The Mold Shop Puzzle
Creating Constructive Change: Lean Applied.
When the owners of Prodigy Mold and Engineering (Haubstadt, IN) researched ways to ease their ever-shrinking margins, they did not expect that they would end up following a lean process. Their first thoughts were that they simply needed to increase sales, find better customers and enter into different markets.
Some mold shop owners would argue that since they build one mold at a time, and that every project is different, they don’t fit into the typical model for a lean event. In fact, many shop owners resist any attempt to be shown how to lean up. Most would agree in concept that becoming leaner would be a good step for their business to take, but they never conceive of how to implement it within their shop.
Prodigy Mold and Engineering did follow a lean process, but like most mold shops they did it their way. As they explored ways to increase business, they took some very natural steps.
1. They spoke with their employees about how to better prepare for customers, and it became apparent that they needed to find better ways to communicate between each department.
2. Knowing that they would have to give more shop tours, they did some basic housekeeping and spruced up the shop—the first step in a 5S evolution).
3. While they were sprucing up the shop, they eliminated some items that no longer were accurate enough to meet Prodigy Mold and Engineering’s standard of building molds (Six Sigma).
4. As the owners continued to research how to enter into new markets, they refocused on taking better care of their current customers, and shed customers who did not pay on time or refused to work closely with them. Since the start of their initiative, Prodigy Mold and Engineering’s quality customers noticed and appreciated the shop’s efforts, which created more trust and brought in more work for them.
With increased business and acknowledging that the current facility was too small, Prodigy Mold and Engineering embarked on a building project that would increase its floor space over three times the old building. During the construction phase, the owners once again discussed with their employees how to utilize the new expansion—a simple Kaizen event.
The employees shared their concerns and ideas for the new facility’s layout. For example, placing the engineering department in the middle of the shop instead of all the way upstairs in a corner of the front office. This alone would save time by eliminating the need for shop floor personnel to walk from one end of the shop to the other when they had questions concerning a particular job. The new floor plan is more logical than the old, and follows the flow of how they do business and manufacture molds.
Prodigy Mold and Engineering did not set out to conduct a lean event, but by following their instincts and basic business practices they did, and all the while reaping the benefits that helped them and their customers. Prodigy Mold and Engineering is a better mold manufacturer today and is poised to be an industry leader for years to come because they followed the course of lean.
For More Information:
Byers & Associates LLC
Prodigy Mold and Engineering
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