New Hampshire Manufacturing Extension Partnership: NH MEP
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May 11, 2011

For more information please contact:
Zenagui Brahim
Tel: (603) 226-3200

Costa Precision Sets up for Success
NH MEP Lean training cuts changeover time by 30 percent, leading to increased sales for machine shop

CLAREMONT, NH - For a machine shop to be truly successful in its industry, it must develop both its engineering expertise and production proficiency. Costa Precision Manufacturing of Claremont, New Hampshire, specializes in complex, high precision engineering for the aerospace and defense industries. Their clients include well know OEM’s like: Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy who have set high supplier standards for delivery and quality. The complexity and limited run-size of the orders Costa Precision receives means lots of lengthy changeovers and machining time which reduced the cost effectiveness and efficiency of the manufacturing end of the business. For a time, in fact, the company had considered closing down its manufacturing operations to concentrate solely on engineering.

“The complexity of advanced precision manufacturing can create special challenges that interfere with mass production efficiency,” said Zenagui Brahim, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NH MEP). “Complex components can require hundreds of hours of machining, the highest quality standards and strict testing protocols. It takes a special commitment and extensive Lean training to excel at both complex engineering and large scale cost effective manufacturing. Not many shops can handle both ends of the production spectrum.”

Instead of closing down their manufacturing operations, John Mack, Costa’s Chief Operating Officer decided to focus on improving production efficiency and called upon the New Hampshire MEP to guide them through a series of Lean manufacturing initiatives. Supply Chain funding secured by NH MEP helped support the cost of implementing the project.
They launched the Lean initiative by breaking down into small groups for Kaizen training events focused on reducing set up times. While working on these Kaizens, however, it became apparent that a holistic approach would be needed, since machines often shared tools, materials and even operators. The location, availability and organization of these items clearly effected set up efficiency. Therefore, the team decided that workplace organization activities should preempt all other events.

The employee teams ended up completing 5S events for 90 percent of the facility which was cleaned, organized and outfitted with visual signals. Changeover equipment was then relocated, and repetitive jobs were categorized to help ensure tooling availability and ease of scheduling.

Next, NH MEP’s Jane Ely led an employee team through Value Stream Mapping the company’s order processing procedures. As a production job shop that receives discrete orders, that is, orders for low quantities which come in randomly and almost unannounced, Costa recognized that scheduling is critical to keep the machines running and get them in and out of the jobs as quickly as possible.

Prior to the Lean initiative, order processing for Costa required three days on average. This included recording the order, planning and purchasing parts. By analyzing the data, from the mapping event the team was able to dramatically improve this process. Now, orders are ready to go to the floor in a matter of hours rather than days.

“The results have been very good all around,” says Costa’s John Mack. “Jane taught us the methods, and we put them in place and continue working on the processes and making more improvements on our own. In the end Lean training significantly expanded our capacity to take on new jobs.”

The results of the Lean initiative have been impressive. After implementing the set-up reductions and changeover tools introduced by NH MEP, Costa reported that it:

   •  Reduced changeover times by 35-50 percent;
   •  Increased its capacity for additional work with current staffing as a result of increased efficiency;
   •  Expects a 10-20 percent increase in sales due to significant set up time reductions;
   •  Recognizes that Lean helped the firm maintain its supplier status and retain sales to key OEM’s who require a rating of 90+ percent for both on-delivery and quality; and
   •  Will see the impact of savings 12 times per year, since most of the parts the company produces are run every month.

“Our experience with NH MEP was extremely positive. We have adopted a new mindset, a new culture. Everybody in the shop thinks along the same lines – how do I do this so I do not waste time? We are meeting our customers’ needs, delivering on time and positioning ourselves to take on more business. This was a win, win for everyone,” Mack stated.

About NH MEP
The NH MEP is an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The national MEP system 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. For information on the MEP Lean Energy and Environment program, please visit, or phone 1-800-MEP-4MFG.