As a manufacturer with a long history in Tiffin, Ohio, and newer locations in Meridian, Mississippi, and Portland, Oregon, Webster Industries is ever on the lookout for opportunities to improve, innovate, and be more competitive, all of which empower us to deliver great value and service to our customers.
To ensure that happens, Webster is committed to a process of continual improvement to strive for operational excellence. The pursuit of operational excellence is an ongoing process to reduce cost, improve value, identify non-conforming products, and systematically identify and eliminate waste across the organization.
Webster has implemented several cross-functional teams to achieve these goals and will continue to make a concerted effort to bring people from across the organization together to identify better ways to do what we do well already. Part of that investment includes hiring Denny Doren as the Vice President of Operational Excellence. He has 20+ years of experience implementing lean initiatives as well as a wealth of experience forming teams and training people on the tools of lean operations. His expertise is already helping us make impactful changes rapidly.
As a vertically-integrated manufacturer, we’re specially equipped to address the customer’s problem and design a solution that is tailored to them. We have many different professionals in technology, accounting, engineering, and manufacturing that all contribute to the execution of customer orders. When we bring these different specialists together into a collaborative environment, we’re able to solve problems more thoroughly than if just one team focused on the issue.
“I think it’s really important to have people from all areas and skill sets in the continuous improvement process,” said Andy Felter, President and CEO of Webster. People at different experience levels of the organization—from interns to 30-year veterans—see challenges from different perspectives and bring their own backgrounds, both lived and learned, to the table.
Two such teams have already proven successful. Because our sprocket business has grown substantially in the last year, our sprocket product team formed to figure out how to get more output and increase capacity. The team uses value stream mapping, thought leaders from different disciplines to figure out and solve problems, critical thinking, data collection, and data analysis to identify ways to eliminate waste.
Our punching and stamping operations, a core component to chain manufacturing, formed a cross-functional operational excellence team to work on our tooling and die changeovers. They’ve implemented the SMED system, which stands for Single-Minute Exchange of Die. This system makes die changeovers much faster. The SMED system has improved that process by around 300%.
The investment our teams make into improving our systems get transferred over to the customer in three different ways.
First, the value of our product improves. “We’re known for our lead time and service,” said Felter. It matters how quickly we can get a customer up and running with their product in hand so they can get their process line, manufacturing facility, conveyor, or bucket elevator moving. Operational excellence efforts increase our flow and efficiency so we can get our products to them even faster, so they can create value in their operations.
Second, there’s an increased focus on improving the quality and dependability of our products.
“We have a great brand and reputation but we want to enhance that even more,” said Felter.
And finally, if we’re running lean, we’re able to reduce cost on our end, which can be passed on to the customer. More ideas for improvement means being able to provide that value more consistently over a longer period of time.
This all-hands-on-deck approach to operational excellence invites every person in the organization to contribute to the success of the company. It’s an opportunity for internal team members to grow and learn the leading manufacturing techniques.
“We want to be a leader in manufacturing and promote operational excellence,” Felter said. “It takes great people to do that and we have great people. If they get even more training they are going to make an even bigger impact and become even greater.”
“People leave companies because they aren’t making an impact,” said Felter. The “Great Resignation” is a symptom of that disease. But Webster wants “to empower people to make a difference, solve problems, do critical thinking, and make an impact—in the company, with their other teammates, for their families, and for their communities. Ultimately, Webster is here to make a difference in the lives that work here, so they can impact our customers and their own families, friends, and neighbors. Our success is their success, and their success is ours.”
The Webster team is excited about the growth we’ve seen the last few years and the future growth on the horizon. Now is the time to increase our capacity and our output to make an even bigger impact on the markets we serve. Operational excellence is going to help take us there.
“Operational Excellence is about us empowering our people to make a difference in our entire operations,” said Felter. “Our people make the company better. They make the company successful. They make us the leader in our industry.”
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