Hardigg Industries, Inc.

CMP CATALYST FOR MILLION DOLLAR YEARLY SAVINGS


When Jamie Hardigg talks about catalysts, he's not always referring to chemistry and the lab at Hardigg Industries, Inc.

Hardigg, Vice President of the family-owned plastics manufacturing business in South Deerfield, is just as likely to be talking about the breakthrough thinking that drives improvement in all areas in his company- from administrative offices to shop floor.

In this context, Hardigg has quite a bit to say about the work of two CMP consultants, Alan G. Robinson and A. Iqbal Ali. In 1991 and 1992, the two University of Massachusetts School of Management professors provided expertise that sparked dramatic improvements in Hardigg Industries' manufacturing set-up procedures, shop floor layout, tooling and inventory storage, information systems, and quality control. UMASS graduate students, under the supervision of the professors, helped implement the changes.

"The team from CMP was an effective catalyst for dynamic change at this plant, said Hardigg. "They asked questions and made suggestions that focussed us on the improvements we needed. Then they followed through with support to make those improvements a reality."

Although the innovations cost relatively little, Hardigg said, they translated into significant increases in product output in both defense and commercial areas of his business. He estimated the added efficiency and cost savings were worth more than a million-dollars-per-year to the pastics manufacturer.

FROM KAYAKS TO THE HUBBEL SPACE TELESCOPE

Hardigg Industries designs and manufactures a variety of rugged plastic products. Its speciality is re-usable shipping cases used for extremely sensitive electronic gear-- for CNN cameras, U.S. Army communications gear, or Hubbel Space Telescope replacement units, among other uses. Other products have less exotic functions. The plastic display stands for the Massachusetts Megabucks lottery, insulated cases for mobile "meals-on-wheels" carts and kayaks from recycled resin for Walden Paddlers all are made by Hardigg Industries.

The company's South Deerfield plant and a sister plant in Columbus, Indiana, together generate about $30 milion in annual sales.

THE CMP-INSPIRED CHANGES AT THE SOUTH DEERFIELD FACILITY INCLUDE:

  • Modifications on a key process that reduces machine set-up from 65 minutes to 1O minutes;
  • A new computerized information system that standardizes product line and cuts by an average of 50 percent the lead time between taking a job order and completing manufacture;
  • A more efficient flow through the plant of material and product;
  • A re-configuration of tooling storage, inventory areas, and materials storage areas that significantly improves overall plant efficiency.

    CMP also offered training for ISO-9000 certification to four Hardigg Industries personnel from the training, quality control and engineering areas of the company.

    BUCKING A NEGATIVE TREND

    The increase in Hardigg Industries manufacturing productivity translated to more business in both commercial and defense sectors. In fact, Hardigg revealed, the company is bucking a national trend of decreasing defense contracts.

    "We're able to complete jobs faster, so we're able to take on more work and still deliver a top-quality product," he said. "As a consequence, our market share in the defense industry is growing."

    FLEXIBLE APPROACH TO SOLVING PROBLEMS

    After meeting with Hardigg Industries management and assessing the plant's engineering and management needs, Robinson and Ali proposed a multi-faceted approach to studying and improving Hardigg Industries' manufacturing efficiency.

    Robinson offered a series of seven presentations on state-of- the art plant management approaches to supervisory personnel that, according to Hardigg, "opened the company's eyes" to opportunities for basic change. In addition, the UMASS professor studied the plant's layout and operations and recommended specific areas of improvement.

    Undergrads from the School of Management then visited the shop floor over a period of weeks to document and further define the general problem areas identified by Robinson. That data, Hardigg said, helped company personnel to develop and design specific improvements in a period of two to three months and to implement changes within a year.

    "The changes often were housekeeping matters," Hardigg recalled. "Move the location and direction of an assembly line in relation to our materials and tooling areas. Improve the design and accessibility of fixture and jig storage areas. All necessary tasks were addressed relatively inexpensively."

    CONVERTING FROM DEFENSE TO COMMERCIAL

    While Robinson helped Hardigg Industries tend to "housekeeping" details vital to the manufacture of products, Ali helped top management to redefine and reclassify the products themselves.

    Hardigg explained that his company's product classification had evolved to reflect the complex products manufactured for the government during the 1980s, units produced in huge runs with long lead times between order and manufacture. In the early 1990s, with defense-oriented contracts declining, Hardigg Industries sought more work from commercial companies, which typically require less complex products and demand a much shorter lead time from order to manufacture. The company's complex product lines and classification systems, however, did not fit with the important new market.

    "With the old information system, orders had to pass through a labyrinth from outside sales to customer service to engineering to the floor and finally to finished goods inventory," said Hardigg. "Iqbal looked for the bottlenecks within the system, located the offending information protocols, and then helped us re-engineer a standardized product definition with a smoother information flow.

    With the new information system, the company processes and completes four times more orders than previously possible. The lead time required to move a job from order to manufacture has been cut in half. These staggering increases in productivity were needed, Hardigg said, to enable the plastics manufacturer to profitably process and complete higher numbers of small commercial jobs that demand a short turn around.

    CONTINUING RELATIONSHIP WITH CMP

    Hardigg stressed that CMP's assistance focussed on improving the company's methods of utilizing existing equipment and systems, not on acquiring new technology.

    "Using the equipment we already have as intelligently as possible is the key to what we're doing here," he elaborated. "The improvements we're striving for come from an ongoing evolutionary process. We always want to be searching for better ideas and methods."

    Hardigg Industries continues this search with CMP expertise. Teams of undergraduates from the School of Management, for example, periodically visit the plant to study problems in areas such as shop floor scheduling or scrap reduction. The fresh perspective the students offer "wakes us up to all kinds of new possibilities," he said.

    "CMP consultants and students offer us affordable access to current technologies and operations methods," he concluded. "Our efforts together have been very fruiiful. We plan to keep drawing on CMP support as we work on the manufacturing challenges of the 1900s."

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