Building an OpEx/CI Culture on a Shoestring Budget

All the 131 OpExChange member companies are at some stage of their continuous improvement journey. Some have been working on this for multiple decades and some are just getting started. Two things we all have learned through this:

1) The journey never ends.
2) No matter where we are on this journey, we can still learn from others.

Belimed joined the OpExChange last year and is officially about two years into their Operational Excellence program. They delivered a report-out to the OpExChange last week that truly resonated with a large population of our members. Their Charleston operation is a relatively small site with limited resources. They are extremely passionate about servicing their customers and are remarkably good at firefighting. They have little formal experience with continuous improvement programs.

About Belimed

Chris Ginnett, Director of Supply Chain, provided an overview of Belimed. Belimed is a leading supplier of products and service solutions for the sterilization, disinfection, and cleaning of medical and surgical instruments for the medical and healthcare industry.

Their US headquarters are in Charleston with global headquarters in Zug, Switzerland. There are about two hundred employees (80 in Charleston) in their US operations, which generates about $74 million in annual revenue.

Kick-Starting Continuous Improvement (CI)

David Mattingly, Director of OpEx for Belimed’s US operations, provided a backdrop of their situation when he started two years ago. His role was a newly created position. Much of the existing executive management did not have an understanding of CI, and there was high turnover in the executive ranks.

A new president, Bill Yaeger, took the U.S reigns in December of 2019 and provided the much-needed energy and support for a re-launch of the CI program in early 2020.  Despite the Covid complications (and a systems conversion to SAP), Belimed made real progress on their journey, starting with a value stream mapping exercise for their “Order to Delivery Process.”

David shared his framework for the 2021 timeline which included three event types:

  • JDI – “Just Do IT” – small, CI events è see a problem, fix a problem.
  • CI Tactical Event – broader scope, tackle large issues, requires more resources.
  • Radical Change Event – paradigm shift, outside-of-the-box thinking.

Building continuous improvement leaders is at the forefront of the Belimed plan. David emphasized that they are educating their team on problem solving techniques. A key part of this training is “A3 Problem Solving” through the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP).

Quoting Process Example

Julie Couch is the manager of Sales Project Coordinators at Belimed. She provided an example of how they utilized Lean/6σ DMAIC strategy to address errors in their capital quoting process. Julie walked the team through the process map and how they implemented improvements.

“All of these improvements have led to many hours of time saved for my team and many others throughout the organization,” Julie stated. “From eliminating manual steps, eliminating errors seen by our customers, and correct pricing in the system which has also saved countless of dollars for Belimed.”

Pick, Pack, Ship Process Example

Michelle Ravenell, the manager of warehouse operations in Charleston, has been with Belimed for about five years. She described that the absence of documentation prior to her Kaizen event was “a nightmare.”

Michelle also went through the A3 training from the SCMEP and utilized it with her team to address shipping errors. The A3 methodology led them to establish visual, one-piece flow along with auditing. Since March, the error rate has improved by approximately 95%.

Please note that this change not-only improved the quality level but also reduced the workload necessary to ship the products.

Next Steps

David summarized the event with their plans to continue their progress through 2021 and onward. A key part of their plan is to continue building the CI leadership. They are currently in their third wave of A3 problem solving with the SCMEP. He will be collaborating with Belimed in Europe on CI initiatives and will be introducing the “radical change” concept.

During the discussion portion of the event, one OpExChange member commented, “What you laid out is exactly what me and my coworkers will start executing on this coming week – Those exact building blocks that you laid out. It pretty much mirrors what we have been thinking but haven’t actually laid out yet. I can’t wait for Mike to send out the slide deck.”   In true OpExChange spirit, David replied, “Steal shamelessly!”

About the OpExChange

The OpExChange is a peer-to-peer network of companies in South Carolina known for generating data-driven success for members through benchmarking and best practices activities. Member companies host events and share practical examples of industrial automation, lean manufacturing improvements, and leadership development. It is an invaluable resource to South Carolina companies that provides access to others who are on similar improvement journeys. If you are interested in joining, contact Mike Demos ( or visit the OpExChange website to see current companies:




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