Continuous improvement in manufacturing has been on Bruce Hamilton’s mind for many years. Back in 1990, he was general manager of United Electric Controls Co. when it received the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing. Today he serves as president of GBMP (Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership) Inc., a nonprofit corporation dedicated to improving the competitive advantage of American manufacturers through lean-based training and coaching.

Based at the University of Massachusetts Boston campus, GBMP has worked with hundreds of American companies over the last two decades. With GBMP’s help, these companies have significantly increased capacity and their profits by saving millions in costs.

Each year, the corporation trains more than 7,000 people on continuous improvement principles through customized, on-site classroom and shop-floor training sessions. It also educates about 1,500 more people in public workshops, plant tours and its annual Northeast Region LEAN Conference, providing solutions resulting in millions in cost savings, increased capacity and greater profits.

The 11th annual conference takes place this year on Sept. 29-30 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA.

GBMP’s lean training and coaching encompasses several programs. One is called 3P, which stands for Production Preparation Process. This program emphasizes teamwork to find the best way to promote good product flow, high volume and excellent quality.

During several training sessions, team members develop and test different approaches to achieve these results. A common exercise in the program is to have members use cardboard workcell-component mockups to better understand the effects of different production layouts upon people, materials and equipment.

Recently, GBMP conducted a
three-day 3P event at Newcastle Systems in Middleton, MA, to help improve its production of mobile computer workstations. The manufacturer’s workstations are used in retail stores, and healthcare and production settings to increase workplace flexibility and improve employee productivity by eliminating wasted steps.

Bruce McGill, continuous improvement manager for GBMP Inc., oversaw the event for a team of Newcastle employees. After discussing lean philosophies and 3P methodology, McGill had the team design a workcell they believed would double their current daily production output. The team was then required to set up and operate the new cell for three weeks before McGill’s follow-up visit.

“Cycle time to build a workstation [dropped] from 55 minutes to 32 minutes, and travel distance was reduced by more than 80 percent,” explains McGill. “Also, workstations are now being shipped preassembled rather than in a kit. [This] creates more value for Newcastle’s customers.”

According to McGill, the 3P-based cell requires 50 percent less total square footage for assembly and significantly increases production by integrating all subassemblies into the final assembly build process. Newcastle also likes that the new cell frees up one full-time person to deliver raw materials and build accessory kits.

“We’ve saved valuable floor space, cut out lots of non-value-added activity in the build process, and reduced our unit cycle time [by] more than 40 percent,” says Mike Olson, production and operations manager for Newcastle Systems. “This effort has us looking forward to Bruce helping us with additional improvement projects.”

 For more information on 3P and other continuous improvement training programs, call 617-287-7630 or visit