Since beginning their work with the GaMEP, E.G.O. has:
- Grown from 16 people to 190 employees in their Newnan plant and $7 million in sales to over $100 million.
- Investigated six new technologies and are closely monitoring the final two options.
- Continuously automated its production processes and subsequently increased the company’s output on their production lines.
- Implemented packaging improvements that have resulted in more than a $100,000 dollars in savings on packaging and shipping costs.
- Installed automated camera systems, saving the company $450,000 in the inspection process.
- Created an idea management system to engage employees, awarding up to 10 percent of the savings to the individual that developed the idea.
E.G.O., a global manufacturer of domestic appliance technology, components, and products for manufacturing radiant heating elements, made a name for itself in 1931 when the company invented the original hot plate. Since 1982, E.G.O. has housed their North American headquarters and main warehouse in Newnan, Georgia, bringing its first production line to the facility in 1996. Today, the company has 6,000 employees in 17 countries and holds more than 1,000 official patents.
In the early 1990’s Larry Alford, South Metro Region Manager for the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech helped E.G.O. get ISO 9001-registered. What began as a year-long project has developed into a 24-year relationship that has resulted in ISO 14001-registration, lean implementation, and quality control projects. The company was also one of the founding members of the Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, which allows manufacturers to learn best practices in lean tools, and has been an active participant since its inception in 2009. David Keller, president (and Georgia Tech alumni) said, “The benchmarking is key – as long as you aren’t visiting a direct competitor, you have a lot to gain without a lot of risk.”
In the 1990s, E.G.O. helped grow the smooth top electric range market with their invention of the radiant heating element used in all smooth top electric ranges. E.G.O. continues to lean on their innovation team to look at least five years out for new products, technologies, materials, and more, to keep them ahead of the curve. “To stay relevant, we need to know what’s out there that can help our customers be more competitive not just today, but tomorrow and the day after that,” said Keller. To continue to be forward thinking, Keller thought it was important to connect Alford and GaMEP’s technology scouting project manager, Ed Murphy, with his team of innovators. He said, “Our European plant utilizes technology scouting, so for us it just made sense to bring in our partners at Georgia Tech.” He continued, “By involving GaMEP and the Georgia Tech name, we are able to have conversations with inventors and companies that we wouldn’t have had access to.”
For the past five years, Murphy has worked with the E.G.O. team and independently to learn more about a variety of technology applications. Murphy said, “We started with six opportunities. I have spent time talking to inventors, our connections at the United States National Labs, conducting research, and introducing my contacts to Georgia Tech researchers, students, and additional technologies. I then bring my discoveries back to E.G.O.” Today, Murphy and the E.G.O. team have narrowed the initial six technologies down to two and are still monitoring them for a final decision.
Just as E.G.O. stays innovative in their forward thinking in product development, they continue to look at new ways to reduce their operating costs. Keller said, “Throughout the last decade, the currency rate shift between the Euro and Dollar drove our cost of materials up drastically. It’s since changed back to a more neutral position, but we need to keep our operations lean as this one factor can have such a significant impact for companies based out of the Euro zone.” Keller and his team are able to uncover opportunities through the benchmarking tours of the Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, as well as through the innovation management system they created internally to generate ideas from their own staff.
The plant has an aggressive year-over-year goal of improving efficiency by at least one percent each year. Over the past year and a half, in order to meet this goal, the Newnan location has installed automated cameras, created new ways to package their items, saving the company on shipping and handling costs, and have written checks, as high as $6,000, to employees with implementable, cost savings improvement ideas.
As a next step, E.G.O. is looking at ways to improve their inter-connectivity of their machinery and maintenance equipment. Keller said, “By looking at ways to incorporate Industry 4.0 into our plant, we will be able to dramatically improve our operational equipment effectiveness.”