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Focusing on the Fundamentals

Nov. 27, 2007
Ellwood Crankshaft and Machine Hermitage, Pa Number of employees – 133 2007 sales – N/A Markets served – Reciprocating air and gas compressors; reciprocating pumps; engines for stationary power, locomotives and marine; ...

Ellwood Crankshaft and Machine Hermitage, Pa
Number of employees – 133
2007 sales – N/A
Markets served – Reciprocating air and gas compressors; reciprocating pumps; engines for stationary power, locomotives and marine; mechanical shears; rock crushers; homogenizers and mechanical stamping presses.

The program of continuous improvement spearheaded by Ellwood Crankshaft and Machine President Brian Taylor has dramatically reduced machine cycle times, defects in parts and time to ship.

For years, Ellwood Crankshaft and Machine, a global manufacturer of large, one-of-a-kind, multiple-throw crankshafts, was unable to take advantage of the opportunities presented by robust markets because of long machine cycle times and inefficient operations. So in 2004, the company decided to do something about it, including promoting sales manager Brian Taylor to general manager for leadin the upgrading of operations, and in 2005, Taylor was promoted to president.

Through the adaptation of lean manufacturing techniques and attention to upgrading all facets of the organization, Ellwood Crankshaft and Machine has achieved dramatic results. Crankshaft output has tripled in the period from 2004 to 2007, and during this same period, the cost of internal rework, scrap and customer claims was reduced to less than 0.75 percent of annual revenues. This year, the company’s ontime delivery record is twice what it was a year ago, and the goal for 2008 is 100 percent on time.

“Reducing our cycle time has had the effect of creating more machine capacity to take advantage of strong markets,” said Taylor. “In the early 2000s, we missed a lot of business because we were inefficient and lacked capacity. Also, as a result of our reduced cycle time, we are able to machine and ship a crankshaft in just three days, where it typically took 20 days before.”

Ellwood Crankshaft and Machine’s success is the result of a program of continuous machinetechnology upgrading, the relentless pursuit of lean techniques throughout the company and an ambitious program of empowering employees.

“Our program has resulted in a very different culture from what it was in 2004,” said Taylor. “We realized that to be successful, we had to address all the issues rather than concentrating on some and ignoring others.”

Ellwood Crankshaft and Machine has acquired, upgraded and rebuilt several lathes, milling machines and boring mills designed to handle extremely large crankshafts. Several manual machine tools have been replaced with CNC units to boost productivity and quality, and the goal is to replace all manual machine tools wherever practical.

A lean manufacturing program has improved the overall flow and organization at each workstation and has added a significant amount of capacity by leveraging each asset to its full potential. Ellwood Crankshaft and Machine’s Quality Engineering program has also reduced defective products to all-time lows, even while shipments are at record levels.

“We have analyzed our operations to find the bottlenecks — those operations that constrain production and shipping pace — and these we keep running 24/7,” said Taylor. “Last year our bottleneck operations were running every day except Christmas.”

The shop adopted and customized an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that tracks and controls operations throughout the organization, on the shop floor and in the office. The system captures all the meaningful metrics that drive the business, such as machine performance and availability data, so every minute a machine is down can be analyzed to determine the cause. Maintenance data is recorded on each machine along with spare-part purchase orders. This information permits effective preventive-maintenance scheduling and reduces spareparts inventory. The target is at least 12 inventory turns per year.

The operating system has also streamlined office operations to the point where only 11 frontoffice personnel, out of the shop’s entire workforce, are needed to run the business.

“Our reputation in the community is that this is a very desirable organization to work for,” said Taylor. “We strive to select the right people for the right jobs, not only for our management team but for our work teams as well. Our goal is zero voluntary turnover; we want it to be our decision when someone leaves. Being a non-union shop, we have open and direct communications with employees through newsletters, open houses and business meetings. All employees are held accountable for what they do."

In addition, Ellwood Crankshaft and Machine has created a system that rewards independent accountability through performance appraisals for individuals and a company profit-sharing plan that rewards team performance. Yearly reviews are conducted and, as workers go from job to job, 30, 60 and 90-day appraisals by area supervisors and the operations manager ensure machine operators are properly trained. Workers know how they are doing and what they need to work on. Work-area performance metrics are generated daily and posted for all to see.

Ellwood Crankshaft and Machine practices preventive maintenance on its personnel, as well as its machines. The company has inaugurated a wellness program that provides company-paid annual full health screening through a local hospital for all employees and dependents. It is one of only 175 companies throughout the country to be certified by the American Heart Association as a Fit-Friendly Employer. Vending machines are stocked with healthy snacks and employees are given an extra 10 minutes during lunch breaks and encouraged to walk laps either inside or outside the plant.

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