What do Toyota and building materials dealer TW Perry have in common? They both use the same philosophy to drive their manufacturing setups.
Called "lean manufacturing," the philosophy aims to reduce waste during the manufacturing process and centers on eliminating unnecessary steps.
When drafting the plan for TW Perry's new 42,500-square-foot fabrication facility for its Classic Moulding and Door division, Chris Gray, director of architectural sales, kept this goal in mind. He ended up with a space that allows for streamlined manufacturing.
"We wanted to eliminate as much of the movement as we could from one step to the next, to cut down on wasted time between operations," Gray says.
The Classic Moulding and Door division, located in Savage, Md., performs a variety of high-end tasks. It generates $5 million in annual sales by designing and manufacturing custom doors, millwork, archways, fireplace mantels, and radius casing, and also offers door hanging, PVC bending, CNC routing, and Andersen window mulling.
Gray started Classic Moulding and Door in 1995 as a separate company that competed for the same customers as Gaithersburg, Md.-based TW Perry. In 2005, TW Perry approached Gray with a merger offer, and they joined forces. Gray brought his expertise to the division, along with a lot of equipment and personnel. After about a year, he decided to move into a larger facility, making for the opportunity to redesign the manufacturing layout.
In the old shop, nothing was logically ordered, says Gray. The files were in one area, the gluing in another, and the materials had to be hauled back and forth around the shop. It just didn't flow. They had limited space, he says, not enough room to make everything work.
Before getting started on a new layout, Gray and Darwin Davis, custom shop manager, thought about how to direct materials through each manufacturing step. They mapped everything in a flowchart, tried out the processes, and rearranged work as needed to keep everything flowing.
"We took it down to its simplest movement, and looked at what the most efficient way was to move the parts and pieces," Gray says.
2008 Excellence Award Winners
- Interstate & Lakeland / Something Old, Plenty New
- Bolyard Lumber / A Grand Cru
- TW Perry / Information Age
- Millwork Masters / School Is In Session
- Construction Supply / Blue Skies
- TW Perry / Let it Flow
- Woodie Gutherie / This Land Is His Land
- Rufus Deering / World Wide Winner
- Contractor Express / Ready for a Closeup
- Truitt & White / Schooled in Service
Each task was made into what Gray calls a cell. Gray and Davis tried to group cells as close to each other as possible to minimize material handling and increase productivity. After three months of trial and error, they were happy with what they produced.
"When we moved into the new facility, we wanted our raw materials where we did our initial cutting and surfacing. Each process is a couple of feet apart," Gray says. "Our lumber moves very quickly through the processing system. ... We keep everything close to each other. ...That eliminates wasted time."
Fleet trucks take products directly from the shop to the jobsite, which saves time and ensures the safe delivery of materials, TW Perry states in its entry binder.
The new workflow brought fast improvements. "We did immediately see quicker assembly times, whether it was a custom product or a production product," Gray says. "If we estimated 20 hours to do a job, we now got it done in 15 or 16 hours."
ProSales' judges praised the facility for its clean layout, quality control, and self sufficiency of manufacturing.
Because of the shop's custom nature, many tasks require hands-on activity and attention to detail. But adding new equipment to a basic mix of table saws and shapers further increased efficiency and profit margins.
A CNC router took on the task of irregular shapes and curves. Radius molding blanks cut from the router feed through a specialized shaper, which profiles them into contoured molding. Modern door hangers machine doors and jambs, and an oven warms and bends PVC moldings and boards.
The company's PVC facilities offer a quicker way to produce certain carved parts and pieces, Gray says, along with making parts more durable for an exterior applications. The PVC can be ready to go in 15 minutes, while working wood into the same shape could take four times that with less durability, he says.
TW Perry also gives customers tours of the facility. After a virtual tour of the space, interested clients get to see the material in action and look at current projects.
"It has turned out to be a rewarding experience. The contractor has a hands-on experience of what we're doing," Gray says. "We see architects specifying us on their plans because they see that we can make that specialty product."
Although the facility has brought TW Perry success, Gray does not consider the process finished. He wants to continue to use lean manufacturing to improve how his division performs.
"Once you get it the way you like it, work at it, and you can take out more areas to save even more time," he says. "It will continue to change as you get better."