Pallet Jack Manufacturer Organically Produces Change

WESLEY INTERNATIONAL | ERP, Assembly

April 2015

Customer Profile

In the early 1960’s, Bob Fisher’s father bought Wesley International out of bankruptcy. In 2009, more than 50 years later, Fisher came out of retirement from a career as an attorney to run the company, a pallet jack and electric utility vehicle manufacturer, in Scottdale, Georgia. He moved from Chairman of the Board to CEO, developing a two year plan to turn the company around after it had suffered a decline in business due to the recession. Since then, Wesley International has enjoyed year over year growth of 25 percent and this past year experienced a staggering 37 percent growth. For a role he intended to initially hold for the short term, Fisher is now committed to Wesley International’s long term growth and thrives on the daily challenges he gets to encounter running a successful manufacturing company.

Situation

Fisher attended a luncheon at another manufacturing company in the Atlanta area. It was during this lunch that he was introduced to Lean concepts and the positive impact these tools had on the other company. He stayed after the lunch and talked with the speaker, Kelley Hundt, project manager at the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech.

In order to turn the company around, Fisher knew he could not implement a top-down approach. By gaining an outsider’s perspective, he believed he would be able to build trust within the organization and organically create change. Fisher and Hundt decided to begin Lean implementation with a process that could have immediate impact and create quick employee buy-in.

Solution

They began by looking at the ordering process. The team, which included Fisher, Hundt, employees of Wesley International, and the customer service manager from another manufacturing company, determined that the order process created too much waste. Multiple copies of orders were being printed out and hand delivered to numerous people in both the front office and in production, which was redundant and unnecessary. Fisher and his team decided to implement an ERP system, a business management software system that could better manage the process and flow of the orders. By making the upfront investment, they have created a more streamlined process, eliminated the paper orders, and have saved approximately 30 percent or $150,000 a year in extra handing costs.

Hundt and Fisher used these results as a catalyst to get the assembly team on board with other improvements such as, organizing workstations, generating functionality within the space, and creating accountability. Knowing that multiple people shared workstations and misplaced tools were a problem, the team developed a color coded system, by person and by workstation, for each set of tools. The team also moved all needed material closer to each workstation, helping with material flow. In addition, Fisher and Hundt divided a 40 foot workbench in thirds. By pulling the workbench apart, it helped the staff more easily gain access to the other side of plant.

Results

Since beginning their work with the GaMEP, Wesley International has:

  • Eliminated the paper ordering system and implemented an ERP system, saving them 30 percent cost each year associated with order flow and extra handling
  • Created accountability for materials and tools within work stations, decreasing misplaced items
  • Better configured their pallet jack work area, removing 30 minutes of the time it takes to assemble each pallet truck

Testimonial

“Kelley did a great job. She came in as an outside, unbiased party with a fresh set of eyes on our processes. It was inspirational for the team to see a process for change that was not top-down driven. It worked and was impactful because it was organic within the organization.” Fisher said.

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Aerospace Repair Manufacturer Prepares for a More Efficient Process

INTERNATIONAL COMPONENT REPAIR | Plant Layout

March 2015

Customer Profile

In late 2001, Wayne Dewell, a retired airline mechanic and manager with 31 years of experience working on commercial airliners, started International Component Repair (ICR), an FAA repair shop specializing in the overhaul of commercial aerospace airframes and engine components. Recently, ICR, out of Villa Rica, GA, partnered with IHI of Japan, expanding their operations in a Joint Venture that included an additional FAA Repair Station. They partnered with a Japanese manufacturer to become the sole North American provider of repairs for the V2500 Engine Fuel Diverter & Return Valve that cools airplane engine oil at cruising altitude.

Situation

ICR rents 21,000 square feet of a 300,000 square foot facility, which needs to be extremely secure due to the components within their shop. To further improve security and allow room for growth, Dewell purchased a 41,000 square foot facility, which he plans to move ICR into in the near future.

ICR has the capability to work on more than 4,000 unique parts, each with different repair requirements. In any given month, they are averaging 100 to 250 different parts per month flowing through their shop, resulting in “on-demand” repair and many one-off repairs.

As parts come into the facility, they are divided into one of three cells, based on need. Cell one, or “front shop”, consists of receiving, welding, inspection, and shipping. Cell two is for non-destructive testing, where they are able to find even the minutest cracks in a component through various testing procedures including, pressure testing and fluorescent magnetic testing. Cell three is where QEC (Quick Engine Change) kitting occurs. Due to the age and layout of the building, the three cells are in individual rooms within the facility and are not adjacent, however more than 85 percent of all parts move between more than one cell within the facility.

Solution

In order to make the move to the new facility more efficient, Dewell knew he needed help restructuring his layout. Through his contacts at the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, he was connected with Larry Alford, South Metro Atlanta region manager, and Tom Sammon, project manager, with the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech.

Sammon worked with Dewell to understand ICR’s needs and then facilitated a session with 15 ICR employees to brainstorm ideas that could make the new plant more efficient. Sammon presented a plan to the management team that eliminated the three cell system and moved into a one cell operation with a straight-line flow. By doing so, the plant would be able to become at least ten percent more efficient in their operations.

Sammon also wrote an operations plan for the new plant, laying out how the product would flow through the plant, each staff member’s responsibility within their job frame, how the process would be managed, how the product would be handed off once work was completed, and how the product would flow through quality control. By creating a product flow and a written document of responsibilities at each station, the process flow for the products will contribute to the overall increased efficiency of the facility.

Results

By bringing in the GaMEP, ICR is:

  • Better prepared for their move to a larger facility
  • Able to eliminate a cell operation, creating a single-flow production process
  • Creating the opportunity to become at least ten percent more efficient to create room for their latest product line and future growth

Testimonial

“Tom helped us set-up a plan for our move that will allow ICR to become more efficient and prepare the company to grow for years to come,” Dewell said.

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Gaming Manufacturer Takes Kontrol of a Niche in the Market

KONTROLFREEK | Business Development, Manufacturing

November 2014 

Customer Profile

In 2009, Ashish Mistry was already known as a serial entrepreneur. Having either founded and exited or been a part of a startup since he graduated from college, Mistry was looking for his next venture.

Around this same time, Mistry met his current business partner, Billy Harbert. The two believed there were opportunities for simple new products within small niche markets. They approached their third partner, PUSH product design, an industrial design firm to develop product ideas for potential capital investments. When the team discovered that the top problems amongst enthusiast gamers were precision and comfort, one of the designers ideated a product that addressed both issues at once. An improved analog thumbstick was designed that would attach to the native video game controller, increasing stick length to dramatically improve precision and reduce fatigue. Five years later, the original product – FPS Freek Classic, is still the top selling item among the 35+ variations that KontrolFreek now makes.

Situation

Wanting to ensure the business had the tools it needed to be successful, Mistry, now the CEO of KontrolFreek, decided to move the company from Birmingham to Atlanta to be a part of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) at Georgia Tech. To support technology startups focused on specific industry sectors, including manufacturing, life sciences/biotech, medical devices, mobility, and more, ATDC rents space to startups, in an area of midtown Atlanta coined Technology Square – where technology intersects with Georgia Tech campus to further connections and drive innovation. Having twice previously been an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) with ATDC, Mistry knew that the resources associated with ATDC would help propel the success of the company.

To further help in this effort, KontrolFreek applied to become an ATDC Select Company. Chosen through a rigorous selection process, ATDC Select includes a small group of startups whose products or services are considered industry changing, scalable, and supportive of ATDC’s mission of bringing economic value to Georgia.

Solution

Once KontrolFreak was accepted into ATDC Select, they were put in contact with another program located in Technology Square, the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP). The GaMEP is a part of the same umbrella organization as ATDC, and provides funding and resources to expand ATDC’s reach to product-based manufacturers. The GaMEP also provides direct services and support to emergent and small manufacturers. Don Pital, growth services manager, and Bob Wray, project manager for the GaMEP, met with Mistry to discuss ways KontrolFreek needed to align to be manufacturing ready when it was time to expand their product base. Working closely together, the two programs were able to utilize their skill-sets in coaching, R&D, and connections to help KontrolFreek thrive.

In addition Mistry and his team continue to take advantage of resources associated with Georgia Tech. They have worked with the industrial design department, sponsoring a team of students to dedicate their time to creating iterations of existing product designs to continuously improve. KontrolFreek also uses Georgia Tech equipment to develop 3-D scans of products that they can test and tweak, saving them weeks of going back and forth between an outside manufacturer to perfect a product before its’ ready for market. In the near future, KontrolFreek will also be able to take advantage of a new Maker’s Space in Technology Square because of its association with ATDC and GaMEP. This space will allow them and other startups to get hands-on experience with different types of manufacturing equipment and create and refine prototypes.

By creating a market demand through a niche product, KontrolFreak has developed a loyal customer base. Due to this, they have been able to begin introducing new products to their catalog, including products designed specifically for those dedicated to sports gaming, graphically designed shields to protect controllers from dirt buildup, and bundle packages that include KontrolFreek products for multiple gaming systems. Recently, KontrolFreek began expanding their sales channels from online only to retail stores. As the company continues to grow and now employs more than 10 people, they are looking for other opportunities to fulfill needs within the gaming industry.

Results

Since launching KontrolFreek in 2008, with the help of ATDC, GaMEP, and Georgia Tech resources, Mistry and his team have:

  • Developed 35+ variations of their product
  • Grown the company to over a dozen employees
  • Expanded outside their online sales channel, recently launching into 1,000 Best Buy stores across the country – accounting for a 10 percent increase in the numbers of units sold in the first month

Testimonial

Mistry said, “By being located in Technology Square, KontrolFreek has access to both people and machines to create prototypes and constantly update designs. This allows us to quickly create full 3-D scans and continuously tweak the product until we feel it’s ready to be tested. Without these resources on site, it would

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Two Owners Sign Up for a Culture of Continuous Improvement

THE SIGN BROTHERS | Process Improvement, Lean Culture

July 2014 

Customer Profile

Justin and Michael Seibert knew that Athens, Georgia was a place they wanted to lay down roots. After talking with a family friend who owned a sign manufacturing business, they determined their skill set and business outlook was a good match for the industry. So seven years ago, they opened The Sign Brothers, a custom sign manufacturing business within the community.

The Sign Brothers employs 13 people and offers a large variety of signs. From vehicle wraps to building signs to freestanding structures, each sign type requires a different timeframe for production and a unique technique to produce. A few months ago they realized the large number of SKUs required for their product line was beginning to cause problems. The brothers knew it was important to get ahead of these issues in order to continue to thrive.

Situation

At the time, Justin and Michael were working with the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) on business initiatives. They began talking with their contact about their processes and it was during one of these conversations that they were put in touch with Bill Nusbaum, Northeast region manager, and Paul Todd, project manager, for the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech. After an initial conversation, Todd visited the plant, observed their processes over several days, and talked with many of the employees. He also took the team through a series of training exercises to demonstrate the basics of lean flow, including how to make changes that affect processes, why these changes are important, and the outcome they can have on a business.

Justin and Michael wanted to make a company-wide effort that empowered employees to initiate and participate in changes that would make a difference. They decided the most effective way to do so would be start with the items that were the easiest to fix or those that could have long-term impacts on their day-to-day operations.

Solution

The Sign Brothers were experiencing an issue with misplaced tools. The production and installation departments were sharing the same tools, causing instruments to be unavailable when needed. The team purchased a second set, designating one for the production room and one for the installers’ truck. This small change completely eliminated the problem.

The production manager was spending 30 minutes every morning developing a white board detailing which projects had been completed the day before and those that needed to be worked on that day. This process was time-consuming and allowed too great an opportunity for human error. The team wanted to eliminate the transposition errors that were causing jobs to get lost or behind schedule. They began researching the concept of Kanban boards, a visual aid to represent work items in the production process. They studied examples and interpreted them to meet their needs. By creating a temporary visual board with Post-It Notes, they were able to map out their process and conduct live tests, making changes as needed. Once the new system was established, they created a permanent color-coded magnetic board, where each magnet color represented a sales person and was moved across the board based on where their project was within the process.

They then used this board to expand upon their visual management system. By creating a two-month calendar and entering and assigning deadlines to all jobs, they were able to more accurately tell customers when their job would be finished. This reduced the divergence of projects in queue from eight percent of all projects to almost zero. Additionally this planning allowed The Sign Brothers to more accurately work yearly repeat projects into the production schedule which cut completion time in half, from six weeks to three weeks.

Finally, the team tackled the issue of waste management within the organization. Due to building layout, the dumpster and recycling bin were located far from the work area.  This caused scrap to be piled high in trash cans and only taken out when it was getting out of hand. As a solution, the team purchased a trailer that they keep by the back door as a holding area for trash. Twice a week they attach the trailer to a truck and drive it over to the receptacles.

Currently, the brothers are reading The Toyota Way and are exploring ways to rearrange their floor plan and implement just-in-time production to reduce in process inventory. Additionally, the team is breaking their production process into two tracks, so that different size orders can run on separate production lines, permitting different lead times and a more organized system.

Results

Since meeting with the GaMEP, The Sign Brothers have:

  • Strategically solved problems and encouraged team members to make changes
  • Eliminated issues with misplaced tools
  • Been able to accurately tell customers when their jobs would be complete, including reducing repeat, yearly projects from a six-week turnaround to three weeks
  • Reduced projects getting lost or off-track in the queue from eight percent of all projects to almost zero
  • Streamlined the process to move scrap from inside the building to the dumpster and recycling bin, eliminating pile up
  • Begun to break their production lines into two tracks, allowing for smaller and easier signs to move through production more quickly than before and establishing different lead times for each type of job

Testimonial

“Georgia Tech gave us some great ideas and some great advice. By listening to them and implementing some small changes, we were able to make immediate impact on our business” Justin said.

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Canning Manufacturer Makes Improvements to Facilitate Business Growth

CRIDER FOODS | Warehouse Layout, Lean

July 2014

Crider Warehouse

A look inside the Crider Foods warehouse

Customer Profile

Crider Foods, a canning and frozen/fully cooked poultry manufacturer in the small town of Stillmore, Ga., is a 60-year-old family business that values quality, customer service, and commitment to the customer’s brand.

Crider Foods operates two production plants for cooked and canned products in more than 450,000 square feet of space. As part of Crider’s growth strategy, it continuously investigates new ways to help customers be in the forefront of new and emerging markets.

Situation

In anticipation of the company’s aggressive business growth plan, Billy Crider Jr. knew he had to make a few key changes in warehouse space and in the packaging and canning lines to ensure the ability to meet new and current customer demands for added products and innovative products.

Crider was operating three warehouses, one attached to the plant, one that was on the grounds of the plant but disconnected from the facility, and one warehouse 25 miles away in Vidalia, Ga. The Vidalia warehouse required transportation of product several times a day, and the employment of a person to load and unload trucks.

In addition, Crider was operating two packaging lines, utilizing older equipment that was operating seven days a week and 22 hours each day, four more hours a day than the canning line, creating a bottleneck in the process.

Crider had seen opportunities within new markets, but could not reach them because of capacity issues. He asked his team to call on Alan Barfoot, the Central Georgia region manager for the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech, to review the warehouse space and provide insight into capacity improvement.

Solution

Barfoot and Crider decided to start with the warehouse issues and then move on to capacity challenges. Barfoot determined that having three warehouses, including two off-site, was inefficient and costing the company time, resources, and money for space rental and travel costs. Knowing that the company needed to build a single warehouse that could house everything, Barfoot began determining how much space Crider would need. He met with the company’s sales and marketing team to review and log every SKU and forecast the amount of inventory needed to be stored. By working through these numbers, Barfoot was able to help determine the need for warehouse capacity, utilization of racks in the new warehouse space, types of storage methods, and the forklift truck and picking equipment that would be needed.

Crider built its new warehouse and was not only able to save time and money, but was also able to reassign the one Vidalia employee to the Stillmore plant.

Next Barfoot and Steve Jarrard, one of Crider’s operations managers, led a team to conduct a value stream map of the packaging process to determine the current state and the opportunities for improvement to get to the desired future state – which was the ability to double capacity. They determined that the bottleneck was machine capacity. Machines on the two packaging lines were older, often broke down and operated four hours longer per day than the canning line.

Crider decided to not only replace the machines on the two lines, but also to add a third line to allow for business growth. The company used some of the existing equipment and purchased new equipment that was faster and more reliable. By doing so, they were able to double throughput on their new lines – from 260 cans a minute to 520 cans a minute per line, allowing not only for an increase in throughput but also revenue.  Crider is now able to run three types of products versus two, eliminating previous bottlenecks and capitalizing on the ability to produce more. In addition, they are able to better serve their existing customers, multiply the types of products they sell to those customers, produce their products at less cost, and expand into new markets.

Crider has also completed improvements in the canning process, including new, state of the art retorts, an industrial, high capacity pressure cooking system.

Results

By making these improvements, Crider Foods:

• Saved time, resources, and money by eliminating traveling 50 miles roundtrip multiple times a day to the off-site warehouse.
• Combined three separate warehouses into one efficient warehouse space.
• Doubled throughput from 260 cans a minute to 520 cans a minute.
• Increased plant capacity to allow for expansion into new markets and new opportunities for existing customers.

Testimonial

“Georgia Tech provided opportunities for improvement within our facility that allowed Crider to grow its business,” Jarrard said.

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