It’s a powerful visual tool for facilitating teamwork and better project management. Rather than communicating across departments over several weeks, all the key decision makers on a project get together in a physical or virtual “obeya room” to collaborate and execute quickly and efficiently.
Charts, graphs, posters and Post-Its are all used to help everyone quickly understand thought processes and plans. It’s a constant flow of rapid execution, breaking down barriers and swift problem-solving. The result? Rock star preparedness.
To learn more about Hamilton’s move and the obeya way, we caught up with the project’s fearless leader, Plant Manager Lester Jones.
What has been the biggest challenge of the move?
Honestly, we’ve never done something like this before. Making a move of this scope without any disruption to our business has been a huge challenge. We’re trying to oversee the move of two buildings full of equipment into one—and preparing the new facility for all of the equipment from the office and shop. Simply orchestrating the location of the electric, air drops and water drops for the equipment was a monumental task.
How did you approach your obeya?
We started by defining the goal of moving two buildings into one without disrupting our shipping performance metrics. Then we discussed proposed solutions for accomplishing this goal with all the department leads, identifying and solving for potential problems along the way. We used all of this to create our action plan, which we divided into three categories: Before The Move, The Move Itself, and After The Move. After the project, for example, one of our benchmarks will measure whether we are maintaining or exceeding the same level of productivity we had before our move for a determined period of time. Only after that can we say we’ve completed that project.
What are the biggest benefits of obeya?
The depth of up-front planning is amazing to help you understand the true scope of the project. Also, being able to manage multiple tasks at once with the help of more minds has been a tremendous help. It really ensures a smoother transition. You’re not blind-sided by things. So far, I can honestly say we haven’t been. It’s about anticipating, planning and pooling your brain power.
What have you enjoyed most about the process?
Our weekly standups really forced different areas of the company to come together and make this move successful. Employees across disciplines can work together in real time, rather than via e-mail or in rushed meetings. Because the project was so huge, it literally forced me to go outside my comfort zone and rely on others for help. If it weren’t for our whole team working together through all these issues and potential scenarios, we wouldn’t be successful.
Ready for a teaser of the new HQ exterior? Watch our latest drone footage now.