Entrepreneurs – Streamlining and getting lean

July 13, 2013

Manufacturing Methods, founded in 2006 by Pete Peterson and Matt Gunning started out as a tool and die and mold maker, turning out parts for local customers. The business grew. By 2011, Manufacturing Methods was designing, manufacturing and assembling components for customers in the power, communications, medical/dental, marine and industrial automation industries. It was filling orders from customers in many states.

“After the first couple of years, we realized our potential and expanded our mindset,” Peterson said.

By being open to new ideas and seizing opportunities, Manufacturing Methods maintained healthy growth, grew to occupy three buildings and netted $4M in 2010. While the company was doing well and thinking creatively, the truth was that its processes and operations were limited. “We’d hit the ceiling in terms of revenue level,” Peterson said. “We were doing great, but we were stuck.” The assessment to the problem told Peterson that the limiting factor was their facility and needed a place where they not only had more room but could house their scattered operations under one roof.

In 2012, then consultant David Ott, an experienced manufacturing process and supply chain senior executive from a $100M electronics company, began working with Manufacturing Methods analyzing the current state of operations and the potential for dramatic improvement in a small business by instituting lean manufacturing and continuous improvement practices. Ott had years of experience running lean manufacturing facilities and this led to his joining the firm as a Vice President to focus on streamlining operations.

The timing was ideal. With Manufacturing Methods planning for a new consolidated facility, Ott began to examine their design, operations and processes with a goal of efficiency. The new facility would not only provide more space – it would enable them to leap into lean manufacturing. “We thought we were at 100%capacity, but we were only at 56%,” Peterson said. With input from Peterson and the staff, Ott guided a process that organized the plant around work stations, with an eye to making each worker as productive as possible. The team dissected every aspect of production to rethink placement of tools, machinery and every action in the process. The new processes focused on reducing wasted time and motion.

Jobs are now tracked electronically, so the company’s general manager can view the status and the costs of all projects at any time.

“We can be more competitive now that we know what the true costs are,” Peterson said. Ott, is quick to add, “Employees are at the heart of a successful lean manufacturing operation. They must understand the value and benefits of a culture of continuous improvement. And to commit to change where the employees must be involved in making those changes.”

Together Peterson, Ott and the entire staff at Manufacturing Methods recognizes that this is the key part to employee empowerment, where together with management everyone has a voice and works together on new ideas and areas of improvement.