Lee Adams, president of Fabritex Inc., remembers exactly how his family-owned business started. His entrepreneurial father had purchased a trampoline and realized he could make the metal frame as well as anybody else.
“We started 20 years ago in 1989, and since then, we’ve grown into a 55-employee, 110,000-square-foot facility with an emphasis on tube fabrication and sheet and plate fabrication,” Adams said. “We manufacture everything from tubular wire carriers to stem baskets to annealing process materials. Just because we haven’t built something before doesn’t mean we’re not going to quote on it. We try to think outside the box and sell ourselves as a one-stop shop.”
It was precisely this innovative mindset that brought both opportunity and challenges to Fabritex, based in Hartwell, Ga. In 2007, a customer asked Adams about producing a new product line within a specific timeframe and gradually ramping up production to cut cost. To determine the most efficient way to do so, Adams called on Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.
Tara Barrett, Danny Duggar and Karen Fite, all project managers with the Enterprise Innovation Institute, led a project in value stream mapping, a technique used to analyze the flow of materials and information required to bring a product or service to a consumer. As part of a value stream mapping project, the team developed a value stream map that identified all the value-added and non-value-added steps then in use, assessed the current state to create product flow by eliminating waste, and drew and implemented a map showing what the future state could be.
“Fabritex needed to increase throughput and reduce cost. The results were that they were able to increase their production to a capacity of 500 units per month and meet their customer’s requirements,” noted Fite. “Our goal is to have Fabritex learn the concepts and continue to implement them after we’re gone.”
According to Adams, the process is now streamlined and more efficient. The company has made nearly $300,000 in capital investments, saved $100,000 and increased sales by more than $1 million. The company also created eight jobs and doubled production.
“Georgia Tech was really able to get the creative juices flowing. It gave the guys working on the floor the encouragement to make improvements and make suggestions where normally they wouldn’t have spoken up,” Adams observed. “Now there’s a craftsmanship to what they do; they’re not just here punching a clock.”
The value stream mapping project proved so successful that the company has continued to partner with Georgia Tech. Dan Trier, sales and marketing manager, has already taken several classes offered through the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC), an organization based at the Enterprise Innovation Institute that helps Georgia businesses identify, compete for and win government contracts.
“We’ve had a Corps of Engineers project for more than 10 years, but this is an area we would like to explore more. I’ve attended classes on how to read and speak government procurement language, which is not easy, as well as learning where to find government contracts, how to read them and how to fill them out,” Trier said. “Joe Beaulieu, Steve Bettner and Chuck Schadl will answer any question we have and have really been helpful in terms of where to find the contract opportunities.”
In addition to classes, GTPAC provides its clients with coaching, mentoring and a set of tools to research and identify government contracting opportunities. Services are available at no cost to any Georgia business, large or small, that possesses the interest and potential to perform work, as a prime contractor or a subcontractor, for federal, state or local government agencies.
According to Fite, Fabritex has all the ingredients for success, especially in these challenging economic times.
“Fabritex had the right culture to accept and tackle this type of project – a strong culture that adapts to change, employees who will create solutions to unique problems, and, most importantly, leadership that promotes continuous improvement through the motivation, guidance and support of employees,” she said.
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.
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Writer: Nancy Fullbright