Avionic Instruments, Inc. of Avenel, New Jersey was established in 1970 as a family-owned business. The power conversion equipment company employs 185 in the research, development and manufacturing of power and control systems for the defense and commercial aerospace industries. In July 2005, Avionics was acquired by TRANSDIGM, a holding company with a considerable presence in the aerospace industry. Through the acquisition, Avionic Instruments joined TRANSDIGM’s established engineering firms including Marathon/Norco, Adams Rite Aerospace, Champion, Skurka Aerospace Inc. and Aerocontrolex.
NJMEP telemarketing efforts led to its June 2004 introduction to Avionic Instruments. According to Avionic General Manager Bryce Wiedeman, the company’s most glaring need was to improve product development, which was suffering due to a lack of communication between its engineering and manufacturing departments. Other areas in need of improvement included process improvement; plant layout/cell; information technology (specifically, an inadequate website); and human resources.
Avionic’s productivity ratio paled at $95K in comparison to a Cleveland, Ohio-based competitor with a productivity ratio of $550K. Realizing that the competitor’s operations were more automated, Avionic underwent training from its customers in Introduction to Lean Manufacturing and Kanban/Pull using the “Lego” approach. The company now had an energized staff that needed help with implementation.
At this point, NJMEP stepped in, along with third-party resources Joe Pranzo, Rich Reale and Joan Adams to assemble a training program incorporating Lean Manufacturing (including Value Stream Mapping, 5S, Cellular, Pull/Kanban, Pokayoke, Project Management and Continuous Improvement Support); Team Building; and MAPICS. The NJMEP Field Agent assisted in securing a New Jersey Department of Labor training grant, which enabled the aforementioned training to take place, and mentored and coached the management team.
NJMEP expanded on Avionic’s prior Lean Manufacturing training to improve organization-wide skills, introduce additional Lean tools and provide follow-up support on implementation. The entire company staff participated in the ongoing project, which began in June 2004. Since its inception, Avionics reports that revenue is up 85% and profits have increased fivefold.
Due to the tremendous success to date, Avionic currently is applying for another customized training grant to continue expanding on improvements derived from the previous NJMEP training. Plans call for additional training in Lean concepts and implementation, sales and marketing, financial management and negotiation skills.
“The company first aimed at the elimination of waste in every area of production, with the goal of incorporating less human effort, less inventory and less time to develop products,” explained General Manager Wiedeman. “The flow of production materials from the time raw materials come in the door, through the entire manufacturing process, to the shipping of the end products was physically mapped. Cycle times, down times, in-process inventory, material moves and information flow also were charted. This visualization helped employees to gain a comprehensive picture of operations, as each discrete task or activity not designed to add value to the end product was isolated and eliminated.
Wiedeman described how work cells were integrated on the shop floor, “which combined assembly and test operations into a flexible and seamless workflow. These teams performed better than the departments they replaced. Inventory was cut, and on-time delivery was increased. Work cells are modified as new products are developed,” he continued, “speeding time to market.”
Wiedeman was asked to explain how the training project benefited Avionic Instruments. “One of the more important effects of the Lean Training is that it has provided Avionic Instruments with a vehicle for change, while helping us to secure the jobs of all employees of the company. After being acquired by TRANSDIGM, it was imperative to become an efficient company with room for growth,” revealed the General Manager. “NJMEP training has helped us to steer the company in the right direction and empowered our employees to participate in and drive positive change.
“The biggest impact has been the creation of a more positive work environment that has led to an increase in employee retention,” Wiedeman assessed. “The training also gave us the ability to increase the salary levels of our work force by 10%, and promote from within the company. We have seen great benefits with all the specific training, especially the 5S and Cell manufacturing training sessions,” he added.
“One of the areas directly affected was the transformer department. It was amazing how it changed the attitude of the employees of this area of the company. Our key to success has been to effectively manage a group of employees that possess a tremendous amount of aptitude, have a great attitude and are loaded with energy!
“We all are very satisfied with the level of knowledge and approach to teaching of the trainers,” Wiedeman concluded. “The teaching approach was very imaginative and always focused on teaching the employees how to work smarter by using the Lean principles. The Lean simulations were a great way to show how the Lean principles can be used to work more efficiently with very little investment.
“Great job overall!” he added.