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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Healthy Changes: Medical-Device Manufacturer Turns to Georgia Tech to Improve Operational Efficiency

AngioDynamics | Lean

June 15, 2012

AngioDynamics Team Meeting Large Image

Marian Milliron, Ivonia Sutton, Will England (Georgia Tech Coop), Derek Woodham, Georgia Tech Regional Manager, Bruce Maloy, and Lesia Jenkins, review AngioDynamics data and products.

Customer Profile

The 113-employee Manchester, Ga., facility of Albany, N.Y.-based AngioDynamics produces three types of medical devices: infusion devices used to inject medicine into blood vessels; vascular ports that are placed below a patient’s skin to distribute drugs, such as the chemicals used in chemotherapy, throughout the body; and radio frequency ablation devices that treat tumors by subjecting them to high heat.

Situation

According to Bruce Maloy, director of operations at the plant, the Manchester facility is on “a quest for continuous improvement.” By early 2009 the company was looking for new ideas and turned to the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech to learn how to make their plant more efficient through lean methods.

Solution

In early 2009, Derek Woodham, manager of GaMEP’s West Region, conducted a daylong overview of lean techniques for the Manchester leadership team. Later that year, he began working with the facility’s infusion segment. Using the training it received from Woodham and GaMEP, the company later implemented lean methods into its vascular port division. Based on the success of the first two segments, AngioDynamics plans to implement similar changes in the plant’s third division, which produces radio frequency ablation devices that treat tumors by subjecting them to high heat.

Results

  • In the case of each separate infusion and port product, the plant can assemble at least 30 percent more units per hour than it could before using lean methods.
  • The amount of scrap produced by the infusion and port departments has decreased by 33 percent and 52 percent, respectively.
  • The plant has experienced significant cost savings, stemming in part from reduced material expenses.

Testimonial

“We’ve made marked improvements,” said Bruce Maloy, director of operations at AngioDynamics’ Manchester, Ga., plant. “You can’t argue with the results.”

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Preparing for Growth: Georgia Tech Helps Custom Orthotics Manufacturer Increase Production by 200 Percent

ORTHOCARE LABS | Process Improvement

December 6, 2011

OrthoCare Labs Large Image

Dr. Ric Hollstrom (left), owner of OrthoCare Labs, discusses the company’s products with Derek Woodham, Georgia Tech regional manager. Woodham helped the company redesign its manufacturing process to increase production.

Customer Profile

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.

Situation

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.

Solution

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.

Results

  • 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

Testimonial

“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.”

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Columbus Entrepreneur Utilizes State Resources to Launch New Business

MADDIE’S WORLD | Small business
March 3, 2011

Maddie's World

Customer Profile

Parents Donna and Joe Lefcourt created Maddie’s World after their first-hand experience with premature birth. Their daughter, Maddie, faced a number of developmental issues that had the potential to affect her motor skills. That’s when Donna’s motherly intuition gave her the idea to form a company that could help children like Maddie. Maddie’s World manufactures appropriately-sized toys – a critical way babies’ motor skills grow and develop – for premature and small infants.

Situation

Lefcourt noticed that every time she put the toy in her daughter’s hand, she would drop it, either because of the toy’s size or the weight. After exhausting all local and online retail sources for toys suitable for her daughter, Lefcourt was seized by the entrepreneurial spirit and decided to make her own line of specialty toys – but where should she start? She began researching the market for toys for premature babies and learned from the March of Dimes that more than 500,000 babies are born prematurely every year in the United States. She also researched baby toy companies both nationally and internationally.

Solution

Lefcourt attended an inventors’ workshop being offered by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) and afterward began working with Ed Murphy, a project manager with the Georgia Entrepreneur and Small Business Outreach program, a partnership between EI2 and the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center that delivers services to entrepreneurs and small businesses in rural Georgia. Murphy assisted Lefcourt with researching manufacturers that could make her line of specialty baby toys and coached her on the kinds of questions she needed to ask. Murphy continued to assist Lefcourt with developing a business plan and her pricing structure.

Results

  • Selected Peliton Plastics, a plastic injection molding company in Valdosta, Ga., to begin making the first three toys – a rattle, a teether and dexterity/motor skill toy
  • Hired a local marketing professional to help design company logo and revamp business name
  • Donates a portion of sales to the local Children’s Miracle Network where the toys are purchased

Testimonial

“I was very skeptical about talking to people and telling them my business idea, but I also realized that was the only way I could get some help. Ed was very encouraging and even the days I got down, he pushed me to press forward. Every time I’ve ever called him about anything, he’s been right there,” Lefcourt said.

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