December 6, 2011
OrthoCare Labs produces custom orthotics – shoe inserts – for athletes, diabetics and others. The company receives orders from physicians, who either make digital measurements of patients’ feet or use physical casts, such as plaster molds. Workers then use precision routers to make wooden replicas of the patients’ feet on which the plastic orthotics are formed. Each order is custom made; the company currently produces approximately 250 sets of orthotics per day.
The company was preparing to move into a new facility, and needed assistance with developing the most efficient process configuration. It had been using a traditional batch manufacturing process, but this was inefficient and sometimes led to mix-ups in the custom orders. The owner had heard of lean techniques, and wanted to set up the new facility to take advantage of lean processes, boost quality and improve turnaround time.
Derek Woodham, a regional manager in Georgia Tech’s Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), spent time understanding how the orthotics are produced and listened to the owner’s plans for growth. He recommended replacing the old batch process with flow cell techniques in which products are produced continuously by a small team. The cell-based process provides better communications and feedback to head off quality issues, and reduces potential confusion among orders. Adopting the process allowed most orders to be completed within a day – compared to a week with the old process. The cell techniques also allowed the company to expand production by simply replicating cells.
- A sales increase of $1.1 million annually
- Cost savings of $230,000
- Investment of $160,000
- A production increase of more than 200 percent
- Creation of seven new jobs
“We added more than a million dollars worth of business to the company as a result of Derek’s work,” said Dr. Ric Hollstrom, the company’s owner. “We would not have been able to grow at the rate we have grown if we were still making our product the way we did before Derek helped us. Derek helped us change the complete flow of our process to make it smoother.”