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Rochester Gauges INC
Rochester Gauges, Inc., a privately-owned company based in Dallas, Texas, is a multi-national manufacturer of gauges with facilities in Dallas, Texas; Brussels, Belgium; and Mexico City, Mexico.
Lean thinking began at Rochester Gauges with the arrival of Brad Hoffman – former Rochester Gauges Director of Operations, now General Manager, Flowserve, Inc. – about one year after the company selected Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 in 2006 as its enterprise resource planning solution to replace an outdated platform.
Lean Manufacturing was not a consideration in the design and deployment of AX 4.0 at Rochester and so shortly after arrival, Hoffman trained a team to develop and deploy a kaizen process tailored to the unique needs of the company. The team completed 27 major kaizen events from 2007 to 2009. Hoffman recalls, “Our team deployed kaizen throughout 80% of the factory, resulting in a 67% reduction in manufacturing lead times; however, as the evidence of our kaizen events continued to accumulate, it became clear we needed to use Lean solutions in AX 4.0 because the standard version we deployed could not support our Lean Manufacturing efforts.”
Simultaneously, a competitor began to offer one of the same products Rochester Gauges produced in one-half the time. Bill Battershell, Chief Financial Officer, at Rochester Gauges, stated, “The Company, at the time, was up against a wall. We needed to support Lean in AX 4.0 and a competitor was threatening one of our lines. This brought management to the table to address the issue and come up with a solution.”
In response, the leadership team at Rochester Gauges continued to deploy Lean principles throughout the value stream and began to investigate ways to support Lean Manufacturing within Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0, realizing the threat posed by competition was an opportunity for growth and change. According to Hoffman, “We quickly realized the amount of rework necessary to re-write AX code to enable us to further deploy Lean. We needed an alternative and found the solution though eBECS.”
Rochester Gauges purchased the Lean Module for Microsoft Dynamics AX from eBECS. The Lean Module developed by eBECS provided Rochester Gauges with an agile, flexible, fully integrated business solution specifically geared to support Lean Manufacturing and the unique needs of the company. The solution combines Lean and traditional manufacturing processes in one manufacturing model and provided the metrics Rochester Gauges needed to support kaizen processes – continuous improvement of its Lean efforts.
Within 6 months, Lean Enterprise by eBECS was integrated into Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 and released on one pilot line in the factory – the same line that was threatened by a competitor.
Lean Enterprise for Microsoft Dynamics AX helps Rochester Gauges differentiate itself from the competition through better customer collaboration and responsiveness. Since adopting Lean Methodology, Rochester Gauges has reduced lead times from 50% from 8 weeks to 4 weeks.
Battershell reflects, “Management was pleasantly shocked at the reduction we experienced in production cycle lead times in our pilot cell. Our cycle time dropped from an average of 9 days before implementation to under one day and has never gone back up.” Battershell continues, “When our lead times dropped to under one day, we eliminated our buffer finished goods inventory. We maintained our on-time to schedule at 100% without the use of buffer inventories. This was done during a period of time that our production requirements went up 14%.”
In terms of customer service, representatives can confirm a ship date to the customer in far less time than the standard lead time of 8 weeks. In addition, customer service can relay an order directly to the manufacturing floor within minutes – representing a 92% improvement in work order cycle time. According to Battershell, “The way eBECS setup our AX Lean Order Schedule between our Customer Service and Production Cell is much of the reason why we are able to turn around orders as quickly as we are.”
Battershell continues, “eBECS optimized us so much, we’re like a fast food restaurant in terms of service. A customer places an order and within a minute, customer service hands it off to the production line. We’re so fast, in fact, that if a customer changes the order while on the line, production has already started it and must immediately adjust. In manufacturing, that’s a very nice problem to have.”
In terms of quality control, Rochester Gauges shifted from 100% end of line quality inspection to visual quality control at the time of production. Battershell states, “Because we produce so fast now and because people who make the product should be responsible for quality, we’ve redesigned the work flow with quality standard visual cues to allow person who makes the product to do quality inspection.”
In terms of planning, production planning continues to yield improvements at Rochester Gauges as planners spend more time on value-added tasks, such as handling exceptions in customer demand. Increased visibility into customer demand also helps planners refine forecasts for products with long lead times; more accurate forecasts result in even lower inventory levels. Battershell comments, “We used the Lean software to level load the pilot cell. Our production variance from high to low went from over 100% before Lean to 23% after implementation.”
Battershell concludes, “The transformation of everyone’s thinking around here is amazing because of the speed at which we’ve been able to accelerate the deployment of Lean principles down the line. When we rolled this out, no one thought it would do what it did. The very next day, it popped down to the levels we are still experiencing. Management watched for months thinking levels would go up, but they never did.” Battershell added, “We live Lean every day and are focused on further deploying throughout the entire supply chain.”
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