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Successful Implementations in Lean

Stabilizer FlipPad™ Manufacturer Gets Traction with ISO and Lean

By Karen Myhaver, Program Support Coordinator, MassMEP

The entire manufacturing process has had a 10-15% productivity improvement
A new customer, Volvo Construction, had Stoughton Steel design a stabilizer for their backhoe. They were so pleased with the design that they came from Poland to Massachusetts for a visit. Since Volvo Construction has a strict policy of using only ISO certified suppliers, Stoughton Steel researched becoming ISO certified. Andris Lagsdin, Director of Sales and Marketing for Stoughton Steel said, “I made some calls to the state (of Massachusetts) and they recommended the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) for assistance with both ISO and Lean.”

Lean provides the visual hands on to show employees why they need the ISO procedures

MassMEP project manager Rick Bowie met with Stoughton Steel to help set the plan in motion. “We began our ISO training with a MassMEP partner who was wonderful and extremely helpful,” added Lagsdin.  “It was a long and tedious process but we got our certification and are keeping everything documented and up to date. Lean and ISO work well together because Lean provides the visual hands-on to show employees why they need the ISO procedures and how they help the company. ISO gets you in the habit of tracking and documenting so you are actually able to show data that proves the improvements were made.” says Vice President of Manufacturing, Eric Lagsdin.

Lean provides a common language throughout the facility

All Stoughton Steel’s employees participated in Basic Lean training to familiarize them with Lean concepts and terminology. Rick Bowie also provided instruction in Kaizen and then employee teams held several events throughout the facility when they learned to identify and “repair” areas of waste in their processes. TIPS (Team Involvement Problem Solving) training was also done to help employees work more effectively in groups. “Rick’s knowledge and vision of how things could be for Stoughton Steel made it seem like he was one of us and it helped us create a great team,” says Andris. “The Kaizen events were fantastic!” he adds.  “Rick was here to help us learn the processes and now we run them on our own – and all the improvements we made are still in place. He is pleasant and professional and really understands our business. You don’t find too many who ‘get’ manufacturing.”

“Lean has provided a common language throughout the facility that everyone understands- I can take five guys from anywhere in the building and tell them we need to do a Kaizen and I know they understand what is needed and can do it.” Eric added.
During one event, a team focused the entire day on moving large machines they had never even considered touching before – because of their size. By relocating the machines according to where and how they are used the flow through the area improved significantly. Non-value added or wasted people and material travel diminished. Visual signals indicate when materials need to be replenished. Tools and supplies are located near the work stations.

The Saw area was always very chaotic and an eyesore.  “Until doing the 5s there, we never really knew what clean was!” says Andris.  A team made up of critical people from Saw and other departments spent the day cleaning and organizing, building racks and tool boards and got things up off the floor and easy to locate. Enough space was freed up to allow for one day’s storage of raw materials in the area. Kanban signals show off shift personnel what needs to be replenished. Visual signals also help the saw operator schedule his time by looking at the stock in specific locations twice a day and cutting to fill bins that are below an identified minimum level.

Research and Development is the first area you see when you enter the Stoughton Steel plant. It was full of tables and tools and drill presses and looked unsightly. A Kaizen team improved the area and then enclosed the space into its own room. Now R & D makes a much more attractive first impression. “We deal with big clients like Caterpillar, John Deere and Volvo and these companies know manufacturing and know what waste looks like,” offers Andris. “Caterpillar visited two years ago shortly after we began Lean and were impressed then. They wouldn’t believe how great it looks now!
Just recently in fact, a Vice President of Quality from Caterpillar actually called to congratulate Stoughton Steel on their record of 100% quality for the year. Not one rejection! She wished all their suppliers were this good!

Lean has helped Stoughton Steel stay in business during this difficult economic time.

Due to their very specialized products, Stoughton Steel already does business with most companies who could use their stabilizer pads. “Lean has certainly helped us retain their business,” says Andris. “Our cost savings are hard to grasp since it has been a rough year for construction thus a rough year for our production. We are definitely more efficient and our replacement business is doing OK. Lean has definitely helped Stoughton Steel stay in business during this difficult economic time. We are doing more with less.”

Impacts and ROI
ISO certification allowed for future business with a new customer and positioned Stoughton Steel to work with any other customer who requires it.
Lean improvements and tracking for ISO has helped the company on many levels- with productivity, quality and with their suppliers. They realized that they were keeping too much inventory and that it was not being tracked well and was tying up a lot of money. “Now we use visual Kanbans to control inventory and tell the employees when a particular material is depleted to a certain level and needs to be reordered,” says Eric.

“Tracking non conforming materials is also so much easier with the controlled inventory. When there is less material to keep track of the employees can watch inventory and can see quality problems before they become issues. We can also tell if there is a particular machine that is causing damage to the product and may need a new part or repair. Quality Control has become easier and quality has certainly improved. Productivity has also improved- and we can keep tighter control of costs. When materials come in from our suppliers we have asked them to use specific procedures – this has resulted in less damage in the shipping and receiving process. We track our suppliers as well as our own departments and if they do not perform well a corrective action report is filed. These reports have really shown us where inefficiencies were and helped us target the improvements.”

  • The Saw Cutting area had a 15% increase in production.
  • The entire manufacturing process has had 10-15% productivity improvement due to more efficient material handling and the implementation of visual Kanban signals.
  • 100% on time delivery and 100% quality conformance for the year from Caterpillar were direct results of Lean and ISO implementation.
  • Cleanliness has enhanced the workplace morale. Everything has its place and that results in significantly less down time for operators.
  • Safety has improved

“Lean has really helped morale here,” said Eric. “We get employees’ feedback and put their ideas into play- this also helps with sustainment because the ideas are coming from them. The Lean and ISO have helped make the company into a solid team. Everyone understands and has their role. It is a great ongoing process that involves a change in mindset and culture that is well worth the adventure. I recommend the process to everyone and remind that you have to keep going and sustain the changes. Right now we are working on employee self evaluation as a method of sustaining – we haven’t quite gotten there yet but we are always working on something.”

Company Background
Andry Lagsdin developed and patented the world’s first reversible pads that go on the “feet” of the stabilizer legs of backhoes and rubber tired excavators. One side of the pad is made of soft rubber to protect whatever surface the stabilizers are set on while the “flip side” has an aggressive surface to grip loose ground. FlipPads™ are easily reversible, require no special tooling to “flip”, thus saving equipment owners both time and money.  Lagsdin and his wife started Stoughton Steel in Stoughton, Massachusetts in 1978 to design, manufacture and sell these FlipPads™. Over the years the business has grown and evolved as their products have gained recognition from industry leaders. Caterpillar, Case, New Holland, JBC, Kubota and Komatsu equipment feature FlipPads™ straight from the factory. The company also sells replacement FlipPads ™ as well as double-sided rubber and double-sided street pads, to equipment owners and manufacturers.
Stoughton Steel continues to introduce new products, to innovate and create additional opportunities through powder coating, plasma cutting, welding and fabrication. Today they hold over 16 patents and have several others pending. The company is now located in a 21,000 sq ft facility in Hanover, Massachusetts where they have approximately twenty employees.

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