Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership names new South Georgia region manager

http://gamep.org/region-manager-team-members/

Hank Hobbs is the new manager for the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s South Georgia region.

By Katie Takacs

 

The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), an outreach program of the Georgia Institute of Technology, named Henry B. “Hank” Hobbs as the new South Georgia region manager.

 

In this role, Hobbs will serve manufacturers in 32 counties across South Georgia, with his office based in the South Georgia region. He and his team of project managers will work closely with local manufacturers to help them develop top-line growth and reduce bottom-line costs through process improvement efforts, ISO management systems, energy and sustainability initiatives, innovation growth strategies, and connections to Georgia Tech. These valuable services contribute to Georgia’s economic growth because it supports Georgia’s strong manufacturing sector and brings new jobs to both urban and rural areas across South Georgia.

 

Hobbs will be taking over the role from Art Ford, who retired after more than 30 years with Georgia Tech. Before his appointment as region manager, Hobbs previously served as a GaMEP project manager and prior was with the Technical College System of Georgia, serving business and industry across the southern part of the state. With more than 10 years of experience working within manufacturing companies as an industrial and manufacturing engineer, plant engineer, and a safety, health and environmental manager, Hobbs brings expertise in traditional industrial engineering disciplines, quality systems, process improvement, welding, automation, stamping and metals manufacturing, supervisory and leadership development, and regulatory compliance.

 

“Hank has been an integral part of the GaMEP team since joining the organization almost two years ago. We are excited about his transition from a project manager to a region manager,” said Karen Fite, GaMEP director. ”With extensive experience working within manufacturing plants, he brings a great skill set to the job.”

 

In this position, Hobbs will work closely with the local chambers and economic development groups, as well as connect local manufacturers back to the variety of programs that Georgia Tech offers to manufacturers across the state.

 

“I look forward to connecting with more manufacturers in the region in which I not only work but live, listening to their needs, providing a solutions-based approach to help them grow competitively, and establishing long-term relationships,” said Hobbs.

 

For more information, contact Katie Takacs at ude.hcetag.etavonninull@scakat.eitak.

Georgia Tech Helps South Georgia Pump Manufacturer Attain ISO Certification

Thomasville, Ga. is known as the City of Roses, but it is also home to the North American headquarters of Wilo-EMU, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of water and wastewater pumps. Founded in 1872 by Louis Opländer as a copper and brass goods foundry, the company is now represented in more than 70 countries and employs 6,000 people worldwide. The innovative company – which files up to 20 patent applications annually – plans for Thomasville to be its technology center in North America.

When the Thomasville facility was asked by its German parent company to attain ISO 9001 certification, an international quality management system standard, it turned to the Georgia Institute of Technology, one of the nation’s top research universities. Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute provides comprehensive services to improve the competitiveness of Georgia’s business and industry, including technical and engineering assistance, continuing education courses, facilitation of networks and connecting companies to Georgia Tech resources.

“Some of the customers asked for us to be ISO certified and we figured it was better to go ahead and do it. We wanted to show potential customers that we have ISO 9001 certification and that we already have a process in place and that it’s controlled,” said Paulina Tompea, Wilo-EMU’s Thomasville plant manager. “It’s a benefit for us. It disciplines and teaches employees the processes and the flow to have a good system in place and send a quality product out of the door.”

Craig Cochran, a Georgia Tech quality specialist, assisted Wilo-EMU with developing and implementing its quality management system. Together they reviewed the company’s documentation, developed a system that had a more value-added process and identified training needs. Team members also conducted a gap audit, helped with the development of an implementation plan, assisted with initial internal audits and management review, conducted a pre-assessment audit and corrected system issues prior to the registration audit. Nine Wilo-EMU employees, including Tompea, were certified as internal auditors.

“I had worked with ISO 9001 before, but I looked at it through a manufacturing lens. I had never actually built a system,” recalled Tompea. “Craig conducted the gap analysis in June 2008 and determined we were 50 percent ready, so we had another 50 percent to work on. Craig was a very good trainer and mentor, and he knew how to motivate.”

Wilo-EMU received its ISO 9001 certification in November 2008, less than a year after beginning the project. As a result of the ISO certification, the company expects big results, including a sales increase of between $2 million and $4 million. The company will also add five jobs over the next two years as part of its natural growth.

“When a customer comes in and they see that we are ISO certified, they know they’re going to get something that is consistent,” said Terry Rouse, president and CEO. “I expect it to have a definite impact on our sales, especially out west where we’re not as well-known. It does make a difference.”

The ISO 9001 certification project was not the first time Wilo-EMU had worked with Georgia Tech, however. When the company moved into a 60,000-square-foot facility in Thomasville, lean specialists Sam Darwin and Tom Sammon developed an optimal plant layout by examining space utilization, work flow, processes, material handling and shipping.

In addition, Rouse and Thomas Halstrick, senior vice president of Wilo’s North American operations, visited the Georgia Tech campus to hear about hydraulics research being conducted in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. The connection was made via Greg King of Georgia Tech’s Strategic Partners Office, an “industry-centric” doorway that can link companies to leading-edge resources, applying Georgia Tech faculty know-how, specialized facilities and student talent to such goals as new product development, improved competitiveness and transformation of industrial processes.

“We spend about three percent of our revenue on research and development, and we utilize universities in Europe,” said Rouse. “We wanted to make a connection here in the states because there are issues that will be different here than in Europe. It’s been a good relationship so far with Georgia Tech.”

The next step for Wilo-EMU is to become certified in ISO 14001, the international specification for an environmental management system that outlines requirements for a company’s environmental policy. The standard exists to help organizations minimize their impact on the environment and comply with applicable laws and regulations. Tompea said she has already contacted Cochran about providing assistance in this area.

“From the beginning, Wilo-EMU’s focus was on creating a system that drove customer loyalty and that would support additional business growth,” noted Cochran. “The workforce embraced the common-sense control and discipline of ISO 9001 without missing a beat.”

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

South Georgia Truss Manufacturer Improves Bottom Line with Georgia Tech Assistance

Lee Matthews, operations manager for Universal Forest Products, and Art Ford, south Georgia region manager for the Enterprise Innovation Institute, discuss lean issues in the Ashburn facility.

Assembling wooden roof trusses used in building construction can be a little like putting together a puzzle. Many different parts must first be cut to the right size and shape, then placed into the proper location on the truss.

Until recently, the flow of these parts had been a complicated and time-consuming process for workers at Universal Forest Products in Ashburn. After being cut, thousands of parts were first stored in a rack, then moved to a cart which held the components needed for a particular truss. At the end of each work day, the cart was moved to a storage location, then returned to the assembly location when work resumed the next day.

“We didn’t have a problem building the trusses – we build about 9,000 a week – but cutting all those components was challenging,” said Lee Matthews, operations manager for the Ashburn, Ga., facility. “I was running high in overtime, and we even went as far as putting on a small second shift. We needed a better flow.”

It was not uncommon to have as many as 16,000 pieces cut and stored, waiting for assembly. Now that number is zero – thanks to a continuous improvement initiative instituted by the company with help from the Enterprise Innovation Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The improvement process began when management and front-line supervisors from the company completed lean training offered by the Enterprise Innovation Institute. The leadership group learned how to eliminate overproduction from traditional scheduling systems, produce products based on customer demand and utilize value stream mapping as a tool to guide implementation efforts. Value stream maps are diagrams used to analyze the flow of materials and information required to bring a product or service to a consumer.

Sam Darwin, a Georgia Tech lean specialist, led the initial sessions as part of Universal Forest Products’ corporate training effort that brought participants from around the country for two days of internal training and a lean overview. Since then, training sessions have been conducted in five other states in addition to five plants in Georgia. In total, Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute has led 32 projects for the company.

“The decision to partner with Georgia Tech was a simple one,” Matthews recalled. “We asked them to help us analyze where we could improve flow in regards to cutting the components for roof trusses.”

John Stephens and Jennifer Trapp-Lingenfelter, Georgia Tech lean specialists, visited the Ashburn facility and met with management to discuss the facility’s issues. They suggested developing a value stream map on the entire process of making roof trusses – from raw material all the way through the finished product.

“I realized we needed to look at the whole picture, not just the cutting operations,” noted Stephens. “This would help identify where the true bottlenecks were forming and why.”

To identify opportunities for improvement, the team working on the value stream map measured how far the individual truss components had to travel and then brainstormed ways to reduce that. Matthews admits he initially had his doubts.

“I’ve been in this business 21 years and worked with 15 plants all over the United States. I felt like I had pretty much seen it all – been there and done that,” he said. “John suggested that we work toward a one-piece flow system. I thought was he was crazy, but he asked me to try just one machine.”

After trying it once, Matthews was convinced to implement the idea on all of his presses. The Ashburn facility is now the only plant among all of Universal Forest Product’s 80 locations to have one-piece flow. The plant also implemented visual cues for scheduling the various components to be cut.

“Before implementing lean, I had to store a lot of small pieces. At any given time I had about $40,000 worth of work-in-process (WIP) on the yard. That $40,000 is now down to about $10,000,” Matthews said. “And for trusses we build for manufactured housing customers, we have zero WIP on the floor at the end of each day.”

The Ashburn plant has also seen a decrease in the amount of time it takes to schedule work orders. Before, it would take a production manager approximately two and a half hours each day to schedule the thousands of components needed; now it is done in a matter of minutes as a result of the visual cues. According to Matthews, this has also cut down on the number of mistakes made and improved product quality. In 2007, on-time delivery was 77.1 percent; thus far in 2008, it has increased to 84.1 percent.

“We have customers who are beginning their journey into lean manufacturing and have requested tours of our facility because of our success story,” Matthews noted. “This has had a very positive influence partnering and building relationships with our customers.”

Another area greatly impacted by the lean implementation was in safety. In addition to reducing forklift and banding exposure, employees no longer need to climb on tables to load overhead racks and they eliminated loading and unloading above shoulder height.

“Because we’ve removed so many non-value added steps, I’m ready to reduce my forklift fleet by three,” he said. “We’re also saving thousands of dollars a year because we implemented a point-of-use storage and we have reduced overtime in the truss area by 20 percent.”

In fact, the value stream map project proved to be so successful in the truss area that Matthews decided to conduct a similar project in the finger joint department at the beginning of 2008. Finger joints are made by making a set of complementary rectangular cuts in two pieces of wood, which are then glued. The finger-jointed boards that Universal Forest Products manufactures are used in mobile and modular homes and office modular buildings.

“My two production managers conducted the value stream map for the finger joint area, using a process similar to the one Georgia Tech had shown us,” Matthews said. “We wanted a wide representation of participants, so we included everyone from myself to production managers to supervisors to forklift drivers to folks who ran the rip and component saws. We want everyone to feel like they are a part of a team and that their voice matters.”

Most recently, Matthews asked lean specialists Trapp-Lingenfelter and Tara Barrett to return to Ashburn to conduct a value stream map for the sales and administration office. The group examined the order process for the plant, including order entry and pricing. Matthews also anticipates big benefits from the project.

“We developed a sales form that’s more consistent that can generate quotes and orders, so we’re not duplicating work. This will speed the process up, and allow our sales people to sell the product instead of doing paperwork,” he said.

As with many process improvement initiatives, the biggest challenge to completing the projects was achieving employee buy-in, especially with the office staff. Matthews says that while they could see the benefits of lean in manufacturing, they didn’t readily appreciate how it could benefit their jobs.

“Employees do not mind working smarter to make their jobs easier, safer and more productive. If we give the employees the tools, time and instruction they need, they will solve most of the problems we encounter day-to-day,” he said. “Georgia Tech was able to open everyone’s eyes to a different thought process that forced us to recognize the importance of eliminating non-value added activities. We are ecstatic about what the Georgia Tech team was able to do for us.”

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Distribution Center Locates in Southwest Georgia with Georgia Tech Assistance

When a distributor of automotive paints, coatings and related accessories needed a new distribution center for its branch locations in Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, it made geographic sense to locate in south Georgia, but the company also needed practical resources. It was through the Cook County Economic Development Commission that Dan Courtney, FinishMaster’s senior vice president for operations, became aware of engineering services offered by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EII).

“We have three major distribution centers, and from a facility layout perspective, this is the best one,” said Courtney. “As a result of the facility layout, we are able to move more product through the distribution center and have better purchasing synergies. It’s all about getting the right product to the right place at the right time.”

Before the company made the decision to locate in Adel in 2006, Sam Darwin, EII project manager, visited a similar FinishMaster facility in Grand Rapids, Mich., to observe how one distribution center was laid out. He analyzed data from more than 7,000 product items to determine how to best set up the new Georgia facility as a lean operation.

“One of the questions we had was should we have in-bound product on one side of the building and out-bound product on the other side? From that standpoint, this is not a big building,” said Courtney. “You try to have one directional flow, and Sam confirmed that while that did normally make sense, it didn’t make sense to design our building that way since we would lose rack space if we did that.”

Another consideration for FinishMaster was its status as a distributor of hazardous materials, including paints, solvents and flammable materials. That means that for every 20,000 square feet, there must be an accompanying firewall and either fire tunnels within the building or emergency exits within 75 feet of each worker. Due to the layout that Darwin developed for the 40,000-square-foot Adel facility, FinishMaster was able to incorporate emergency exits rather than the less efficient fire tunnels.

Since locating in Adel, FinishMaster has created 20 jobs and made $2.4 million in investments in its facility. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., FinishMaster has grown to 185 branch locations and three major distribution centers in 28 states since its founding in 1968. Courtney, who expects the company to generate more than $465 million in revenue this year, says the relationship with Georgia Tech is ongoing.

As part of their continuous improvement efforts, company officials met in November 2007 with Yih-long Chang, a professor of operations management in Georgia Tech’s College of Management. The connection was made via Georgia Tech’s Strategic Partners Office, an “industry-centric” doorway that can link companies to leading-edge resources, applying Georgia Tech faculty know-how, specialized facilities and student talent to such goals as new product development, improved competitiveness and transformation of industrial processes.

Chang’s research interests emphasize the application and integration of artificial intelligence, expert systems, information systems, management science, operations management, quality control techniques and the improvement of quality and productivity. Chang and some of his students are developing a project to examine and improve FinishMaster’s picking accuracy – the percentage of correct parts selected for branch orders.

The goal of the project would be to reduce the error rate by examining the entire process, including the storage locations of items. Data to be analyzed would include the picker, the product and the day. Prior to and following shipment, orders are checked for accuracy, an added step that Dennis Pacilio, national director for FinishMaster’s distribution centers, would like to eliminate. Currently, FinishMaster’s accuracy rate is approximately 99.5 percent, with management’s goal being 99.7 percent or higher.

“We’re in a continuous improvement mindset, and Georgia Tech has helped us think through some sound theory to help us build a better business,” Courtney observed. “It’s good to have someone with a lot of insight to confirm your thoughts – there’s a real danger in being so caught up in the real world you never look a day in advance.”

Kerry Waldron, the economic developer for the Cook County Economic Development Commission, also hails Georgia Tech as a resource when recruiting new businesses to his community.

“Georgia Tech is a great tool to utilize when we entice companies to expand or locate in our community. We couldn’t afford to keep the level of expertise Georgia Tech offers on staff, and having this resource allows us to sell our community and reinforces our commitment of service to our industries,” he said. “FinishMaster was a great project and a wonderful match for our community. The quality of jobs they provide enhances the economic opportunities for our citizens.”

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Boat Manufacturer Boosts Sales, Productivity with Georgia Tech Assistance

Workers at Seminole Marine in Cairo, Ga., put the finishing touches on a boat.

When Paul Hoppes, president of Seminole Marine, relocated his business from Florida to Cairo, Ga., in the mid-1990s, he employed 16 people to manufacture saltwater fishing boats in a 32,000-square-foot building. In his words, the company “muddled along” until several small successes came their way. And then the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks happened.

“In my opinion, that event unleashed the spending power of the baby boomer. A lot of people decided it was time to do it – they felt their own mortality,” observed Hoppes. “In the 12 months following 9/11, we had a 62 percent increase in sales.”

In the years following 2001, Hoppes said the company experienced a string of “wide open” 46 percent average annual growth. After breaking down the company’s structure and rebuilding it several times, he realized that sort of growth simply could not continue forever and he needed help in developing a strategy to become more profitable.

“During that time, we were operating on tribal knowledge, simply surviving that incredible thrust of growth. We realized we had a lot of wasted motion, we didn’t have good documentation, we didn’t know exactly how things moved and we didn’t know how many hundreds of miles a day our forklift was moving,” he said.

Hoppes, who was already familiar with the environmental management services of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EII), called on the organization again for assistance in lean manufacturing, a process management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System and known for reducing wasted time and effort. John Stephens and Paul Todd, EII project managers, conducted a lean manufacturing seminar for Seminole Marine with 40 key players, including everyone from supervisors to shop floor associates.

At the workshop, participants learned the principles of lean manufacturing and how to apply them. During a series of simulations as a member of a production team, they applied lean concepts such as standardized work, visual signals, batch-size reduction and pull systems, among others. They also experienced how lean improves quality, reduces cycle time, improves delivery performance and reduces work-in-process.

“The seminar was absolutely fantastic; you could see the light bulb coming on as you watched them,” recalled Hoppes. “Within an hour, you could see teamwork and cooperation that you had never seen before. That has been the single most dramatic thing that we’ve ever done as a company.”

Since participating in the lean overview in 2005, Hoppes has added on to his facility, for a total of 150,000 square feet of manufacturing space. With more than a half mile from one end of the plant to the other, he conducted an analysis to determine how workers can be more efficient. While he notes that there is always room for improvement, he says that his workflow is efficient, work-in-process has been reduced and the company has better standards based on the new efficiencies.

Hoppes partially credits the lessons learned in the lean manufacturing seminar with helping Seminole Marine gain market share in a market that is currently down by 30 percent. The company primarily makes two platforms – center console boats and cabin boats ranging from 19 to 31 feet – priced at the upper mid-market level. In 2007, Seminole Marine produced 850 boats.

“When there are fewer buyers out there, you need to deliver a better product more efficiently and more timely. We continued a strong marketing campaign and got the best advice we could get from places like Georgia Tech,” Hoppes said. “Companies that maintain that attitude will recover at five times the rate of companies that sit back and played it safe.”

Not only has Seminole Marine not participated in a declining market, but it has thrived. Since implementing lean principles, the company has increased sales and productivity by 50 percent, increased profit by double digits, expanded the facility by 50 percent and has reduced setup and changeover times by 25 percent. Hoppes estimates that increased sales totaled $6 million and cost savings equated to $3 million.

Despite these impressive numbers, however, Hoppes said he is most proud of the advances the company has made with its employees. Seminole Marine, which offers medical benefits and 401Ks, is the third largest private employer in Grady County with 200 employees.

“When we moved to south Georgia, one of the intangibles we didn’t anticipate was the quality of people available to us. They are what you make them. Before the lean seminar, I hadn’t really thought about how important it is to have teamwork, good morale and people all pulling in the same direction,” he said. “You have two assets in business – your customers and your employees. The rest of it is scrap metal, and the auctioneers can prove it to you if you doubt it.”

Hoppes, who serves on the Industry Services Board for the Enterprise Innovation Institute, also stresses the correlation between a company’s business associates and its success.

“Unless you’re born with expertise in all areas, you need people like those at Georgia Tech on your team. They have seen the very best of manufacturers and stay on the cutting edge of the most advanced techniques,” he said. “It’s been a great benefit to us and it’s integral to our success.”

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Douglas Cultured Marble Manufacturer Cleans Up and Wins New Business with 5S

 

Paul Todd (left), EI2 project manager, talks with Raymund Navarro, operations engineer at MarCraft, about how to 5S the company’s manufacturing process.

MarCraft, Inc. is a 30-year-old, family-owned, manufacturer of built-to-order, cultured stone and marble bathroom fixtures. Located in Douglas, Ga., it provides two-week delivery of special order vanity tops anywhere in the nation through the top home improvement retailers in the country. It also supplies tubs, showers and vanity tops to national condominium and hotel developers.

During 2004, the owners of MarCraft, Inc. began a process of taking apart the company’s physical and management organization. It started with a typical management pyramid involving department heads responsible for sales, order processing, accounting, production, engineering, quality control, information technology and material management in one facility.

By 2006, it had evolved into a flat organization with separate facilities for four divisions, which were self-directed teams led by one team leader and focused on specific customers. The teams were cross-trained to handle all of the above responsibilities and shared in bonuses based on monthly results. All team members were trained in lean concepts.

To maintain continuous improvement, the company called on the Georgia Institute of Technology for assistance. John Stephens, a project manager with Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EII), reviewed the potential areas for improvement, using Six Sigma methods. He concentrated on assisting MarCraft with continuous flow manufacturing, a technique used to manufacture components in a cellular environment where everything that is needed to process the part is within easy reach, and no part is allowed to go to the next operation until the previous operation has been completed. His work led to a layout improvement to maximize efficiency where the molds are cleaned and prepared before gel-coat spraying.

“Once the line got flowing, it no longer held up the gel coating process,” Stephens said. “MarCraft is now able to get more through the system.”

Based on the suggestion of Stephens, MarCraft then called on EII Project Manager Paul Todd to implement 5S, a way of organizing and managing the workspace by eliminating waste. Todd first visited MarCraft in August 2006 to review the basic concepts of lean manufacturing, a process management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System and known for reducing wasted time and effort to improve overall customer value.

“The first day we got all the team members of the first business unit together to discuss what we were doing and why. We conducted a brief simulation and talked about what we were trying to accomplish,” Todd recalled. “As part of the team culture at MarCraft, we wanted to get everybody on board before we started changing things. That’s a best practice for improvements.”

Following the initial overview, Todd returned to MarCraft for six additional sessions to implement 5S across all areas of the initial team. 5S refers to five Japanese words: seiri (remove what is not needed and keep what is needed); seiton (place things in such a way that they can be easily reached whenever they are needed); seiso (keep things clean and polished); seiketsu (maintain cleanliness after cleaning); and shitsuke (sustain the improvements over time). In English, the steps become sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain.

“We had a rule that if we changed something that made it harder to do the job, we need to stop and back up. Any changes we made should help the people do their jobs better in terms of safety and productivity,” Todd said. “With the team members’ help, we decided where tools needed to be stored. We also did a lot cleaning – the nature of this process is that things will get dirty, so we had to implement a cleaning schedule. The fifth S – sustain – examined management policies.”

Management at MarCraft faced a special challenge when it decided to implement 5S. As a result of grinding and pouring cultured marble to produce vanity tops for the two largest home improvement retailers in the United States, dust and resin spills are an inevitable part of the daily work environment.

“We had to come to an understanding of what it meant to have this place clean, to have a reasonable level of cleanliness and order,” noted L.J. Chambers, MarCraft vice president. “Although we have state-of-the-art dust collection system and team member awareness, it is still hard to keep things clean and orderly.”

Other changes that were made included purchasing and labeling pegboards to store tools and supplies, developing a daily maintenance checklist, and building specialized worktables in the finishing areas. According to Todd, the tables went through several designs with input from team members, which is a good example of listening, teamwork and experimentation. All of the 5S steps are being applied in the remaining business units.

“One of the results of 5S was to create a bin system to organize splashguards, built for specific vanity tops. It was easy to mix them up or lose them and hold up an important shipment because of one small piece of marble,” noted Kim Voyles, MarCraft vice president. “Now, any team member can pull out the correct splash and complete the shipment. That has eliminated a considerable amount of lost time and recasting costs.”

Other savings include reduced downtime for equipment setup time when changing gel coat colors and a reduction in small tool expense.

“The addition of 5S to the other lean practices has allowed one-week delivery to a growing number of markets, the key to us retaining our team’s sales volume during the recent downturn in the housing industry,” Voyles said. “In one market, we were able to secure a lot of business from a significant competitor because of it.”

Voyles added that MarCraft intends to continue the application of lean and 5S concepts and to request Georgia Tech’s help in maintaining an environment of continuous improvement.

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office

Enterprise Innovation Institute

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314

Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright