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Growth Manufacturers Case Study

Space Age Electronics Finds Growth, No Excuses

By Kathie Mahoney, Marketing and Administration Director, MassMEP

Founded in 1963 with current locations in Sterling and Templeton, MA, Space Age Electronics is a family-owned, second generation, life safety equipment manufacturer. Offering complete engineering and design solutions for critical industries including electrical, fire alarm, security, access control, emergency communications, and mass notification, their code compliant products help contractors increase their profits by saving time and reducing liability.

The No Excuses Path to Growth
"No Excuses" is the motto at Space Age. They take these words very seriously and consider them in every aspect of their company. With a desire to improve the quality of their products and services, as well as become a valuable source of expertise in the life safety industry, they set out on a journey to grow.

In order to accomplish their goals, the company needed to become more efficient in all aspects of their business, from the sales office to the manufacturing floor. After attempting to improve practices on their own, they found there was a communication gap between the office personnel and the production staff; employees weren’t speaking the same language. After meeting MassMEP at an event, they hired them as an outside expert to provide the training that would help them achieve the growth desired.

Developing a Culture of Growth
They knew the first step in their journey was to become more efficient and provide resources that would help their employees take more responsibility in their daily tasks. In order to achieve this, the company culture needed to change and, equally important to management, employees needed to feel empowered to make that change.

MassMEP’s "Principles of Lean Manufacturing" training provided Space Age employees with the tools and knowledge to create an efficient process and taught them how to implement impactful change in their own areas. Since every member of the company attended the training, they developed a common language for communicating throughout the organization. With the help of MassMEP, they have been able to change their culture, increase efficiency and quality, as well as significantly improve on-time delivery.

Significantly Faster Lead Times
During the Lean training, they learned about the concept of pull vs. push manufacturing. They have applied the concept of pull during Value Stream Mapping and Kaizen events to the point where they are now shipping some standard products to their customers with only a single day lead time, versus the 3-4 weeks it took prior to training. Expansion of pull systems is currently taking place for other standard products.

When they designed their corporate headquarters in Sterling, they laid out the building so that everything flowed to the loading dock with the goal that product move as little as possible. They also began cross training employees to enable them to move with the Work in Process (WIP) through production. The ability for employees to move where there is a need during the production flow has resulted in increased on-time delivery and enabled strong inventory controls.

Enhancing Revenue
Once they became more efficient and were able to easily handle an increase in production, they wanted to expand their market penetration and evaluate the additional services they could provide to their current customers.  ISO certification guided them to think differently about the value that they bring to the market. They started to add aspects to their services that improved quality and saved time for their customers, such as being agile and providing custom services.

Typically, their product is the last step before the customer receives an occupancy permit. If Space Age could reduce the amount of time from product installation to receipt of the permit, there would be significant savings of time and cost to the customer. With this in mind, they brought more services in-house so they could offer a fully-customized finished product. They continue to make every effort to bring as many production processes in-house to improve this service.

Continuous Improvement
In an effort to further develop their staff, Space Age Electronics conducted a "Training Within Industry Job Methods (JM)" training program. This provides employees with the skills to find and develop ideas for improvement and then propose them to management for approval. Through details and questioning, employees begin to see opportunities to eliminate, combine, rearrange, and simplify what they do.

As a result of this training, Space Age has empowered shop floor JM Leaders to drive the continued use of JM throughout the company. One of the areas was the Customer Service department. A portion of this group — the Custom Integration Solutions Team — has been cross-trained so they can immediately adjust custom wiring schematics and equipment layouts while on the phone with the customer. They can then email the drawings directly to the customer for approval once the call is complete. If any adjustments need to be made, such as moving a wire or cable box, the Solution Providers are able to make those edits right away. This has reduced the time from concept to design from 3-4 weeks to less than 6 days!

Areas of Impact

  • Investment: $3 million in a new fabrication facility and $500,000 in employee training
  • Delivery: Custom Integration Solutions delivery time reduced from 4 weeks to 6 days
  • Sustainability: $1 million investment in more energy-efficient machinery

"We could not have developed the skill set needed to grow our company on our own. Without the expert training and consulting provided by MassMEP, we would not have been able to double our sales goals in just 4 years." – James Mongeau, Director of Business Development

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