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Growth Manufacturers Case Study

Continuous Improvement Leads to Continuous Growth at Diamond-Roltran

By Karen Myhaver, NGM Program Support Administrator, MassMEP

Diamond-RoltranIn 2001, Diamond Antenna and Microwave acquired Phoenix, AZ based Roltran to support the development and integration of Roll-Rings® into Air Traffic Control (ATC) microwave rotary joints; the goal was to enhance their image of reliability in the marketplace. Today, 23 countries around the globe rely on Roll-Rings for maintenance-free operation in ATC service. All units fielded to date are still in service and none have required maintenance for Roll-Ring related components. As Roll-Rings continued to attract new opportunities, Diamond Antenna and Microwave spun off the business in 2007 into a new company called Diamond-Roltran. Today, Diamond Roll-Rings are found in an ever-widening assortment of mission-critical performance applications, including gun turrets, helicopters, missile systems, satellite tracking systems, and military radar systems.

http://www.diamondroll-ring.com/graphics/01_03.jpgMost clients find MassMEP through the traditional method of needing the service. Matt Edison, president of Diamond-Roltran, came to work with MassMEP in an untraditional role as a writer for the Next Generation Newsletter. He was working for a high growth specialty chemical manufacturer in Pennsylvania and was looking to relocate his family to Massachusetts. Through an online search, he found the MassMEP newsletter and began writing articles on innovation and best practices for growing a company. As a result of those articles, Jeff Gilling, Diamond’s CEO, was intrigued and interviewed him for the recently created position of President at Diamond-Roltran.

At the time, Diamond-Roltran had five employees. Since Matt came on board and developed a culture of continuous improvement and growth at the company, they have:

  • doubled their employee count

  • more than tripled Roll-Ring® sales

  • reduced production time thus increasing overall production capacity

  • developed a culture within the company built for growth

They anticipate more than doubling their sales over the next five years.

Matt worked with MassMEP and its partner Giant Consulting on a project to build Diamond-Roltran’s business development pipeline and create a culture of opportunity. They started by laying out the current and future state of the company. One of the key changes was to develop roles within the company rather than positions. As with any job shop, the organization was an engineering- and process-oriented culture. The object of the future state project was to grow the company and have everyone involved. In order to accomplish a cultural change within the company, the project was designed to teach all employees how to problem solve for their position and the company.  

Diamond-Roltran also worked with MassMEP to customize their Principles of Lean training program. Rather than MassMEP conducting its traditional classroom training simulation, Diamond-Roltran asked them to teach the principles as they faced specific challenges. For instance, the rolling electrical interface requires a very clean assembly environment for proper operation. Unidentified contamination had caused rework for some of the more complicated assemblies. With the help of the MassMEP facilitator, the entire production process was mapped and evaluated for sources of contamination. The Diamond-Roltran team was impressed with the methodology and results from the sessions, as the potential sources of contamination were far greater in number than anticipated. A plan was developed to address the most probable and most detrimental sources.  With the help of the MassMEP plan and continually working to improve the entire assembly process, the time the unit remains open to the environment – even though it’s in a clean hood – was reduced from 2.5 days to six hours. 

To date, over 120 improvements have gone into making the assembly process more robust.  The improvements are now part of how all Diamond-Roltran products are designed and manufactured; this has led to significant quality improvements and lead time reductions across the board. For the employees, the best benefit has been stress reduction; things now go right the first time and there are no more fire drills to get the schedule back on track if something went wrong. 

Diamond-Roltran also implemented daily SMART meetings that follow the principles of Simple, Measureable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time Based. All employees are tasked with reporting results against goals they set for themselves the prior day, including providing observations, insights, and suggestions as to why things worked to plan or why they didn’t. These meetings ensured everyone had the opportunity to hear how operations were progressing and how solutions to problems were being implemented. The SMART meeting was valuable in many ways as it enabled everyone, even the most junior employee, to be trained daily in the science of continuous improvement and to report out and receive recognition when suggestions yielded validated improvements in performance. 

As a result of these cultural changes made as part of the future state training and in-depth, customized training, Diamond-Roltran has clearly moved from a job shop to a manufacturing and commercialization entity. And as such, will continue to grow and improve well into the future.

"MassMEP provided the glue for all the resources that we used," stated president, Matt Edison. "I have spent time in Philly and the Houston area. For a company with small lots and small runs, Massachusetts is the state to conduct business. I don’t believe our business could have grown as fast in another part of the country. If we have a question or need to talk with a supplier, we are able to get in our car and drive there and back in the same day. It’s a wonderful opportunity to develop relationships with our suppliers".