Norwalt Design Inc. has been the preferred resource for automation machinery. The company’s willingness to address difficult automation problems with innovative custom solutions explains why the company’s customers include a “who’s who” of plastic injection molders and packagers of food, pharmaceutical, personal care products, and household products.
Norwalt, which has about 50 employees, was started by Norbert Seitel and Walter McDonald in 1971. The company is still a closely held family-owned business. Its customers and vendors are treated with personal care and are considered part of Norwalt’s extended family.
Norwalt’s relationship with NJMEP began in 2004 as a result of a cold call to Michael Seitel, Operations Manager. Mr. Seitel was interested in lowering cost in the manufacturing area of his business.
Many of Norwalt’s competitors had located their manufacturing operations in states that have lower wage rate, which impacts related (health coverage, paid time off, etc.) costs. Foreign competition, particularly from China,was also an issue. Price differential between one of Norwalt’s products and one of its overseas competitors are significant. A Norwalt machine that sells for $110,000 is sold by the competitor for $35,000. Norwalt’s customers have even asked the company to relocate to North Carolina to reduce its production costs and after market service costs since the majority of them have relocated there.
NJMEP field agent Brian Conley conducted an assessment of the manufacturing area. The assessment indicated Norwalt’s operation would benefit from implementing Lean manufacturing processes, which in turn would help Seitel meet his objective—lower his costs.
Lean manufacturing was in keeping with Norwalt Design’s philosophy—a highly skilled and motivated workforce is the greatest competitive advantage in the global manufacturing marketplace. The company believed that through implementing Lean, it could offset a substantial portion of the wage cost differential by increasing the productivity of its workforce. Fundamentally, Norwalt would compete though the skill sets of its employees. Norwalt’s objective was to deliver better quality, have greater throughput, lower cycle times, shorter set-up times, less inventory, higher employee morale/motivation and be at world-class productivity levels. This competitive advantage can be achieved through extensive Lean training.
Over a two-year period NJMEP worked with Norwalt to implement Lean. Through two New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Customized Training Grants Norwalt released a significant savings in training its frontline employees in applying Lean to its manufacturing operation. NJMEP assisted in the application, administration and reporting of the grant, taking the burden off Norwalt’s shoulder so it could focus on running its business rather than grant requirements.
Under the first grant, Norwalt employees were trained in: Lean Principles, Value Stream Mapping, 5S, Production Pull/Kanban, Continuous Improvement, Administrative Lean, Project Management and Implementation of Lean.
With the second grant, Norwalt trained its employees in Industrial/Manufacturing Technology, Problem Solving, Designing Continuous Flow Cells. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Manufacturing/Materials Resource Planning (MRP). Industrial/Manufacturing Technology and Problem Solving expand on the Lean principles and are considered to be advanced classes that are part of the Continuous Improvement Journey. Training in these two areas would result in higher first pass yields, less rework, increased capacity, less cost and a more desirable work atmosphere.
Designing Continuous Flow Cells gave Norwalt employees an understanding of Cellular/Flow manufacturing, which essentially is about positioning equipment and workstations related to a product or a narrow range of similar products within a given area or “cell.” This layout reduces the amount of time securing materials and components when manufacturing those particular products. Cellular flow manufacturing helps companies produce a variety of products with little waste, which is the essence of Lean. Employees would then be able to apply the learned principles to Norwalt’s production lines.
The final part of the training, ERP and MRP, would give Norwalt employees the ability to define its business processes and functionality as they pertain to the company’s Information Systems.
The objective of ERP is to integrate all departments and functions across a company onto a single computer system that can serve each departments’ particular needs. This integrated approach would have a tremendous impact on Norwalt as its entire operation would be streamlined. Information would be entered into their system once and would be shared by all users.
The Lean implementation and training enabled Norwalt’s employees to assume additional responsibilities including machinery mechanic, first level supervisor, materials management and maintenance. The training upgraded the overall skills of its workforce.
Norwalt was able to improve the quality, cost and delivery times. Workers were now able to handle multiple job assignments, providing the company with a much more flexible and productive workforce. With a better-educated workforce, Norwalt was able to grow the company by promoting within and in doing so, created job opportunities for others.
A larger group of skilled workers enable the company to increase efficiencies enabling Norwalt to commit to more customers and expand its business.
As a result of its Lean transformation and training its employees in ERP and MRP Norwalt increased sales $5,000,000 was able to retain $2,500,000 in sales that could have been lost and realized a cost savings of $750,000.
Michael Seitel, PE, the Operations Officer of Norwalt Design Inc., recently noted, “The work done with NJMEP has significantly transformed our business into a more profitable and competitive business. This transformation has improved productivity, reduced our manufacturing interval and increased on-time delivery. Work-In Process inventory has declined and rework has been reduced, resulting in a lower cost of Quality”.
Norwalt Design Inc. is a participant in NJMEP’s Made in New Jersey program. Click here to view their profile!