Mid Island Cabinets takes first steps with Kaizen

Sandra Wood

Owner Guy Lussier started Mid Island Cabinets (MIC) in Parksville, BC, in 1992. Starting in a small garage, they have now grown to a 30,000 square foot facility which they moved to in 2017. Guy’s daughter, Kathy Hatcher, currently serves as Vice-President, and this next generation is working hard to keep the company evolving and strong. 

Hatcher attended a CKCA regional event in BC in early 2020. He was so impressed by what she heard and saw at a Sunrise Kitchens plant tour and what Kaizen Institute presented that Hatcher decided to take the first steps forward to develop a Kaizen program for MIC. While still at the early stages, knowing it’s an excellent two-year (or more) journey, by June 2020, the company was ready to begin the process. 

Hearing their story gives a realistic view of how any kitchen cabinet manufacturer can embrace the process. While we’ve heard from experts such as Paul Akers of FastCap, it’s also good to get the perspective from a company that just started its journey. Because getting started can be the most challenging part of all. 

We spoke with several members of the MIC team. In addition to Hatcher, we also talked to Michael Hunt, General Manager, and Karen Petrashuk, Sales Manager. By hearing their perspectives, it’s clear Kaizen can be a valuable tool in shaping your company’s culture, which, in turn, shapes the future of your business. 

 

CKCA: What were the reasons you chose to implement Kaizen (what did you hope to achieve)? 

Hatcher: Our main reason is that our processes were non-existent, and we saw it could be a solution to help with our insurmountable problems. 

CKCA: What did you hope to achieve at MIC by implementing Kaizen? 

Hunt: I hope to achieve a clearer comprehension of the daily/weekly goals by implementing Kaizen. 

CKCA: What weaknesses in the organization has implementing Kaizen made more visible? 

Hatcher: That we were far from achieving our weekly targets. It’s also helped show the confusion that is in the company due to lack of structure as far as job descriptions, organizational charts, company goals, etc. 

CKCA: What has surprised you about implementing Kaizen so far? 

Hunt: The lack of KPIs has shown the need for the KPIs. Once the KPIs have started to be tracked, the spreadsheet balances out. 

CKCA: Do you have a better vision of what needs to be done this year to improve MIC? 

Hatcher: Yes. We need to set realistic company goals and structure, further continue implementing the Kaizen way. 

CKCA: What has improved so far at MIC? 

Hunt: The number of shop mistakes is decreasing. There is also much more open communication throughout the company, as well as the company morale has improved overall. 

CKCA: Has implementing Kaizen been easy or hard, worth it or not? 

Hatcher: It’s been hard and worth it. We continuously take baby steps towards the full implementation of Kaizen. The company is constantly making adjustments as we go through the process. 

Hatcher: Shout out to Chris Leonard and Barry Waterman, Kaizen Institute, who has been rock solid in holding our hand throughout this process. 

CKCA: What are you looking to improve this year? 

Hunt: Having the weekly goals met to be on target for the yearly goals that were created. 

 

Employee Perspective 

Getting an employee’s perspective about Kaizen is equally important. Petrashuk told us how it was going so far from the sales perspective. 

Petrashuk: We are still learning the different tools, getting our stations set up, and tracking our KPIs. Because the Sales Team is already goal-driven, KPIs come naturally with closing rates and monthly sales, so we are a bit further along in the Kaizen process than those in the shop. Currently, there are daily Kaizen meetings, and in the beginning, those meetings were an hour, but now they are down to 15-20 minutes because we were able to talk about the major issues at the beginning and solve more problems on the spot. 

 

Talk Solutions 

The Kaizen process is not focused on laying blame or pointing fingers; it’s about identifying problems and talking about solutions. MIC already sees improvements on the job installs; there are fewer deficiencies and more job completions. 

Petrashuk: Through the summer, there were delays sending out jobs, so they were sending out partial jobs to get something out the door, but now, jobs are going out completed. Communications overall are better; the daily meetings really help. The management team meets every day whereas they only used to do meetings twice a week. It has put us more in a proactive mode and less reactive—although we are still working on the reactive! 

 

Ah-ha Moment 

The company planned to do Kaizen regardless of Covid and admits that June wasn’t the best time to start because it’s their busiest time. In reflection, they realize it might have been better to pick a slower time. 

Petrashuk: Once we have everything implemented, we’ll be further ahead, but right now, it’s not easy to do, and we know it gets harder before it gets better because Kaizen takes people off the floor, and it opens up people’s eyes about what problems you have. Before going through the program, it’s easy to ignore issues, but Kaizen makes you bring these issues to the surface and tackle them head-on. So, there are ah-ha moments, but it can be overwhelming at first. Once you understand you have hit rock bottom, then you know you can get better. 

 

No Regrets 

Mid Island Cabinets has no regrets. They believe the program has been fantastic, and they are building team camaraderie, giving employees a sense of ownership. They have reorganized the millwork and countertop departments, and the head of their millwork was so pleased it energized them to bring more ideas forward. Management supports continual improvement, and the employees feel the support. 

 

Focus on the Process 

Mid Island Cabinets is working to create a non-adversarial environment. If something doesn’t work, then they try something else. There is never blame laid; it’s about focusing on the process only. 

The Kaizen Institute is still involved, and they check-in, provide guidance and support. Petrashuk admitted that if she did leave the company, she would take the principles of Kaizen to her next employer because, in her mind, the Kaizen approach is about people. 

Currently, they are still collecting data to see just how effective Kaizen has been on the company so far, but Petrashuk says, “things are running more smoothly; you can feel it is.”

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