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Successful Implementations in Lean

Taunton Stove’s Recipe for Success

Lean followed by ISO
TASCO Engineering – a division of Taunton Stove

The success in Shipping motivated the employees to initiate similar activities throughout the facility!” says Bruce Bodge. “People took ownership, healthy competition resulted and over the next six or eight months it (Lean) penetrated the whole shop. Employees were working on teams, and cooperating and taking pride in their work areas. Everyone seems happier,” he adds. “Doing little things to show our appreciation like buying pizza or letting the guys out a little early on a Friday really went a long way!”

From “On the Brink” to Exemplary
Recently, a group from the purchasing and engineering departments of General Dynamics in Taunton, Massachusetts toured the facility of one of their suppliers whose product quality and delivery are best in class. This event may seem un-remarkable until you consider that just two years prior, they were having difficulty doing business with this supplier. Today TASCO Engineering, a division of Taunton Stove in North Dighton, Massachusetts, is lauded as exemplary and used by General Dynamics as a success story for their Supply Chain Program. 

What Changed?

In 2007, Bruce Bodge, then Vice President of TASCO, was invited to attend a capstone event featuring suppliers who had participated in General Dynamic’s Supply Chain Program. He attended with trepidation since it was fairly certain that his company was going to be asked to participate. Bruce admits to having a poor attitude initially. “Of course there is ego involved, “he says. “You’re being told that you’re not doing what you’ve always done – well enough. But, as my father used to say, “A really smart person knows what he doesn’t know!

TASCO signed on for the training in January 2008. The commitment required that they fund one third of the program cost with the state and General Dynamics each paying a third.  It was also explained that TASCO’s participation did not ensure continued or additional work from General Dynamics.  “I was a bit uncomfortable,” adds Bodge.  “But then Rick came by, he was a real nice guy-better than I expected; he took several hours touring our facility asking questions and making notes. I decided to see what he and the Mass MEP (Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership) could offer.”

When MassMEP Project Manager, Rick Bowie returned to TASCO with the findings of his assessment and suggestions for first steps, he had eye opening information that really illustrated the need for TASCO to make changes. “We invested about four hundred and fifty man hours on the initial training. Rick did classroom, hands-on and shop floor work with us,” says Bodge. “He was diligent about addressing our various cultural concerns – which were many, since over half our thirty-four employees have been here for twenty years or longer! Rick also knew it was important to show us instant results so our employees could clearly see and understand the benefits of the work we needed to do.”

Visible Reminder
The first thing shop employees see each morning and the last thing they see at night is the Shipping area. It was so cluttered with materials, parts, old product and “junk” that you could barely maneuver through it.  This area was chosen for the first Kaizen event at TASCO.  An employee team cleaned and reorganized.  Items were sorted, thrown out or red tagged for later consideration. Shelves were built, everything was cleaned and labeled, locations were designated for specific purposes and tools designated to those areas. Something as simple as separating storage racks to create an aisle between them greatly improved visibility and accessibility to the small parts inventory they held.

Visual signals indicate the need to reorder items. Forty-five box sizes stored and transported back and forth from another area of the building were reduced to six box sizes kept in Shipping where they are needed. Today, the department is well organized and functional and reminds the employees of the beneficial work they have done and the importance of sustaining it.

Kevin Coutinho may not have been involved with the Kaizen events first hand, but he was paying close attention to what was going on around the shop. (He is the shear operator who cuts and stores raw metal.)  The huge storage room where he works was so overloaded with piles of metal and scrap that you couldn’t see the back of the room. Kevin took ownership of the area and started cleaning and organizing it. Now all the metal is sorted on racks with tags that indicate metal type, vendor, jobs used on and other pertinent information, which makes it easy to find and easy to track in case of quality or other issues.

Next Kevin moved on to organize the Stove Storage room. He found an old PC and used it to create an inventory tracking system. “Now we can come back here and find things" says Kevin. “That makes you feel better. I am glad it did this because it works for everyone!”

Bruce adds, “The rules of the game have changed. People like Kevin are really stepping up. Employees are creating their own work cells and bringing in their own tools- this has never happened before. We have weekly meetings to talk about upcoming jobs and everyone is engaged and involved. This morning we had a meeting to reinforce the importance of sustaining our changes and continuing to improve and eliminate wastes.” he said.  “To think we used to talk once a year- at the Christmas party.”

“We did Value Stream Mapping of the office to illustrate who did what,” said Bodge. “It became clear that I was doing too much and that many people were being underutilized- which had not been visible before. This experience has made me a better manager of the business with better ways of doing things and better ways of using our people."

David Sousa, a mechanical engineer, joined Taunton Stove over thirty years ago. He is the company’s certified ISO auditor and Bruce’s “go to guy”! David has participated on all the Lean project teams at TASCO.  He says, “We have made tremendous progress from just a year ago. The tools and techniques we learned have made it much easier to interact with employees when shop floor issues arise. Now when we make suggestions to restructure and adjust the process they know we are trying to help them and make it easier. Everyone sees that continuous improvement has to enter into the equation and that when you stop you stagnate.” He suggests regular visits to work areas to see where there may be some back sliding and to look for new opportunities.

Sales Increased and Inventory Decreased
Our mentality used to be that if a customer ordered ten of something we would make twenty and keep some in stock. Then those parts got lost or damaged or became obsolete. Our inventory was out of control and we simply couldn’t find things. We had to learn that this is all waste,” says Bodge. “Due to good old fashioned cleaning and organizing as our sales have increased our inventory has actually decreased and now we can control our costs!”

The assembly and finish areas are now so streamlined that capacity has more than doubled.
Controlled hardware inventory near the work stations eliminated excessive travel. Removing obstacles (even a wall!) to improve flow from one station to the next and pre-kitting parts for some specific jobs have all improved efficiency. The work in process is lined up on the floor and visually shows where there are pockets of time for scheduling additional work. People are cross trained to step in where needed. Before and after photos posted in work areas remind employees of the standard.

Order Processing -Two Weeks to Two Days
A Value Stream Mapping event  was done of TASCO’s internal order processing .The team calculated that once an order was received, it took approximately two weeks of their eight week lead time for it to reach the shop floor. By identifying and removing waste in the process they were able to cut that down to two days. Members of General Dynamics purchasing and engineering departments were included in the report out on this event and participated in a problem solving session with TASCO employees. This kind of supplier/customer activity helped develop more of a partnership and open communication between the two.

Sales are up approximately 24% in the past two years and payroll dollars are down 18%. Seven of the twenty-eight people from the shop, nearly 20% of the workforce, retired during the past two years and because they have become more efficient TASCO did not need to replace them. They are able to do more with less.

7 Month Certification!

Cliff Bodge, Bruce’s father wanted TASCO to become ISO certified. After they were well into their Lean process they worked with a MassMEP subcontractor and were able to achieve ISO certification in just seven months! Bruce believes that doing Lean prior to ISO was a natural progression and helped the employees understand the process better. Charting delivery and suppliers and tracking trends has been much easier since they got everything in order first.

Increased Responsiveness
General Dynamics’ Taunton facility is not far from TASCO. It is not unusual for one of their engineers to stop by with an idea on the way home and for TASCO to have a prototype ready in the morning. “They are responsive and provide such great service,” says Rick Bowie. “That this is why General Dynamics wanted to give them the opportunity to participate in the program.” What TASCO did with the opportunity and the success it has brought them was due to the effort and commitment of their dedicated team, their willingness to “know what they didn’t know”….and work hard to learn all about it!

“I am extremely proud of what we have done. I realized that I really did not know the people who I have been working with for years. I didn’t realize what they were capable of and that I can ask for their help. To have General Dynamics use us as a model is humbling. But, in the spirit of the whole thing (lean and continuous improvement) you are never DONE. The more you learn the more you have to do."
Bruce Bodge, President, Taunton Stove/TASCO Engineering

Company Profile:
Tasco Engineering in North Dighton, Massachusetts is a division of Taunton Stove, a fourth generation family business that is over sixty years old. The company got its start manufacturing marine grade stainless steel gas and propane stoves but gradually changed their focus toward precision metal fabrication and machining for the defense industry. Cliff Bodge recently retired and left his son Bruce in charge of the business which was started by Bruce’s grandfather, John Brady in 1949. Bruce’s son David, a recent college graduate has also joined the company and is focused on developing new business.


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