Byrne Tool & Die: A Culture of Change

This moldmaker takes employee training and development to a new level and relies on the latest in lean initiatives to get the job done quickly, earning them the MoldMaking Technology 2009 Leadtime Leader Award: Small Shop.
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Specializing in product development, plastic injection design and mold build, fixture design and build, and repair in the automotive, furniture, medical and office furniture industries, Rockford, MI-based Byrne Tool & Die turns out molds in an average of five to six weeks with just 15 employees. The method behind their magic? An unwavering focus on the professional development and training of its employees combined with an array of the latest lean strategies and custom-developed software.

This family-owned company has a mix of long-term and younger employees who use lean manufacturing technologies like Kanban, SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die, see box below), setup reduction, 5S and value stream mapping to improve leadtimes by 25 percent during the last few years.


Leaner Leadtimes

To successfully trim leadtimes over the past several years, Byrne uses a combination of the following initiatives and technologies:

  • Lean Manufacturing events—CSM™ (Common Sense Manufacturing, driving out non-value waste, see box below).
  • Automation (an annual average of 6,000 hours, lights-out, unattended machining).
  • Dial-up devices and incentives for employees to come in and start machines on off hours.
  • Teamwork and organizational development (leadership training, DiSC testing, and em-ployee cross-training): a formal training matrix and performance appraisal system that identifies opportunities to develop its people.


Automation/Software Innovations

Automation also has resulted in tight leadtimes at Byrne. “Our Charmilles EDM sinkers have larger toolchangers with robotic arms,” Warwick explains. “We have phone dial-ups that are integrated into our machines, which automatically call the operator when the machine shuts down and notifies an on-call employee of the error or shutdown.”

In addition, Byrne has developed is own custom workflow software and a web-based portal, which its customers use to check on job status and job history. The company partnered with EBIZ Technology (www.ebiztech.com) to develop a solution that met its key objectives of: job tracking, data management, progress reports, customer log-in and job viewing, order entry from customers, automated metrics and measurements, work flow notifications and, search engines.


Marketing Strategies

According to Warwick, Byrne has a number of plans in place to keep its name strong. Currently AS9100 compliant, the company is working toward certification to strengthen its presence in the aerospace industry and meet its long-term goal of growing the business overall 50 percent by 2012. “We have indentified specific customer pools and their growth opportunities and where we are inside of the pools,” Warwick explains. “We have created strategies to leverage our position inside those pools to increase revenue within the pool. It’s a combination of aerospace, existing customer base growth and new niche market work like medical and instrumentation work.”


Employee Efforts

Warwick credits Byrne employees with the success the company has realized over the years. The company offers leadership training and regularly conducts work expectation training, in addition to holding quarterly activities with teams and employee engagement events as previously mentioned.

“Future plans are focused on moving the organization more down the road in terms of a self-directed work force and professional development of our moldmakers, like also using them as working project managers and customer service reps,” Warwick adds.


Looking Ahead

Byrne Tool is looking to perform a number of enhancements to its shop in the next year. “We plan on purchasing equipment that would increase throughput,” Warwick states. “We have remodeled the entire shop layout and offices this year; and are now focusing on the employees and their professional development, work expectations training, project management training and sales training.”

Warwick is optimistic about Byrne’s future despite the uncertain economic climate. “We have a younger dynamic workforce that is engaged in today’s challenging global environment,” he affirms. “We understand lean manufacturing and constantly challenge the status quo inside moldmaking.”

Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED)
SMED is a lean production technology that involves a rapid, efficient method of converting a manufacturing process from running the current product to running the next product. The phrase single minute is derived from the term “single digit minute” and means the process should take less than 10 minutes.
Common Sense Manufacturing
Common Sense Manufacturing™—an initiative developed by Byrne Tool & Die—are lean events that General Manager Tim Warwick believes have had the most impact on leadtime. “We have dedicated events that start with indentifying an area of non-value waste,” Warwick elaborates. “Non-value is anything that does not remove chips or change the form of the steel. We look for bottlenecks in our process and outline an Event Map which indentifies the event goals.”

For more information from Byrne Tool & Die call (616) 866-4479, e-mail warwickt@byrne-tool.com, visit www.byrne-tool.com.