BRECOflex Co., L.L.C., an ISO 9001 certified company, is a world leader in custom high precision drive components. The company offers the most advanced solutions for all belt drive and conveying applications. A fully owned subsidiary of BRECO, a German manufacturing company, BRECOflex started out as the US distributor for the company’s products. Between shipping and custom clearance, BRECOflex had a 6-8 week lead time for most products, which made competing in the US market challenging as delivery time is often the deciding factor in selecting a supplier. BRECOflex began manufacturing in New Jersey to become more competitive in the US market. With that change, the company was able to reduce its lead-time to an average of 4 weeks, competitive but not industry leading.
At the encouragement of NJMEP Field Agent Lorna Runkle, BRECOflex President and owner, Willi Fuellemann, attended a Lean Workshop with Live Simulation. Mr. Fuellemann saw the potential to further reduce lead times using Lean Processes. He committed to taking the company Lean after reading a book recommended by NJMEP. The book, written by an industry associate, reported the impact and the hard numbers associated with a highly successful Lean Transformation.
Ready to transform the company, BRECOflex brought in NJMEP and Joe Pranzo, an NJMEP resource, to help implement Lean. To begin the process, Mr. Fuellemann gave his management team the same book that he had previously read with an assignment to read and to discuss and determine how Lean could positively impact BRECOflex. The management team was convinced of the potential and later that year at the annual sales meeting, much to the shock of the sales team in the room, Mr. Fuellemann announced, “Lead time on all products will be cut by 50%.”
To help the entire company understand what was about to happen, NJMEP, Joe Pranzo and BRECOflex conducted a Lean Simulation workshop. The workshop, which got the ball rolling, served as the foundation for the Lean Transformation of the company. Participants learned the basics of Lean and its benefits. The workshop also helped eliminate the fear of loss of jobs, got buy in from everyone involved in the process and would serve as a reference point during Value Stream Mapping, Pull/Kanban and 5S workshops and training. To meet Mr. Fuellemann’s mandate, BRECOflex would need to apply these tools to its entire production process.
Value Stream Mapping was used to identify WIP (work in process) and bottlenecks in production that caused unnecessarily long lead times. To reduce WIP, Pull/Kanban systems and smaller batch sizes were implemented. Each department would now “pull” product as needed rather than having it pushed to them. Since BRECOflex mainly supplies made to order products rather than inventory items, it was necessary to start improvements at the beginning of the value stream, at order processing. Orders had been released to the production floor once per day, and are now released hourly. This change in conjunction with visual management, 5S organization, and quick changeover set the stage to reduce the batch sizes of product moving through production. As one example, changeover in the stamping process was reduced from 15 minutes to 3 minutes.
BRECOflex’s Lean Transformation enabled the company to meet its objectives. By the end of the year, lead time for all products was reduced by 50%. Exceeding the objectives, custom pulley lead time was reduced from 4-5 weeks to 8 days and the most common customized belts from 3-4 weeks to 1 week.
BRECOflex has experienced very positive feedback from customers, some of which can now reduce or eliminate their own inventory. In addition, in an industry where rush charges can range up to 200%, BRECOflex’s standard, no additional cost delivery time is one more element that sets the company apart from its competition.
The improvements that reduced delivery times also helped BRECOflex realize a cost savings of approx. $125,000 in labor and in space utilization as well as retain approx. $125,000 in sales that otherwise may have been lost due to the economic downturn. This in turn enabled the company to retain numerous employees that could otherwise have lost their jobs.
“NJMEP Field Agent Lorna Runkle pushed Willie Fuellemann, former BRECOflex president and co-owner, to attend the Lean Workshop knowing that Lean would be a perfect fit for the company. She was absolutely correct in her observation and recommendation. We’ve truly benefited from her insight.” Bernie Fuellemann, President.
BRECOflex Co., L.L.C. is a participant in NJMEP’s Made in New Jersey program. Click here to view their profile!