Manufacturing Success Stories
Innovative Techniques Means Local Company Doesn't Have to "Chace"
In today's global marketplace, small and medium sized (SME) manufacturing
companies have to constantly adapt the way they do business in order
to survive against under-priced overseas competition.
Chace Leather Products has been manufacturing high quality leather
and synthetic fabric products in Fall River, Massachusetts, for nearly
a century, but competition from imported products has recently begun
to cut into the company's bottom line. Faced with a 25 percent reduction
in business over the past five years, Chace's management recognized
the company needed to be innovative.
"For four generations the Chace Family's philosophy has been 'Total
Customer Satisfaction''and we knew that by targeting specialty segments
of our industry that required increased service and speed to market
we could separate ourselves from the competition," said Larry Walsh,
Chace Leather Products President and CEO. "To do this we had to
focus on ways to improve the on-time-delivery performance."
During a training program at the UMass Dartmouth Fall River campus,
Stephen Chace, Chace's Vice President of Operations, was introduced
to the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP),
a resource that provides business and technical assistance to smaller
manufacturers. MassMEP representatives proposed a Lean Pilot project
to address Chace's needs, specifically focusing on the company's line
of hard cases for heavy duty uses and the product line for Motorola,
one of its largest clients.
Lean Manufacturing is an implementation technique that utilizes simple
but effective methods to identify and reduce waste and inventories,
clear shop floors, and streamline production processes, all with a goal
of decreasing costs and increasing productivity.
"We used lean techniques like Value Stream Mapping to assess the
cycle time between each manufacturing step to find ways to make the
most efficient use of time and other techniques to help organize the
workplace," said Rick Bowie, MassMEP Project Manager. "As
a result, the lead time was cut from weeks to a matter of days and Chace
has achieved 100% on-time delivery for Motorola."
The improved performance has enabled Chace to develop a delivery program
that increased business opportunities with Motorola's German manufacturing
facility. Chace was informed that it now out-performs all of the competition,
including competitors from India and other foreign countries. The company
has shared this experience with Motorola USA and all their major customers.
"The experience of that first day of Lean workshops was unbelievable,"
said Walsh. "The members of our team that attended the class came
back to work energized and focused on quickly implementing improvements.
We were able to accomplish much more than I expected in less than six
weeks and the performance changes have been truly remarkable."
The MassMEP is an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards
and Technology (NIST) under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The national
MEP system is a network of manufacturing extension centers that provide
business and technical assistance to smaller manufacturers in all 50
states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Through MEP, manufacturers
have access to more than 2,000 manufacturing and business "coaches"
whose job is to help firms make changes that lead to greater productivity,
increased profits and enhanced global competitiveness. For more information,
and click on the New England Manufacturing Supply Chain link, or phone