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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Non-Profit Serves Up a Lean Culture to Become Better Stewards of their Funding

OPEN HAND | Culture Change, Lean

June 2014

Open Hand Volunteers Preparing Meals

Open Hand volunteers preparing meals

Customer Profile

Twenty-six years ago, a few friends wanted to make a difference by providing healthy meals to other close friends affected by AIDS. Today, their idea has grown into Open Hand, a non-profit organization which manufactures and delivers 4,500 freshly prepared meals a day to seniors and people managing all types of chronic disease. In addition, the organization also provides nutrition counseling for its clients.

Based in Atlanta, Open Hand has also established a second product line, Good Measure Meals™, which offers nutritionally-sound meal plans to the paying public, in which 100 percent of the proceeds go to supporting the charitable nutrition services offered by Open Hand. Over the past 10 years, the organization has grown from offering 10 types of meals to 30 different meal options. Between the two brands, they cook an average of 20 recipes a day, with each recipe consisting of 800 to 1,000 pounds of food.

Situation

As Open Hand grew rapidly, the organization moved several times to support that growth and in doing so was never able to establish long-term, effective processes.

When Susan Anderson, senior director of operations, took over the role in 2012, she began examining existing processes. Being on the Open Hand team for nine years had shown her many aspects of the organization, but now overseeing operations, she realized there was a lot of opportunity to become more efficient. Anderson said, “We all work hard. But we began to question if we were doing things most efficiently or in a specific way because we had always done it that way.”

It was during this time that the Georgia Center for Nonprofits suggested that Anderson contact the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech.

Bill Ritsch, North Metro Atlanta region manager, and Kelley Hundt, project manager, with the GaMEP met with Anderson and Matt Pieper, executive director of Open Hand, to discuss training for their front line supervisors.

Solution

Ritsch and Hundt gathered the Open Hand supervisors and conducted a value stream mapping exercise. Through discussing lean techniques and utilizing a paper airplane simulation, they were able to provide a visual of how an inefficient process can be modified slightly to make immediate improvements.

Next, Ritsch and Hundt took the simulation training to the floor, where they walked through the process of how product is received, stored, prepared, cooked, stored again, packaged, and delivered. Through this exercise, it was determined that there were space constraints in the kitchen, supplies were in different stations than needed, and there was no system for organizing prepared food in the storage area, creating missing items.

The team decided the first issue to address was the prepared food cooler, as having to recook misplaced food was costly. The culinary team would place prepared food in a Lexan container, and then on a rolling rack, which would be moved into the cooler. The packing team would gather the individual prepared foods from the cooler to assemble 4500 meals a day. With the rolling racks being placed in no particular order, at times the packing team had difficulty finding a food item, causing the culinary team to have to recook that item. In collaboration, the two groups came up with a solution to organize the racks stored in the cooler by production day, create signage for each rack, and then color code food by type of meal and brand. This solution reduced the time it took to search the cooler from 45 minutes to 1 minute and also eliminated 100 percent of the waste the team was experiencing by having to replace lost food.

For Open Hand, the timing couldn’t have been better. The organization was about to expand its production facility into another warehouse space behind their current facility, going from 10,000 to 27,000 square feet. By using what they learned, they were able to incorporate lean techniques into the layout of the new facility. To cut down on wasteful movement, they shifted the receiving items nearer to dry storage, and moved the cooler closer to the packing area, where the finished goods are assembled. They set-up a system to make supplies accessible to every station. They also applied the solutions from the prepared food cooler to other coolers and dry storage areas within their facility.

In addition to solving the problems identified by the Value Stream Map, Anderson and Pieper also wanted to reduce delivery errors. By creating packing lanes around the different meal types and putting quality checks in place at each line before the meals are bagged, customers receiving incorrect orders have drastically decreased from approximately 24 a month to almost zero.

For Anderson, Pieper, and the rest of the management team, it was important that these changes become engrained in the culture and that improvements continue to be made. The team has made lean terminology part of their daily conversation. Additionally, the management team has embedded lean culture into job descriptions, and has also made it part of their recognition program and a requirement for career advancement within the organization. By making a deliberate effort to incorporate lean thinking into their organization, Open Hand has become better stewards of their funding.

As a next step, Open Hand continues to work with the GaMEP to help develop a strategy to coordinate and collaborate more effectively with other non-profit meal providers.

Results

By making these improvements, Open Hand has:

•  Reduced the time it takes to search for and assemble a meal within their cooler from 45 minutes to 1 minute
•  Significantly reduced waste from recooking food
•  Cut delivery errors from 24 a month to almost zero
•  Rearranged the flow so food no longer travels 0.4 miles through the packing and routing areas
•  Created a lean culture by integrating lean terminology into their daily routines, inserting lean language into job descriptions, and designing a job promotion structure based around individuals embracing a lean mindset

Testimonial

“From the beginning Georgia Tech challenged our team to look at processes throughout the organization,” said Pieper.  Anderson agreed and added, “Non-profits don’t usually have the resources to bring in this type of expertise. So the partnership between Open Hand and Georgia Tech has been fantastic. “

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Aerospace Metal Finishing Company Utilizes Lean Practices to Create Growth Opportunities

DYNAMIC PAINT SOLUTIONS | Value Stream Mapping

January 2013

Customer Profile

In 2005, Robert Pruitt and his parents founded Dynamic Paint Solutions (DPS), a full service metal finishing company. The family-owned firm, located in Eastman, Ga., exclusively serves the aerospace industry, and has grown to 70 employees in the eight years since its inception.

DPS plays a key role for the aerospace industry. The company receives aerospace (primarily metal) parts from machine shops that produce them, inspects the parts for cracks that may have occurred during manufacturing or shipping, then treats and paints the parts. The painted parts are returned to the machine shops that produced them, before being sent on to the final customer for assembly.

Situation

Dynamic Paint Solutions not only has to meet stringent quality standards, but must also accommodate production demands that vary considerably over time. Quality standards that must be met include NADCAP and AS 9003 – an inspection and test quality system for use by small build/machine to print organizations. DPS must be able to adjust to meet the individual needs of its customers, who routinely visit and audit the company to ensure compliance.

Customers had expected that it would take no more than five days to process each order, but handling 50,000-70,000 parts of various sizes and configurations per month without being able to project demand was creating issues for production scheduling, shift volume and lead times. DPS management knew it had to smooth out the process to continue meeting customer needs.

Pruitt, CEO of DPS, already had a relationship with the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech, and had used the organization for onsite courses and project work. For help in addressing these production issues, Pruitt reached out to Alan Barfoot, GaMEP’s Central Region Manager, and Danny Duggar, a GaMEP project manager.

Solution

A value stream mapping exercise of the entire handling process was conducted and upon analyzing the results, Duggar recommended separating the incoming parts into two categories: existing parts versus new parts. He also recommended combining the physical space of two departments to increase communication. By incorporating these changes, DPS was able to decrease takt time, or cycle time, from an average of 8-10 hours per cycle to an average of 30 minutes per cycle.

These same exercises uncovered an opportunity to improve DPS’s paint department. DPS was operating two shifts, using three paint booths that fed into just one curing oven. After discovering that the curing oven was the choke point in the process, DPS added four more curing ovens and two paint booths, creating a one-to-one ratio. Another challenge discovered was contamination in the paint, and to improve the quality, DPS changed the flow of their process by introducing a team approach to each booth/oven operation and decreased the number of shifts from two to one.

The team consists of a painter, a helper, and a quality inspector, who provides constant feedback to the painter so the team can spot and correct issues faster. By making a capital investment and overhauling this department, DPS was able to increase its first-time-quality (FTQ), the percentage of parts manufactured correctly the first time, by 8%, boosting the overall FTQ to a 96% rating.

As a result of these improved processes, along with involvement and support from the CEO, DPS was also able to free up space and resources, creating the capability to expand its business. As a next step, the GaMEP is working with DPS to look at the company’s marketing initiatives to create future business growth opportunities.

Results

  • By combining departments and making their processes more efficient, DPS decreased takt time from an average of 8-10 hours per cycle to an average of 30 minutes per cycle.
  • DPS streamlined efforts and was able to consolidate its paint operations into one shift.
  • By creating teams around each paint booth and having a quality inspector position for each area, DPS increased its FTQ by 8%, bringing the overall rating to 96%.
  • By implementing lean practices and freeing up resources, DPS is now able to actively seek additional business opportunities.

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Headed in the Right Direction: Value-stream mapping helps gas-regulator manufacturer improve production flow

HARRIS PRODUCTS GROUP | Value Stream Mapping

December 2012

Customer Profile

Harris Products Group, a subsidiary of publicly traded Lincoln Electric Co., produces a variety of products used in the metal brazing, cutting and welding industries, as well as an array of gas-control equipment used in industrial, medical and laboratory applications.

The company’s 70,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Gainesville, Ga., is home to 125 employees and is one of five such plants the company has around the globe. The Gainesville facility produces oxy-fuel cutting and welding equipment as well as compressed-gas pressure regulators.

Situation

As part of its continuous drive for improvement, Harris wanted to see if it could improve its process for readying chrome-plated components for assembly into its gas-pressure regulators.

Solution

To fine-tune this portion of its component-production process, Harris turned to the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech, with which the firm has a long-standing relationship. GaMEP previously helped Harris obtain its ISO 9001 and 14001 certifications.

In early 2011, Bill Nusbaum, the Northeast region manager, and Tara Barrett, a lean services product manager for GaMEP, visited the plant for a day and a half to perform a value-stream-mapping analysis for Harris. The value-stream-mapping tool provides an analysis of the flow of materials through a production process to pinpoint areas for improvement.

The analysis by Nusbaum and Barrett revealed that Harris could ensure a steady flow of these components through the production process by placing “supermarkets” – locations in which a standard amount of inventory is stored – at various points along the production chain. When employees see the supermarkets are running low on materials, they simply restock them.

Harris officials also used the feedback from the value-stream mapping to establish a standard weekly schedule to produce these components.

Results

  • For the past 18 months, there have been no outages of these components for assembly into regulators every time they’ve been requested.
  • After working with GaMEP – Harris realized a 75% reduction in WIP related to this component, by reorganizing their production process. This improvement has led to significant savings for Harris and freed up cash that was previously tied up in inventory for other purposes.

Testimonial

“Georgia Tech has done a very good job with us,” said Mike Hogan, process engineer for Harris. “It’s been extremely valuable for us to have them as a resource.”

Harris was so pleased with the results of this project that it has undertaken value-stream-mapping for other production processes, added Mike Brown, process engineer for Harris.

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Getting Its House in Order: Ecolink achieves ISO 9001 certification and improves marketability and internal efficiency

ECOLINK | ISO 9001

December 2012

Customer Profile

Based in Tucker, GA., Ecolink produces industrial solvents. The firm, which has fewer than 20 full-time employees, develops the chemical formulations for their products and outsources their production to facilities elsewhere in the United States. The company receives the finished materials at its Tucker warehouse and ships them to its customers, which are primarily in the aerospace, military and power-generation industries. The company also drop-ships finished materials directly from the manufacturing source.

Situation

According to Ecolink Quality Manager Kevin Jeffers, prior to spring 2011 the firm had a long-term goal of obtaining ISO 9001 certification. The designation certifies that a company has standardized quality-management systems and formalized business processes in place to ensure that its customers’ needs are met.

“It was always a long-term plan because we deal with a lot of customers in the aerospace industry,” Jeffers said. Those aerospace customers often sent Ecolink surveys that typically asked for product-inspection assurances that Ecolink couldn’t make.

In early 2011, however, the long-term goal became an immediate one. That’s when one of Ecolink’s largest aerospace clients told the firm its future business was at risk without the ISO certification.

Solution

To achieve ISO 9001 certification, Ecolink turned to Craig Cochran, a project manager with the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech. Cochran specializes in process improvement and ISO-certification projects.

In April 2011, Cochran visited Ecolink to conduct a gap analysis to determine areas where the firm needed to improve to achieve certification. Broadly speaking, Cochran’s analysis showed that the firm had sufficient quality-management systems in place for its office operations but needed to improve its warehouse operations by increasing the inspection of goods, establishing a quarantine area for defective materials and organizing its processes better.

Cochran developed a project plan to help Ecolink work toward certification and continued to talk with the company throughout the summer of 2011 to ensure that progress was being made. He eventually conducted a pre-assessment audit to verify the firm was ready for certification, and in October 2011, the firm achieved certification.

Results

Jeffers said the designation has made an unquestionable impact on the firm. “The customer that requested our ISO certification emailed me shortly after October 2011 and asked for our ISO certificate, which I promptly sent,” Jeffers said. “That same day, they sent us another big order.”

Achieving certification also has affected how Ecolink evaluates potential vendors with which it may do business. “It’s a very good tie-breaker,” Jeffers said. “If I have two vendors that are equal, and one has ISO and one doesn’t, I go with the one that’s ISO [certified]. I also know that the vendor with ISO certification has a quality management system in place.”

The benefits of obtaining ISO certification have been two-fold, Cochran added. “As a sales and marketing tool, it’s something they needed to have,” he said. “They also recognized that it would bolster internal efficiency and management.”

Testimonial

“Craig did a great job,” Jeffers said. “I gave him a recommendation on LinkedIn, and I wholeheartedly meant every word of it. The ISO certification he helped us to achieve has certainly helped us when talking to potential customers about our quality standards and has been great for the culture of the company.”

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Creating a Masterpiece: Lawrenceville Manufacturer of Artist Canvas Creates a Lean Culture

TARA MATERIALS | Lean, Kaizen

December 2012

Customer Profile

In 1963, two paintbrush salesmen changed the coating process used for artist canvases from a hand process to a mass produced process. By purchasing a textile machine, rolling the fabric and applying gesso material continuously instead of sheet by sheet, Tara Materials was born. Today, Tara Materials, a privately-owned company headquartered in Lawrenceville, Georgia, operates three facilities, manufacturing plants in Lawrenceville and Tijuana, Mexico, and a distribution center in San Diego.

Situation

As with many manufacturers, Tara Materials was being affected by the recession and overseas manufacturers who were taking away customers by offering similar products at a lower price. Between 2009 and 2011, Tara Materials was able to make slow and steady improvements in the quality of its products and customers were starting to take notice. In early 2011, the company went through a restructuring and Mike Pedroza was asked to take over the plant manager role. As part of his new responsibilities, he was tasked to help the plant become more efficient. Based on his past experience with lean manufacturing, he knew that to make the changes management was expecting, he needed to make lean part of the everyday culture, and have it viewed as a long-term solution and not just a fad.

Knowing that he wanted to work with a university instead of a consulting group, Mike conducted a Google search on lean assistance in Georgia, and came across the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech. He met with Bill Ritsch, North Metro Region Manager, and Sam Darwin, project manager at the GaMEP, to review his situation. Observation of the operation suggested there was too much time being wasting moving material around in the facility, and that the machines were not set up in a configuration that would optimize output.

Solution

Ritsch and Darwin worked with Pedroza to craft a plan that would allow two machines to operate more efficiently by working side-by-side and discharging product toward each other. By operating with one packer for two machines, the flow of product became smoother, taking fewer steps and less time to get the material out.

As part of its overall improvement of processes, Tara Materials moved core material closer to the production line, created standard operating procedures for new lines, and reduced the material scrapped due to inconsistencies and defects from as much as 17 percent to between 5 and 7 percent.

Tara Materials is now in a growth stage and is bringing on new customers, as well as increasing order sizes of current customers. By improving processes and better utilizing equipment, Tara Materials is able to meet these growing demands and has recently added another shift and line, resulting in additional production of high-quality product and jobs.

Tara Materials is currently sending numerous employees to the GaMEP Lean Boot Camp open-enrollment course and is also working with Kelley Hundt, another GaMEP project manager, to help reach a goal of reducing machine set-up time by 30 percent.

In 2011 Tara Materials utilized the Georgia Retraining Tax Credit, a program that enables Georgia businesses to offset their investment in training of employees, and is in the process of submitting their paperwork for the 2012 credit.For more information on the tax credit, visit http://www.georgia.org/competitive-advantages/tax-credits/Pages/retraining.aspx.

Results

  • Tara Materials moved core material closer to the production line, reducing distance between material and line by 50 percent
  • Reduced scrapped material from as much as 17 percent to between 5 and 7 percent
  • Increased product production by 92 percent, from 13,000 yards of material to 25,000 yards of material per day

Testimonial

“We set up two kaizen events, in both the coating department and the rolling department. Productivity went through the roof and morale is high.” Pedroza said.

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Suwanee scrub dispensing machine manufacturer finds success with a niche marketplace

IPA | Value Stream Mapping, Kanban

December 2012

Customer Profile

Eighteen years ago, IPA, a contract and design manufacturing company, found a niche in the marketplace while it was working with a linen distribution client. Hospitals at the time were using rotational conveyors or wire racks to hold the scrubs worn by hospital personnel. As a way to keep scrubs on the shelf and ensure they were returned for cleaning once used, IPA patented an idea for a scrub machine. The new product quickly helped hospitals reduce costs and thus fulfilled a need in the marketplace. The product was so successful that six years ago IPA founders, Bob Fitzgerald and Ward Broom, both graduates of Georgia Tech, were able to close the contract design and manufacturing side of their business to focus solely on manufacturing scrub machines. The number of machines per hospital depends on the hospital size, ranging from one machine to as many as 120.

Situation

For many years, IPA had been building scrub dispensing machines in a batch assembly process, which is the manufacturing of products in sequential stages. However for IPA, this non-continuous technique was resulting in a lot of back-up in the process and long lead times.

IPA was planning a move to a different facility, but before doing so, wanted to ensure that these issues didn’t move with them. Over the years, Joel Eisler, vice president of operations at IPA, had taken a series of lean courses from Georgia Tech. Upon returning from each course, he tried to implement a lean tactic here and there, but was having trouble getting these changes to stick. Knowing that Georgia Tech offered an assistance program to manufacturers, IPA reached out to Sam Darwin, project manager, at the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech.

Solution

Darwin, and Bill Ritsch, North Metro Region Manager at GaMEP, spent four days at the plant in May 2011, working with Eisler and his team on ways they could reduce lead time, increase production and free up warehouse space. By conducting a value stream mapping exercise, they determined that to become more efficient and increase material flow, they needed to convert the batch process to cell manufacturing, allowing for the sub-assembly areas to all feed into one center cell. Before the value stream mapping, IPA was producing 118 units per quarter, with each unit taking a total of 55 hours to produce. Once the initial conversion to cell manufacturing was made, IPA began producing 126 units per quarter (approximately 24 additional units per year), reducing production time to 43 hours per unit. Through continuous improvement since the conversion, IPA has improved even more – to 160 units per quarter at 31 hours of labor per unit.

To implement cell manufacturing, IPA rearranged its facility, freeing up 1,400 square feet of floor space and reducing the time it took employees to search for items.

IPA has since joined the Georgia Tech North Metro Atlanta Lean Consortium, a group of manufacturers interested in sharing ideas around lean concepts. Through a benchmarking tour at another manufacturing plant, the company gained numerous opportunities for improvement, including removing flat shelves in their center cell assembly area. The shelves were replaced with carts that could move material from subassembly to production, utilizing kanban techniques within the carts as a visual way of determining when material inventories needed to be replenished. As a result, their stockout, an event that causes inventory to be exhausted, for subassembly are next to non-existent.

Eisler says, “In the past, everyone talked about lean in terms of manufacturing. But lean is a process throughout the company, not just manufacturing.” As a next step, IPA is working with GaMEP to conduct value stream mapping exercises in both pre-production process and post-production processes, to include areas such as sales, administrative support, and accounting.

IPA is currently filing for the Georgia Retraining Tax Credit, a program that enables Georgia businesses to offset their investment in training of employees. For more information on the tax credit, visit http://www.georgia.org/competitive-advantages/tax-credits/Pages/retraining.aspx.

Results

  • By converting from batch manufacturing to cell manufacturing, IPA produces 26 percent more units per quarter (from 118 units to 160 units)
  • IPA has reduced the amount of time it takes to produce one unit from 55 hours to 31 hours
  • Additional results from this conversion include: 1,400 square feet of freed up facility space, 50 percent reduction in overtime and a decrease in lead time from 3 weeks to 4 days
  • By implementing kanban in supply carts, IPA reduced work in process inventory to 10 percent

Testimonial

“The fact that Georgia Tech was an outsider helped make lean stick within the company. Through hands-on exercises, they really showcased how lean could help improve our company,” Eisler said.

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How Sweet It Is: Savannah fondant manufacturer achieves spectacular growth

FONDARIFIC | Root Cause

September 18, 2012

Fondarific Large Image

Customer Profile

Six years ago Laura Darnall and Lois Judy met on the sidelines of a Savannah soccer field while watching their daughters play on the same team. Darnall, then a kindergarten teacher, had developed an edible product she called “Candy Clay Dough” for her students to use in art projects. She brought the product to an end-of-the-year soccer party, where it caught the eye of Judy, a registered nurse. In 2008, the two teamed up and founded Fondarific, which makes fondant, a moldable icing used on cakes and other baked goods such as cupcakes and cookies. Today, Fondarific produces 14 flavors of fondant and its customers include bakeries, retailers, distributors and individual cooks across the globe.

Situation

In a year’s time, Fondarific went from production in a shed to a 1,500-square foot production facility to a 3,000 square foot facility. The firm was growing at a very fast pace and turned to the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech to help improve the production flow in the production facility it was occupying at the time and with overall growth planning.

Solution

Danny Duggar, a project manager with GaMEP’s Lean Services Group, used lean principles – such as reorganizing rooms to put work stations closer together, placing materials closer to the locations in the production process in which they are used and reducing wasted motion – to improve production flow. He also provided advice on equipment purchases.

Later, when Fondarific moved into its current 10,000-square-foot facility, Duggar oversaw production floor layout and spearheaded the company’s shift to increased automation in its manufacturing process.

Orjan Isacscon, Georgia Tech’s Coastal Region manager, also put Fondarific in touch with the Economic Gardening Program. The program, which is partially funded by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) and is run by the Technology Association of Georgia’s Savannah office, helped the firm optimize its website for search engines, provided insight on which companies are Fondarific’s biggest competitors and pinpointed which countries are strong markets for fondant.

Results

  • Fondarific’s relationship with GaMEP has paved the way for the company to grow to $2.5 million in revenues in 2011, and the firm now exports its product to Australia, Canada, Guatemala, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom.
  • The company’s increased use of automation has reduced labor expenses by 18 percent, which in turn has allowed Fondarific to make its pricing more competitive.
  • Four years after beginning operations in a 10-foot-by-14-foot building in Darnall’s backyard, the women received recognition from the U.S. Small Business Administration as 2012 Georgia Small Business Persons of the Year.

Testimonial

“We could not have done all this without Georgia Tech,” Darnall said. 

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