Lean Manufacturing 101

“To be competitive, we have to look for every opportunity to improve efficiencies and productivity while increasing quality. Lean manufacturing principles have improved every aspect of our processes.” -Cynthia Fanning, GE Appliances

How do responsible companies reduce waste and cost? How do they increase quality and efficiency? How do they do what they do – better? For many highly successful organizations, the answer lies in Lean manufacturing. Though many clients do not know it, Lean manufacturing directly benefits them. To learn more about what Lean manufacturing means, how it benefits you, and which Lean philosophies help companies achieve maximum results with minimal waste, read on:

Introduction To The Lean Philosophy

Lean is a methodology and a set of tools to identify and remove sources of waste, or “non-valued added activities” in organizations. This, in turn, improves quality and reduces both production time and cost. The goal is continuous improvement; Lean Manufacturing eliminates unnecessary steps or processes if they do not contribute to overarching objectives.

While the term “Lean” was first coined in 1990 (The Machine that Changed the World by John Krafcik), its roots extended back to the old Model T assembly line. Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing by keeping standards high and streamlining processes so they “flowed” optimally.

Subsequent manufacturers adopted and improved upon Ford’s ideas. Taiichi Ohno, of Toyota, for instance, developed the Toyota Production System (TPS). TPS overcomes the inflexibility that flawed Ford’s system. (After all, the Model T assembly line only produced Model Ts and unsold inventory drained profitability.) Ohno pioneered the Just In Time (JIT) methodology (among others) to increase efficiency, boost flexibility, and eliminate extraneous and costly inventory.

How Does A Lean Organization Benefit Consumers?

Lean thinking benefits elevator maintenance companies, designers, architects, and, by extension, building owners and end-users. How? Systems and processes are optimized to ensure only the highest-quality products are shipped – on time, on budget, to your specifications.

SnapCab products are made-to-order with reliable lead times. They’re manufactured and shipped just in time, along with everything needed to complete the job, so you stay on schedule. Materials include:

  • Detailed written instructions and videos.
  • Drill and driver bits.
  • All necessary fasteners.
  • Package of shims to ensure panels fit tightly against the walls.
  • Construction adhesive and double sided tape.
  • Cleaner, paper towels and a garbage bag for clean-up.

For additional speed and convenience, SnapCab labels their panels and thoroughly inspects them. Elevator mechanics don’t have to waste time looking for missing parts and pieces while the clock is ticking on the job.

By operating with a Lean mentality, SnapCab eliminates material and manpower waste – creating cost savings that can be passed on to the customer. With an emphasis on continuous improvements, they are always looking for ways to create even more value for elevator maintenance companies, specifiers, and the end user.

So how exactly does SnapCab incorporate Lean philosophies into every part of the business?

SnapCab’s Lean Journey

SnapCab’s owner Glenn Bostock has always focused on simplification and continuous improvement. In fact, that’s why he started the company: from his experience in elevator remodeling, Glenn knew the conventional method of remodeling interiors was needlessly complex, time-consuming, and wasteful.

He developed a system of interlocking panels that streamlined the entire process. Elevator Interiors Simplified. Which isn’t just a slogan, but really, a way of doing business. Glenn is an ardent proponent of Lean manufacturing, and its principles of continuous improvement, knowledge sharing, and waste elimination are infused throughout SnapCab’s culture.

6 Ways to Incorporate Lean Ideas?

Eliminate waste, reduce cost, improve efficiency, increase quality: these principles guide Lean organizations. A few key Lean concepts that drive the work at SnapCab are:

1. 5S: Make An Efficient Workplace The Status Quo

Seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke.

5S, a Japanese methodology, helps reduce waste and optimize productivity by maintaining an orderly, streamlined workspace. There are five key pillars:

  • Sort (Seiri): remove unnecessary items from the workplace.
  • Set in order (Seiton): create efficient, clearly labeled storage methods.
  • Shine (Seiso): after de-cluttering, thoroughly clean the workspace. This makes it easier to spot potential problems before they can worsen and hinder production.
  • Standardize (Seiketsu): integrate Sort, Set in Order, and Shine into everyday work. Create a consistent approach for tasks and processes.
  • Sustain (Shitsuke): make the 5S a daily habit. It replaces the status quo and becomes the “way we do things around here.”

When employees apply the 5S steps to their workspace, they can meet a number of critical goals, including reducing waste and inventory, cutting downtime, reducing the square footage needed for their work, ensuring they have the proper tools for their tasks neatly organized, and improving final output.

2. Total Productive Maintenance (TPM): Avoid Breakdowns With Proactive Maintenance

TPM philosophy states everyone within an organization is responsible for proactive equipment maintenance to reduce downtime. People at all levels should work to improve the efficiency of their workplace. For instance, spotting and fixing minor problems, such as corrosion on a piece of equipment, can prevent a much costlier failure in the future.

Workers often perceive maintenance as a “non-profit activity” because it doesn’t help turn a profit. But TPM challenges that assumption and proves that making small investments in improving equipment can yield significant returns – and reduce unnecessary costs.

3. Standard Work: Implement Best Practices To Drive Improvement

Kaizen is the practice of continuous improvement, and this philosophy hinges on standardizing work. Documenting current best practices and keeping them updated provides employees with the best, most efficient processes for given tasks. These repeatable processes provide a new baseline on which organizational leaders can guide further improvements. Kaizen is a never-ending cycle.

4. Kanban: Streamline Workflows With Visual Cues

Henry Ford’s assembly line followed a “push” system: they churned out cars regardless of customer demand. Toyota recognized the waste and implemented a “pull” system. They were driven by customer demand, which reduces unsold inventory. Kanban is a Lean tool that facilitates Just In Time delivery and allows companies to match their inventory with actual demand.

Kanbans are visual cues: employees have cards that signal steps in their processes so they can visualize the flow of work. Through these cards, they can communicate effectively, telling coworkers what tasks to complete and when. This, again, improves efficiency and reduces downtime.

SnapCab relies on Kanbans to re-order stock materials and supplies. This ensures they have the right amount at each station and never run out – or run over. Too much product is as costly as too little.

5. Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI): Use Data To Optimize The Supply Chain

VMI allows manufacturers to optimize their supply chain. Typically, when distributors need a product, they place an order with a manufacturer. The distributor controls the size of the order, as well as the timing. With VMI, the manufacturer receives data on the distributor’s sales and inventory levels and maintains an optimal inventory plan. It’s the manufacturer, not the distributor, which creates the order. VMI helps create a Lean, demand-driven supply chain.

6. Value Stream Mapping:

A value stream map is essentially a flowchart that maps the manufacturing process. It helps organizational leaders to identify areas of waste, reduce production time, and make continuous improvements. As with many Lean methods, value stream mapping is highly visual. This makes it easier to follow and analyze how products get from Point A to customers’ hands, as well as which steps are non-value added and can be safely eliminated.

The Added Benefit Of Lean: A Fun and Engaging Workplace

While Lean thinking helps organizations operate efficiently, it also helps eliminate fear. SnapCab rewards their employees for mistakes and experimenting. If they’re not afraid of making mistakes, they’re empowered to make improvements and solve problems creatively. If they’re not afraid to point out waste or problems, they’re part of the solution.

SnapCab encourages their employees to give feedback – and they’re expected to help the company evolve, improve, and find new ways of working. Tim Isleib, a SnapCab team leader, says, “Our No Fear company culture gives us power, it seems like it’s not all up to the office, now we have a say in what’s going on.”

And they’re using this voice to ensure customers receive high-quality products that meet their design and functional goals. A No Fear company culture and Lean philosophies have helped land SnapCab on Inc magazines 5,000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America list yet again. More importantly, it allows them to provide high-quality, high-value products and services that elevator maintenance companies, architects, designers, and property owners can rely on to get the job done right.

Ask the expert! Contact Joe Danko here.

3 Ways To Train Your Mechanics on SnapCab Interior Installation Processes

When elevator mechanics are familiar with a particular interior system, installing those interiors becomes second-nature. Even with the simple SnapCab modular system, you want your team to feel completely prepared for a smooth installation process from start to finish – without a time consuming training process. In fact, shouldn’t the training be as quick and easy as installing the interiors themselves? Here are three simple ways to ensure your mechanics have all the information they need to get the job done quickly, and easily.

#1: Installation Videos

Mechanics can consult installation videos a day or two ahead of time, or even the morning of install. The videos demonstrate proper methods to install the interiors and to resolve common issues, such as what to do when the elevator cab is out of square, or when existing shell walls are bowed. Short and straightforward, these videos make sure learning how to install a SnapCab is a stress-free process that doesn’t take up too much of your time.

#2: On-Site Installation Day Training

Need an expert present for in-person guidance? In addition to providing videos (and the easy-to-follow instructions included in every SnapCab kit), a good partner will offer on-site training for a nominal fee. An experienced SnapCab team member will come to the job site, clarify instructions, and guide your mechanics through the install. This ensures your project is completed smoothly and increases your team’s confidence – so they’re ready to take on future installations.

#3: Look Inside the (Installation) Box

When it’s time to begin the installation, your crew should look to the box. There they’ll find easy-to-follow instructions that illustrate each step in the process. The SnapCab installation kit also contains everything a mechanic wouldn’t normally have – right down to the trash bag and cleaning supplies – necessary to properly install the SnapCab elevator interior.

With this simple but effective training and preparation, your mechanics will be able to install fully-functional, completely safe, code-compliant interiors that meet your customers’ high standards. With the SnapCab system and training, It’ll take them a day, or less, rather than two, three, or four with other companies. So don’t fear the “new” process – installing a SnapCab is ultra-simple, and there are plenty of training options to ensure your team is fully prepared to tackle the job this time, and every time to come.

To learn more about the author, Joe Danko, please check out his full bio here.

Ways to Maintain Code Compliance on Each Job

Code compliance; it’s an integral part of the design and installation processes of elevator interiors. When an interior does not meet applicable regulations, it grounds the entire project. How can you assure customers that their elevators will be installed on-time and fully functional? Just use this “cheat sheet” to help you keep the project compliant.

Code Compliance: Top Red Flags To Look For

Trained elevator mechanics know what to look for and can spot red flags that can keep customers’ interiors from passing inspection. The list below includes the top elevator code compliance issues you should be on the lookout for.

    • Adherence to fire codes. While some states and jurisdictions (e.g. Nevada, California, and NYC) are stricter than others, most cities and states use ASME A17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators.

      One of the requirements is that all combustible materials be tested in their end-use configuration. For instance, it is not sufficient to test a piece of laminate, particle board, and adhesive individually. The entire panel will also have to be assembled and tested, as a unit, before it complies with code.

    • Use of glass. Both laminated and tempered glass need to be mounted properly to withstand required elevator tests without damage. Each piece also needs to be marked with the applicable glazing standard.

    • ADA requirements. Elevator interiors must comply with American with Disabilities Act requirements if the building is more than three stories tall or larger than 3,000 square feet per story.

      A few of ADA’s regulations include:


    • Buttons must be mounted at 42 inches above the floor.

    • Handrails are not required by the ADA, but may be by your specific jurisdiction. They are typically mounted nominally 32 inches above the floor.

    • Cabs must be large enough to allow a wheelchair to make a 360 degree turn.

    • Ventilation. ASME A17.1 requires elevators to have natural ventilation that equals 3.5% of the floor area. For example, in a typical 2,500 pound-capacity elevator, that would be 142 square inches. It must be equally divided between floor and ceiling (for example, a ceiling fan opening and toe kick ventilation).

    • Tamper-resistant installation. Panels cannot be removed with common tools. Panels which cover openings greater than 0.5 inches, with straight-through passages, cannot be removable from inside the cab.

  • Lighting. Elevator interiors must have at least two bulbs and passenger elevators need a minimum illumination of 50 lux or five foot candles. Proper mounting is essential to avoid accidental breakage, and the lights need to withstand required elevator tests without being damaged or jarred loose.

  • Weight issues. When you remove the interior of an elevator, it has to weigh the same as the old interior or be within 5%. Staying within that slim margin is critical.

  • Music. All passenger elevators are required to play the soothing sounds of elevator music. (Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention!)

Because of these regulations, which can and do fill volumes, it’s vital that a certified elevator mechanic – not a maintenance person – completes every installation. It requires an entirely different set of skills and know-how. If the interior fails to comply with regulations, the project shuts down, and this can impact the entire building’s functionality. Not to mention the budget and timeline.

Elevator and building code compliance is complex, but non-negotiable. Partnering with an experienced interior company ensures that your customers’ elevators meet all applicable standards – which to them means projects completed safely, on-time, and on-budget. Fortunately, with the right partner, compliance can be simple. If they’ll do the heavy lifting, you can get back to focusing on the rest of your project and rest assured that the final results will be up to code.

Expert Tips for Creating Code Compliant Designs

The fast-paced, challenging fields of architecture and interior design offer the chance to flex creative muscles, solve complex challenges, and work with innovative new materials and methods. But an equally important component of design, (though maybe less glamorous) is elevator code compliance. Failure to consider compliance at the time of design can lead to rejected projects, delayed timelines, and inflated budgets. So, what do you need to know before you start your elevator interior to ensure that you only have to design it once?

Rule #1: Compliance Isn’t An Afterthought

Designs should not be tweaked so they’re compliant; they should be created with compliance top of mind. When you consider elevator code compliance at the onset of a project, you do not face unpleasant surprises on inspection. Consider a few of these common compliance objections:

“This space needs to be widened to comply with ADA requirements.”

“These panels need to be removed because they’re too heavy.”

“This whole cab interior is non-compliant, because it hasn’t been fire-tested in its end-use configuration.”

This isn’t what you want to hear after you’ve spent your time and resources creating a design and seeing it through to fruition. So what elevator code compliance issues do you need to keep top of mind as you design?

The Golden 5%: Cab Weight

When remodeling an elevator, the cab has to be within +/- 5% of its previous weight. If it weighed 2,000 pounds, for instance, the final weight must not exceed 2,100 pounds or be less than 1,900 pounds.

Knowing how heavy your design is – which requires knowing the weight of its components– is critical, and not only for regulatory reasons. So keep weight considerations in mind as you select different materials.

Keep Every User In Mind: Meet ADA Requirements.

If the building you’re working on is more than three stories tall, or larger than 3,000 square feet per story, it must comply with American with Disabilities Act requirements. How does this impact your design?

ADA outlines a host of seemingly small regulations that can have a big impact on design. For example, call buttons have to be mounted 42 inches above the floor, and the cab must be large enough to accommodate a wheelchair’s 360 degree turn. Rather than making adjustments to your elevator interior after the fact, it’s better to keep these considerations in mind at the first design – so that you don’t have to scrap great ideas simply because they’re non-compliant.

Put Safety First – Always: Complying with Fire Codes

Most jurisdictions use ASME A17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators. Among their requirements is end-use configuration testing. Say that you want to use a particular laminate for its sleek finish. It is fire-rated as is the adhesive and substrate. Good to go, right? Not so fast. The wall assembly has to be tested as a unit, in its end-use configuration. It is critical that these regulations stay top of mind throughout the design process, rather than becoming an afterthought. When that happens, a failed inspection and design becomes a likely, and expensive, possibility.


Glass can help create an elegant, expansive interior. But not just any glass. That, too, is regulated. Regular and plate glass is a no-go. Laminated glass is acceptable. Tempered glass is, too – but not if it is “stressed” with etchings, sandblasting, painting, or any other technique that can undermine its properties. You must also place a nonpolymeric coating or film on the glass so if it breaks, the fragments are held in place. For example, SnapCab panels featuring Corning® Gorilla® Glass meet these requirements and will always come with an ANSI Z97.1 stamp in the corner of every panel.

Your elevator interior company can assist you in choosing glass elements that comply with requirements and help you execute an exceptional, sophisticated design. This is just the transparency you need to ensure your project remains on track for successful completion.

Breathe Life into Your Designs with Proper Ventilation

During the remodeling process, it is not unusual for “decorative” toe kicks (the base below the wall panels) to cover over the existing ventilation. ASME A17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators requires natural ventilation equal to 3.5% of the floor area of the cab. The gap in the door and the ceiling fan opening can account for part of this – but A17.1 also mandates that ventilation be equally divided between floor and ceiling. Enter vented toe kicks.

Be sure that your design accounts for these critical elements so you meet ASME requirements and your project stays on track. Your elevator interior company can help you find the right look (including concealed ventilation gaps), and you can breathe a big, perfectly ventilated, sigh of relief.

Spotlight on Lighting Regulations

Lighting is always an important design element: the right light can create a sense of more space – or conversely, a sense of cozy welcoming. In elevators, though, it must also meet safety and code requirements. Your design has to include at least two lamps, with a minimal illumination of 50 lux or 5 foot candles with the door closed. Emergency lights are also a must: they need to provide 2 lux or 0.20 foot candles of illumination and have enough power to operate two lamps for four hours. LED lighting is typically the preferred choice because of its energy-saving powers and low heat generation. Your design can’t afford you staying in the dark about these regulations!

Architects and designers have the opportunity, with every project, to build a lasting legacy that welcomes, soothes, excites, stimulates, or inspires. Code compliance is an integral part of that legacy, one that can be streamlined and simplified with the assistance of a trusted manufacturing partner. When codes and requirements inform and guide vision, it helps ensure projects stay on-schedule, on-budget, and get the final stamp of approval from inspectors and authorities – and from clients.