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AME: Best Practices

 Stonebridge, Inc.

By: Karen Myhaver, MassMEP

During the AME National Convention in Boston in 2005, several area companies were highlighted for their Best Practices with regards to Lean Principles.  Over the next several months, the MAC Action Newsline will provide you with a peek inside these plants and an overview of their Lean practices and processes. 

Stonebridge Corporation
Stonebridge Corporation in Worcester, Massachusetts, is a small, woman-owned, custom machine shop that employs about twenty people. It has been in business for almost 44 years. They machine, weld, and assemble precision component parts for medical, high tech, defense, oceanographic, and OEM uses, and were recently named a Shining Star Pilot Company in the US Navy’s Pathways program sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and Bath Iron Works.

Along with continually improving their own internal processes, photo Stonebridge has been very careful to create partnerships with top notch suppliers who support them in painting, marking, coating, heat treating, and anodizing their products.

After purchasing Stonebridge in 1998, owner and president, Kerstin Forrester, began modernizing the facility which she had relocated from Holliston, Massachusetts.  A grant from the Office of Naval Research allowed her to begin lean training with the entire staff. Rich Emmons and other members of the Massachusetts MEP were brought in to work with Stonebridge to facilitate training over the next several years.

Stonebridge has experienced a radical transformation through the implementation of both simple and complex Lean processes. Simpler processes like 6s (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain, and safety) focused on cleaning up the work space, repairing, throwing out, and putting things in order. More complex undertakings involved mapping the value stream processes of the work flow to determine problem areas, holding Kaizen events to make improvements, implementing visual controls like Kanbans, and, finally, setting up cells to foster efficiency. With lots of competition, both locally and abroad, it is doubtful that this small company would have survived with out Lean. Not only have they stayed in business but they have put practices in place which will allow them to grow.

photoDuring their lean journey Stonebridge has been able to reduce the lead time for manufacturing contracts from a few months to a few weeks. This is key when doing defense contract work. Using a Visual Quoting Process and compatible software to assist in quoting jobs, having a clean well organized and efficient work space, and having placed a great value on the opinion and buy-in of employees has brought about a 50% improvement in productivity for Stonebridge Corporation. A gain share program encourages employee involvement and rewards them for their participation in the company’s improvement goals. The cultural change that this brought about within the company has been another key factor in Stonebridge’s continued success.

In addition to running her business, Kerstin Forrester has also been very involved with manufacturing in general. As a board member of the Massachusetts Advancement Center, she is concerned about the future of manufacturing in the United States. She does what she can to promote the value of manufacturing to our local economy and to encourage people to seek out careers in manufacturing.


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