Modern Woodcrafts Maximizes Operational Efficiency with PRIME Kaizens
“We retired a lot of experience over the past three years, but we have a younger, more enthusiastic team who understands the commitment needed to achieve our goals of increased profitability. Although economically this is a tough situation for everybody, we have embraced it as a time to scrutinize our procedures, policies and our commitment to Lean principles. John’s integrity and perseverance helped us stay on track, despite the many opportunities to take the easy route and just quit. CONNSTEP has been instrumental in guiding us through this.”
– Lisa Pelletier-Fekete, President, Modern Woodcrafts, Plainville, CT
After starting up in a garage in 1959, Modern Woodcrafts, LLC has grown impressively throughout the years, blossoming into a 65,000 sg ft warehousing and production facility employing 50. A full service custom manufacturer of high-end architectural interiors for the retail, institutional, corporate and hospitality markets, Modern Woodcrafts engineers and manufactures each job to order. From initial design conception through to installation and finishing touches, the company’s attention to detail is what sets it apart from the competition.
Contrary to their name, Modern Woodcrafts goes beyond the realm of wood, also working with fabrics, glass, metals, paints and stains. They tout themselves as a “one stop shop” for all interior design needs. With hardworking employees and a highly committed executive team, President Lisa Pelletier-Fekete has taken Modern Woodcrafts to a new height of success, and is confident in the continued growth of the company.
Having inherited Modern Woodcrafts from her father, Gerald Pelletier, Lisa already knew how her father liked to run his business and that he embraced Lean manufacturing principles, noting “Dad kept his business very lean – it was in his nature.” According to Lisa, Gerald’s four core company values were the essence of continuous improvement:
- Treat each customer as if they are your only customer.
- Always look for ways to improve process and product.
- Focus on quality.
- Hire the best team of employees.
Following in his footsteps, Lisa continued to implement Lean throughout the company. Having experienced bountiful growth under Gerald’s governance over the years, business remained strong; however, Modern Woodcrafts faced challenges around carrying too much overhead, too much capacity, and too much duplicated equipment. Modern Woodcrafts’ Vice President of Operations, Joe Legere, turned his attention to operational inefficiencies to improve workflow and production. Both Joe and Lisa were familiar with CONNSTEP’s capabilities and felt the time was right to partner together on a journey that would lead to major organizational improvements.
By participating in CONNSTEP’s Continuous Improvement Champion Certification (CICC), Joe vastly deepened his knowledge of Lean principles and undertook a high-level project on shop floor layout and workflow process. After Joe gained a more in-depth understanding of how Lean could further the company’s success, Modern Woodcrafts petitioned for funding from Northeast Utilities’ (NU) PRIME program – which ultimately led to Lean engagements with CONNSTEP.
CONNSTEP kicked off the initiative with three Kaizen events, all focusing on different lean principles. The first employed Value Stream Mapping, which assessed internal processes and set a new direction. Since Modern Woodcrafts is a full-service custom manufacturer and no two jobs are alike, establishing a good system to consistently produce all products was problematic. The first Kaizen changed this.
The team created a matrix through which they derived the optimal work order size for consistent flow of every product category through the shop. Standardizing cycle time created a consistent flow rate, decreasing cycle time from 54.6 hours to 46 hours. They also decreased lead time from 15 to 10.6 days; jobs in process reduced from 19 to nine and they identified work flow controls. The success of this first Kaizen proved the value of CONNSTEP’s approach to Enterprise Wide Lean (EWL). CONNSTEP Business Growth Advisor John McCarroll observes “Without a holistic approach, continuous improvement becomes the program of the year. It makes more sense to zero in on the Lean solutions that best support the company’s vision and business strategies.”
Modern Woodcrafts used their second NU PRIME Kaizen, Production Flow-II, to create consistent flow in the shop. CONNSTEP led this project which uses a universal ship date to drive all operations. The team established a first in, first out (FIFO) system driven by ship date to focus on getting one job out the door at a time. By digging deeper into their production flow processes, the team achieved even stronger results:
- Lead time was further decreased—from 10.6 days to five days.
- Cycle hours per release dropped from 262 hours to 208 hours.
- An average improvement of 21% machine efficiency was reached.
In the final Kaizen, the team worked on Joe’s CICC Kaizen Project – Assembly Flow/6S. They divided the floor into three color-coded teams of five, with one being a cell leader. The system placed five people on one job until they got it done, then moved them to the next job, and relied heavily on cross-training for its success, as on-demand expertise was crucial to completing a job. Cellular-based assembly teams established 1pc flow, dramatically improving the work flow. Fewer people produced twice the volume at less cost. With the new systems, the team reduced WIP by 50% and reduced floor space usage by 30%.They also reduced production paperwork by 50%.
Prior to this Kaizen, work was assigned by expertise – often leading to production interruption. Joe called it “…production by chaos because it was driven by who could do what when. Projects were set aside while they waited for the right person to do them. Sometimes projects got lost in the shuffle, which created chaos and sometimes overtime to get a project out on time.” The results Modern Woodcrafts achieve from CONNSTEP engagements speak volumes.
- 80% decrease in physical inventory
- 100% utilization of manufacturing space
- $20M in revenues
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