Willington Companies APICS Plant Tour

October 14, 2008

On Tuesday, September 9th 2008 the Willington Companies celebrated completion of a year of LEAN Manufacturing with an APICS sponsored plant tour. Attendees included many local Connecticut & Massachusetts businesses interested in seeing LEAN manufacturing principles at another facility. Also in attendance were Fred Shamburg from Leanovations International and Tom Dzialo from the Hartford APICS Association. Both were mentors in the implementation of LEAN manufacturing here at the Willington Nameplate facility. The night started off great with attendees networking and sharing their own LEAN experiences with each other. Next came an introduction from General Manager, Mike Goepfert highlighting the humble beginnings of the Willington Companies. He explained how in 1965 his entrepreneurial father, Marcel Goepfert, decided to get into the nameplate business in the small rural town of Willington, CT. After the company’s history came a presentation by Willington employees and our own certified LEAN leaders, Jess Mitchell and Mark Rainaud. This focused on showing some of the more unique & innovative solutions brought on by our adoption of LEAN Manufacturing concepts. This was followed by a brief Q & A session before the tour began.

Being the host for a tour was certainly a new experience for us and we did not know what to expect. The tour itself was supposed to run from 6:30 to 7:15, or take roughly 45 minutes. Attendees were split into three groups taking different routes throughout the facility. Since LEAN is not just for the production floor, attendees got an in depth view of all areas of the Willington Companies including the office and pre-press departments. The production floor included stops in screen making/reclaim, metal photo, printing, relieving, etch, surface, inspection, mechanical and shipping departments. Our tour guides enthusiasm grew when we saw how interested attendees were in learning about what we do here and the processes involved in manufacturing what appears to be just a simple nameplate or label. We found that with every stop, each group wanted to learn more about the changes incorporated through LEAN. At the end of the tour each guest received a parting gift that you will notice in the first picture of this article. We used our Datron EcoRaptor, a high speed machining tool, to create personalized business card holders and even gave a live demonstration of how these were made from a single sheet of aluminum.

By the time the last group had finished it was already fast approaching 8pm, and the event was supposed to be over at 8:30. We all then enjoyed a delicious dinner with a room that was full of smiling faces discussing ideas of how to improve their own company. Much to our surprise people were so taken aback by our company culture that they found themselves eager to stay and ask questions. This segued into a final group discussion prompted by questions about how they can better implement LEAN into their work place. By the time everything was said and done it was nearly 10PM, almost an hour and a half passed the originally scheduled end time and people were leaving with excited looks on there faces. We received great feedback from participants of the event, “The changes driven by front line workers were very impressive, but by far the most impressive was the buy-in and the presentations by the non-management people. I thought it was very clear they believed in Lean and believed what they do everyday has an impact on the future of the company.” With today’s market the way it is companies have to implement LEAN manufacturing in order to survive. Bruce Lescell commented, “I wish to personally thank you for a wonderful tour and to tell you all you have every right to be proud of all your efforts to make the Willington Companies the shining example of a company that will survive the future onslaught of company failures which are occurring left & right in the world today.” Through continual efforts to improve, we are strengthening our organization as well as preparing ourselves for the uncertain times that undoubtedly lie ahead. Being a part of the tour I was proud to show other’s what can be done in hopes that everyone that joined us took something from this event. After many kaizen’s we learned that it doesn’t matter whether an idea is big or small, just as long as it is able to improve your work environment.

We again wish to thank anybody who joined us that evening. If you have any questions or comments about our LEAN experience or even stories of your own we would love to hear from you. Send them to thewillingtoncompanies@gmail.com with “LEAN on Me” in the subject line.