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Innovation in Manufacturing

By Kathie Mahoney, Center Director, MassMEP

"The work we did with MassMEP really was the catalyst for a long list of continuous improvement projects we've done.  We are very focused on innovation and a lot of the thinking and practices we use in the business grew from the work done in manufacturing with MassMEP." – Greg Howell, CEO

Flexo ConceptsFounded in 1988, Flexo Concepts developed a process to put a beveled tip on a UHMW doctor blade to improve safety and print quality in corrugated printing. Today, Flexo Concepts innovates and manufactures TruPoint polymer doctor blades for many markets that require roll metering or cleaning and for other specialty applications. The company does all manufacturing in Plymouth, MA and sells almost half of its products to overseas customers.

Flexo Concepts was looking for a formal process to develop and introduce new products. They engaged MassMEP to help them create a product development map. That work exposed several areas of the business that needed improvement work. Manufacturing was chosen as the first area of focus.

The development of the product roadmap identified areas of the business that were obstacles to Flexo Concepts' ability to achieve its goals. Through Kaizen and 5S projects with MassMEP, a culture of innovation and empowerment started to emerge. The training taught everyone to work smarter, not harder, and created an atmosphere of open communication regarding how to address problems.

Communication has been improved with daily morning meetings that review the production expectations for the day. This quick assessment provides employees an opportunity to make adjustments to schedules and address issues before they become problems.

An employee suggestion program now collects, tracks, and resolves all ideas submitted by employees. This is a real driver of the innovation culture.

Technology has been implemented that allows all product bar codes to be scanned at shipment.  This information is confirmed digitally against sales orders to ensure shipments are accurate.

The Quote to Cash process now produces only a single piece of paper: the packaging list.  This is done in an environment that produces 1,000's of highly configured, made to order items that are shipped globally.


  • 20% capacity in productivity gained
  • 10% increase in jobs
  • Improved company-wide communication
  • Improved on-time delivery
  • Laid the foundation for building a culture of innovation

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