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Successful Implementations in Lean

Lean Implementation Prepares Company for New Focus

“Customers always ask for lower prices but you can’t lower prices unless you can lower your costs – or you won’t be in business. After instituting Lean procedures we knew that we had a way to reduce our prices without significantly impacting margins.” Randolph Sablich

About three and a half years ago Randolph Sablich was hired by Dynamic Research Corporation (DRC) to fine tune their Metrigraphics division into a more profitable and self-sufficient organization with a market focus. The goal in this was to prepare Metrigraphics, a manufacturer of custom miniaturized, high precision components, to be sold, since DRC itself is no longer in manufacturing.  Sablich knew that improving efficiency and eliminating waste in the organization would be key factors to his success.

He had attended events with Lean practitioners in the past and felt that many Lean and Six Sigma people “speak quickly in a language that the rest of us don’t understand.” He was fearful of getting caught up in something that his company would not be able to apply. “We all needed to be doing the same things at the same time and get buy in and commitment from the entire staff,” he says. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) recommended the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) as a resource to consider for their Lean initiative.

MassMEP’s James Gusha assisted Metrigraphics, LLC with their Workforce Training Funds grant application and Kevin Smith, MassMEP project manager, facilitated a basic Lean training event, for twenty employees, to familiarize them with the basic Lean terms and tools. “When the MassMEP showed up and did the “clock building exercise” I was skeptical, but everyone walked away with their eyes opened- they really got it!” says Sablich.

Value Stream Mapping events were conducted using employee teams which included a mix of managers and floor staff. “I don’t often get to see people as they actually are in their jobs because they behave differently when I am around,” shares Sablich. “This exercise helped me see how they think- and to recognize that our people have had good ideas- Lean ideas- all along!” The VSM teams analyzed processes as they currently exist and determined how they could be done more effectively by eliminating waste. Then they figured out how to implement their ideas to reach their ideal future state.

“The company began 5s in the glass cutting area and then took it throughout the facility. During the 5s Kaizens, people learned to understand the subtle differences between doing 5s and simply cleaning up,” says Sablich. “5s gave people a process that they can apply anywhere- here or at home. It provided a different perspective on how to do this consistently in a way that makes sense to everyone and can be sustained.” Now people can walk around the facility and know where things should be because of outlines on the floor or shapes on a peg board –they can see what needs to be addressed. Visuals make it simple to understand and simple to implement. Rich Hayes, the Manager of Quality and Operations, says that the employees have retained and are using their training. Just recently they purchased some new material handling equipment and right away an employee 5s’d the new equipment to determine where it should be located and what visuals to use. “After the company was sold”, he adds, “The first thing we did was 5s to get things re-organized. Everyone has been able to implement something they learned.”

The re-layout of a high-volume product line was the focus of another Kaizen event and the most quantifiable project to date. This came about after a large customer increased business from 35,000 to 75,000 units per week.  With this kind of an increase Metrigraphics was doing whatever they could just to keep up. This included adding machines wherever they would fit and relying on a tremendous amount of overtime.  

Unexpectedly the re-layout process helped illustrate the benefits of cellular manufacturing which would allow one person to do multiple tasks from one location and save a huge amount of time and travel waste. They recognized that in order to be efficient, machinery and materials needed to be located closer to each other and to the people who used them. The team utilized takt time, point of use storage, kanban signals and other Lean tools in designing the new floor plan. Successful events like this one became blueprints for Metrigraphics. “It is easier to get involved with the next project when you have something to go by."

In the re-configured work cell area they are producing 75,000 sensors per week, in less space and with the same number of people. The more efficient and more cost-effective layout has made it possible for Metrigraphics to install new equipment as needed.

  • Increased output by 53% (35,000 to 75,000 sensors)
  • Reduced travel distance from 2683 to 572 ft.
  • 50% reduction in overtime
  • Lead time reduced by two days.
  • The gain in direct labor time justified taking people off the production floor to participate in project work.
  • Over the past 12 months the company has increased sales $1,700,000-attributed to continuous improvement work.

 “Customers always ask for lower prices but you can’t lower prices unless you can lower your costs – or you won’t be in business,” says Sablich.  “After instituting Lean procedures, I knew that we had a way to reduce our prices without significantly impacting margins. Metrigraphics LLC reports annual sales of nearly $ 10M."

Working with Mass MEP has continued to be part of Sablich’s plan. He realized that to expand in the marketplace, they needed to work on adopting the monikers of first-class companies as well as addressing the legacy knowledge of employees headed to retirement. Procedures needed to be documented and employees needed to be cross trained. During their ISO work Metrigraphics had to change the culture of their organization.  “You don’t just come up with processes on your own,” said Sablich, “you need to study successful organizations and tailor what they have done to fit your specific needs. Sometimes, as you are growing you need help so that you don’t keep doing the same things over and over again and wonder why they no longer work.”

Their commitment to moving forward earned Metrigraphics, LLC their ISO9001 certification on their first attempt. The company is now working toward their IS0 13485 which is specific to the medical device industry. Metrigraphics also wants to do more employee driven Lean projects. They have a Continuous Improvement Group that meets once a month to share ideas that come from the floor and determine which ones to move forward with. Recognizing that their Lean implementation is an ongoing journey and that there is still much to do Sablich says that Metrigraphics is preparing to begin a sizable amount of self funded projects with Mass MEP.

 “Our employees have seen the personal benefit of doing lean. Some people preach Lean but do not practice it- you have to inculcate it into your everyday processes. Mass MEP helped us embrace Lean as something with personal value. They helped us with the processes we needed to gain efficiency.” Randolph Sablich, President and CEO, Metrigraphics, LLC.

Metrigraphics, LLC, manufactures custom, miniaturized, high- precision components for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) around the world. Through their incredible technologies of miniaturized electroforming, photolithography and thin film sputtering, the company helps their medical, biotechnical, telecommunication, semiconductor, industrial and consumer customers improve accuracy, performance and reliability of their instruments and devices. The company of sixty employees is located in Wilmington, Massachusetts and was a Division of Dynamic Research Corporation (DRC) until July 19, 2023 when they were purchased by the growth equity firms of Clarkston Merchant Partners and New England Capital Partners.


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