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Growth Manufacturers Case Studies

Quality Improvement Prepares Distribution Center for Growth

Kathie Mahoney, MassMEPBy Kathie Mahoney, Marketing and Administration Director, MassMEP

How does a distribution center prepare for future growth? They become ISO 9001 Certified and put in place quality standards that set them apart from their competitors.

Westnet Inc. is a distributor of medical/surgical supplies and equipment, life science products, and industrial paper. Their distribution facilities are located in Canton, MA, and Baltimore, MD, with inventory management services in Wilmington, DE and Boston. The company was established in 1994 as a regional distributor that specializes in "wrapping their arms" around their customers' needs.

Westnet has grown to 42 employees and has become the third largest distributor for a major medical supplier. Recognizing the importance of having standard work practices in order to sustain their growth projections, Tony Dolphin, Vice President – Chief Operating Officer, contacted MassMEP regarding their ISO Standards program.

When Tony met with MassMEP, he asked the questions, "How do we create a quality management system in the company? How do we create procedures, and use those procedures to drive continuous improvement?" MassMEP Regional Project Manager Mike Thompson understood immediately that ISO Standards would meet those requirements and help position Westnet for future growth.

To start the training process, MassMEP and ExoLytic Outsourced Solutions, working with Tony, first educated the staff on what ISO Standards were and how they would help the company to grow. He explained to the staff that adhering to ISO standards would enable the company to drive process improvement within their distribution facility. While Tony and key members of the Westnet leadership team directed the company on the "why" ISO could help the company, he empowered the employees to create the "how" to best implement the standard processes.

Working closely with ExoLytic, the staff became engaged in the creation of the procedures and rolled them out to the organization. As procedures rolled out, the entire organization participated in training and embraced the importance of the change process.

During the training, the employees tackled several areas:

  • Purchasing – How and when orders are placed.
  • Stocking – Where items are placed.
  • Picking – How orders are gathered for delivered.
  • Packaging area – How to avoid repackaging and eliminate mistakes.
  • Wrong media – How to improve the accuracy of the correct media sent to the customer.
  • Customer service – How best to handle shortcomings in the areas listed above and how best to use the lessons learned in order to eliminate similar issues moving forward.

Standardized work has been implemented in every fiber of the company, from a process for purchasing to delivery at the customer's desktop / dock. With over 50,000 SKUs and the complexity of a time-sensitive element for some of their products, standardized work has streamlined their processes and reduced overall time from order placed to delivery and increased the accuracy of delivery.

Every process and every Westnet Associate is now held accountable to a designated standard – this represents a significant workflow change as compared to the company's pre- ISO 9001 days.  The company has instituted multiple monitoring methods, improved communication with customers, and new procedures to receive products to inventory, making it possible for everyone to work smarter, not harder. As a result, morale continues to be very positive. The employees keep the ball rolling by improving processes and have even begun cross-training each other.  Working from the baseline measurements, they measure their improvements.

Now that they are ISO 9001 certified, Westnet is using the certification in their marketing materials, in emails to customers, and as part of the bidding for future orders. Another benefit of being ISO certified is that Westnet anticipates 20% sales growth and, in anticipation, has hired three new employees.

In addition, the training has created a new marketing message:

"Westnet has ISO 9001 certification to back up their assertion that
the products the customers need will be delivered on schedule, as committed."

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