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May 1, 2003
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Tel: (603) 226-3200
PAGE BELTING LEANS ON NH MEP
CONCORD – Over the past three years Page Belting, a company that started manufacturing leather belting for industrial machines in the late 1800s has experienced such significant growth that its product line has expanded from a handful of items to over 70 different products.
“I compare it to going from being a great gourmet restaurant serving a limited menu and a dozen customers per night to serving a full menu to hundreds of people a night,” said Mark Coen, President and CEO of Page Belting.
Lately the employees at Page have been working tirelessly to turn out knife sheaths used by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan along with its expanded line that also includes women's handbags; men's dress belts, computer cases, and other specialty products such as Zippo lighter holsters. To stay ahead of the competition, they also accept smaller orders that larger off shore competitors can’t produce efficiently, which has created a tremendous burden on the manufacturing floor.
Realizing the rapid expansion of his company’s product line necessitated a change in the way client orders were placed, processed and sent on their way, Coen enlisted the aid of the New Hampshire Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NH MEP).
“Their main problem was that they had orders they couldn’t get out the door quickly enough,” said Tony Perna, Project Manager for the NH MEP. “They had a high amount of what we call Work in Progress, or WIP, which is work that was started but then they would get sidetracked doing other projects and not complete the original task. WIP represents money tied up in inventory and slows down your response to customer needs.”
Perna and his team started by working with the company’s managers on Lean Manufacturing Techniques, a method of making simple but effective changes in the production process, maximizing use of floor space and adjusting how production work flows from one area to the next.
“The information system was basically word of mouth, and the process instruction was in the heads of one or two key individuals,” said Perna. “We started our training with the senior and mid-level management and quickly realized we needed more of a full time internal resource, so we helped them locate John H. Grover, Jr. who has extensive experience in lean manufacturing concepts.”
“I’m working with the Page team on tooling, reliability and documentation, and we’ve also started a value stream application on the major project line, which walks a family of products through from start to finish and looks at what’s needed every step of the way,” said Grover.
“The results have exceeded expectations,” added Coen. “John, Tony and the NH MEP team have made an immediate impact that has made a believer out of me. For example, we identified one job that took 536 steps to complete and using Lean principles we have redesigned the process and reduced it to just 45 steps.”
Together the NH MEP and the Page team are continuing to implement Lean practices, resulting in better accounting of inventory, elimination of clutter in the facility and increased customer satisfaction.
“I expect to see a 25 percent increase in sales for the next two years and thanks to the work we’ve done with the NH MEP my sales team can now continue to bring in new business without fear of not being able to deliver,” said Coen.
NH MEP is an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The national MEP is a network of manufacturing extension centers that provide business and technical assistance to smaller manufacturers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Through MEP, manufacturers have access to more than 2,000 manufacturing and business “coaches” whose job is to help firms make changes that lead to greater productivity, increased profits and enhanced global competitiveness. NH MEP works in partnership with the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development. For more information on the services NH MEP project managers provide, contact the Concord office at (603) 226-3200.