In March 2006, when James P. Woidke joined SIFCO Forge Group as general manager of its Aerospace Component Manufacturing Group, he was excited to see a value stream mapping diagram on the wall of the company's main conference room.
Then he took a closer look.
"It looked really neat—but the paper was yellow!" recalls Woidke with a laugh. "Turns out, it was about five years old! That helped me understand that we still had a long way to go."
Woidke, who became COO of parent company SIFCO Industries, Inc. in 2010, quickly discovered that the Forge Group's average throughput time—from cut to ship—was eight to 12 weeks.
"My family and I had just moved into a new development," he says. "I told my folks, 'You know, they're building houses in my neighborhood in less time than it takes us to make product. There's something wrong here!'"
As he settled into his new job, Woidke saw the need for a continuous improvement program, one that would not be limited by the "lean" label. The company had done enough one-off lean projects, some of them for specific customers. But the results just did not seem to last long enough.
Woidke and his management team were looking for a program that management and hourly associates could build together—something that would have a wider scope, a longer timeline and a bigger ROI than a typical one-off lean project.
That's when Woidke called MAGNET.
"MAGNET, then known as the Cleveland Advanced Manufacturing Program (CAMP), was such a longtime presence here in Cleveland that we naturally thought of contacting them," he says. "We also took advantage of a training grant from Boeing that helped us plug some of the start-up costs."
In early 2007, MAGNET's delivery professionals, led by senior consultants Bob Schmidt and Michael O'Donnell, developed a detailed plan to help SIFCO achieve three specific goals:
- Reduce quote turnaround times from three weeks to less than five days;
- Reduce lead times by 40% (from eight to 12 weeks to five to eight weeks); and
- Achieve on-time delivery of more than 95%.
Three years later, Woidke says the SIFCO team has long since beaten those goals. They're turning around quotes in three days or less, on average. They're also reducing lead times by more than 65% and improving on-time delivery from 60% to 90%.
"When we got our throughput down by 40%, my team simply said 'We're not done!'" says Woidke with evident pride. "Now we're going for 100% on-time delivery—that's where we're really focusing now."
Building for the Long Term
In response to SIFCO's stated desire of developing its own long-term continuous improvement program, MAGNET's professionals designed the kick-off project to serve as the foundation of an entirely new business culture called the SIFCO SMART Program. The acronym stands for "S
ctivities to R
ime and Cost." The program even has its own motto: "Let's work smarter today than yesterday."
By creating its own customized brand for the program, SIFCO allowed its salaried and hourly associates to take pride of ownership as the program evolved beyond its initial phase into a fully featured continuous improvement initiative. More than three years after the kick-off event, SIFCO continues to reap new benefits from its SMART initiative.
The company made one other investment that would prove essential for success. The week MAGNET's program was to kick off, the company hired a full-time steward for its SMART program: Michael L. Shaffer, Manager of Enterprise Improvement.
Shaffer had the advantage of participating in the creation of SMART right from the very first day.
"Mike Shaffer is the glue that keeps this going," says Woidke. "Since the end of MAGNET's part of the project, he schedules, plans, facilitates, tracks and reports progress of the SMART programs."
"We find that it's a best practice to identify one person as the focal point," says MAGNET's Mike O'Donnell. "It's not really a job that someone can just do in their spare time. And it also doesn't work as well if you divide up the responsibilities among several people."
The program MAGNET developed had three distinct phases:
- Phase One included two sessions of knowledge building and hands-on exercises with SIFCO managers.
- In Phase Two, MAGNET professionals trained the SIFCO team in value stream mapping techniques for both the shop floor and related office processes.
- Phase Three included three kaizen events of four to five days each.
"We really used MAGNET to help us establish our charter," says Woidke. "MAGNET was instrumental in helping us create the SMART Steering Committee. We especially appreciate Mike O'Donnell's recommendation that we recruit some of our hourly associates to serve on the steering committee."
Woidke says he believes the blend of management, salaried and hourly associates has proved to be invaluable.
"While we as consultants definitely make some impact, at the end of the day the spark has to come from an organization's leadership," says O'Donnell. "That's what SIFCO is doing right in terms of sustaining their SMART Program effort."
Three years after the kick-off event, SIFCO's SMART program continues to generate significant economic returns and the commitment to the program by management and hourly associates holds strong. In 2009, the company held 24 SMART Events; in 2010, it plans to hold 30 events.
In a third-party survey conducted only one year after MAGNET helped SIFCO kick off its SMART program, the company was able to identify the following economic impact statistics:
- Increased sales: $6.5 million
- Capital savings: $500,000
- Other savings: $1 million
- Capital investment: $2.275 million
- Jobs retained: 160
About SIFCO Forge Group
SIFCO Forge Group is a division of SIFCO Industries Inc. and counts among its clients Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, Sikorsky, Hamilton Sundstrand, Bell Helicopter, and Goodrich Landing Gear. Founded in Cleveland in 1913, the company was known as The Steel Improvement & Forge Company (SIFCO), until 1969 when it was renamed SIFCO Industries. Today, the company is a worldwide forged product supplier of critical components found in most aircraft. The company specializes in forging special alloys and producing complex geometric shapes to precision tolerances for both the commercial and defense aviation industries.
The company provides the following services:
- Forged components for the aerospace, power generation, marine and high technology commercial markets.
- Integrated complete manufacture of high performance turbine components for aerospace markets.
SIFCO Industries operates facilities in the U.S., United Kingdom, France and Sweden.