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Manufacturing Extension Partnership helps companies get ‘lean’

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Companies throughout Indiana are taking advantage of a Purdue program that helps improve operational efficiency and increase profits.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership, administered by Purdue’s Technical Assistance Program, helped 290 companies eliminate waste and implement process improvements in fiscal year 2007-08. Partnership director David Snow said these “lean manufacturing” advancements translated into an economic impact of almost $96 million.

“In 2007-08 Indiana companies that hired us reported an average savings and income benefit of $1.5 million per year,” Snow said. “The average investment made by those same companies was less than $36,000. That’s a 42-to-1 return on their investment. Our clients also reported that they added or kept 780 jobs in the past year.”

Modern Door Corp., a division of Plyco Corp. in Walkerton, Ind., produces metal walk doors, ventilation products, and provides fasteners for post frame and metal clad building industries. The company will work with MEP this fall on an advanced manufacturing certificate training program for its 147 employees to teach them how to speed production, reduce inventory and use less space.

To identify waste, MEP experts will look at everything that happens with product and information flow to create a value stream map. Once the map is created, each step will be examined to determine if it is necessary and makes the production process better.

Experts will look for seven types of waste:

  • Overproduction: The market must have demand for the doors that are being produced. Modern Door should not produce its product until each order is placed.
  • Excessive inventory: Too much inventory wastes the money it takes to produce the doors, the space to house them, and the workers to move them and manage them.
  • Unnecessary transportation: Material or information within the plant should move only as far as necessary for efficient production.
  • Unnecessary movement of people: The plant should have the optimum layout to prevent people from taking valuable time walking back and forth.
  • Waiting: Whenever workers are waiting for material or information, production is lost.
  • Defective output: Checks should be in place to correct errors as soon as they are made rather than later in the manufacturing process.
  • Overprocessing: Manufacturers should take only as much time as needed to get the job done to produce a quality door.

Rick Coffman, Modern Door general manager, said the training will help his company improve the quality of its products and become more globally competitive.

“Obtaining an Indiana Training Acceleration Grant and using the Purdue University Technical Assistance Program as our training source is a great opportunity for all Modern Door employees,” Coffman said. “This training will greatly enhance our workforce development and provide lasting methods and tools that will accelerate our advance manufacturing processes. We fully expect the outcome of this training to reduce waste, improve quality, help us grow the business, and provide our customers improved product and service in an extremely competitive market.”

Modern Door received a grant from the Indiana Department of Work force Development to fund the MEP training, which also receives federal funding from the National Institute for Standards and Technology and support from the state of Indiana.

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