Robert Foxx founded Strato Inc. in 1968 as a developer and manufacturer of products to be marketed to the railroad and transit industries. The Foxx family bought the business in 1972 when current president and CEO, Michael J. Foxx, joined the company upon graduating college. Strato, located in Piscataway, NJ, has 100 employees, a 100,000 square foot manufacturing and distribution facility and annual sales of $30 million. Michael became president and CEO in 1985, and his two sons head the company’s customer service and MIS departments.
Strato relied on customer service excellence to live up to its company motto, “Exceed the Need.” Its goal was to grow leaner while continuing to provide quality and growing through the introduction of innovative new products. To help meet this goal, company representatives attended NJMEP’s Lean Manufacturing presentation in May 2003 at the New Jersey Manufacturing Summit in Newark. NJMEP Senior Field Agent Lorna Runkle and associates Carol Miller and Rick Chiong subsequently met with Strato’s management team and proposed a Lean training program comprising both public and private sessions in Lean 101.
At that time, NJMEP and Strato identified a need to improve operating efficiency, sales forecasting, new product development and human resources which were lacking, due primarily to language diversity within the company. The Lean Opportunity Assessment revealed deficiencies in scheduling and expediting activities and bottlenecks at various production points, possibly resulting from parts shortages, changing priorities and an unbalanced production workload.
NJMEP presented a Lean Overview to all Strato employees in August 2003, followed by a Value Stream Mapping kaizen involving Strato management. The company built on this knowledge and contacted Field Agent Runkle in November 2005 in order to roll out and expand the Lean Program throughout the organization.
Strato’s Lean Transformation Program kicked off in January 2006, incorporating monthly and bimonthly meetings and on-site Lean training. NJMEP retained third party resource Joe Pranzo of IKP Logistics throughout the project.
Runkle maintained client contact from the initial 2003 introduction. Her participation in the Lean Transformation program included helping Strato to identify the participants; recruiting the best-suited trainer; visiting the client frequently and attending training sessions; maintaining high standards of training delivery; and obtaining feedback from employees and management. She continually provided Strato with access to NJMEP’s latest product offerings and services. She also met regularly with Foxx and Pranzo to plan rollout, focus and the general approach to the Lean Transformation Program. This plan involved targeting and improving specific cells, and then following up in other areas.
Strato management and supervisors were trained directly, and input from production floor and office personnel was solicited and incorporated into the program. Plant Manager David Calico and Vice President Marty Kowalski attended the training/kaizen sessions with floor supervisors. The contract for the current project was renewed since 2006.
Regarding the quantifiable impact of the Lean Transformation, Mike Foxx cited reductions in scrap, rework and use of floor space; decreased lead time and work in process; improved employee skills and work environment; greater revenue and cash flow; increased customer satisfaction and market share; $200,000 in retained sales; the creation of one new job; and cost savings of at least $50,000.
Strato has continued working with NJMEP, and plans to do so in the future. “Numerous significant changes were made during the project implementation, including plant layout, changes in supervision and education of all involved,” observed Foxx. “These changes have put us in a position to move the company to the next level.
“We are constantly looking to improve our processes and strengths,” Foxx continued. “We feel our relationship with NJMEP is one of the tools which will make this happen. NJMEP has outshined any of the resources we have used in the past,” he concluded.
Strato Inc. is a participant in NJMEP’s Made in New Jersey program. Click here to view their profile!