Written by Mary C. Dillon
When a Morgantown-area business needed assistance growing its customer base, they turned to an organization that could position the company for a more stable future: the West Virginia Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
Progressive Industries, a family-owned underground mining equipment repair and rebuild shop in Westover, had seen its workforce dip from 45 to less than 10 due to downturns in the state’s mining industry. Its sister company, Precision Tool, was looking to diversify its machining services as well. Representatives from WVMEP, housed in the Statler College, rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
“We initially met with Progressive Industries and Precision Tool because they were looking for ideas for improvement and opportunities to diversify and grow their business,” said Jerry Biser, director, WVMEP. “Like most of our clients, they are small manufacturers that do not have the internal personnel resources necessary to tackle these types of projects.”
WVMEP conducted multiple on-site technical assessments with assistance from the Progressive Industries and Precision Tool staff, which included interviews of key staff, participation in facility observations and training and guidance for employees regarding the concepts discussed.
“A lean process assessment was completed to provide the company with recommendations to improve their processes and efficiency in 14 categories,” Biser said. “A safety assessment gave them a detailed list of potential safety concerns with recommendations for corrective measures and an energy assessment so recommendations to reduce energy consumption could be made.”
Following completion of the technical assessments, WVMEP led the companies in a value stream mapping event for one of their regular rebuild products.
“This multi-day project provided training on the concepts of value stream mapping, creation of a current state map, list of potential areas of non-value added activities and potential reasons for causes for these issues,” said Biser. “Following the event, we provided Progressive Industries with a current state map along with recommendations and an action plan to move forward.”
The final step in the process involved a complete redesign of the companies’ website, in an effort to ensure consistency among all their marketing efforts.
When it was all said and done, WVMEP had recommended five energy-related projects and 60 process improvement recommendations, had identified multiple safety concerns and a number of measures to drastically improve process efficiency. The work also results in ISO 9001 certification for Precision Tool, considered to be the gold standard for demonstrating a manufacturer’s commitment to maintaining the highest quality production and management processes.
Looking at the full body of work that WVMEP did for both companies, Heather Cyphert, owner of Progressive Industries and Precision Tool, said none of it would have been possible without the WVMEP.
“Without the WVMEP, I would have not been able to have the help I needed to get projects done,” Cyphert said. “They helped me with safety, value stream mapping and, most of all, the ISO certification. Without WVMEP, I would have never been able to become ISO certified. They took us to a whole new level of quality.”
“Our staff was able to provide assistance for these companies to grow and thrive by providing safety assistance, improving manufacturing processes, recommending energy efficiency upgrades and implementing a complete redesign of their websites,” Biser said. “These improvements now place them in a position to pursue new clients outside their traditional client base and build a more diverse and stable business.”