ChemArt Sustains Success with Polaris

Company Profile

Richard Beaupre left his job as a chemical researcher to start a new business that he named “ChemArt” in 1976. As the company’s founder and CEO, Mr. Beaupre oversees a complex manufacturing operation that utilizes multiple applications from the printed circuit board and photo-chemical machining industries to apply proprietary techniques to cut and form metal.  In its early years, ChemArt made jewelry findings, then applied the technology to create industrial parts and eventually tailored the process to decorative ornaments and bookmarks, building its business customer by customer over the next 30 years.

ChemArt’s designers develop custom products for decoration and industry, and ChemArt takes pride in the fact that those products are made in America.  ChemArt has two facilities totaling 55,000 square feet over eight acres of property at its Lincoln, Rhode Island location.  ChemArt’s core competencies are used to produce precision industrial components for the automotive, defense, energy, and medical industries, while at the same time applying the technology to create custom decorative products – ornaments, book marks, page clips and accessories – that service the non-profit, fund-raising, and retail markets as well as governmental departments and agencies.  A fully vertical operation, ChemArt’s 85 full-time employees oversee all aspects of development from design, tooling, etching, plating, screening and finishing, to assembly, packaging, and distribution.  This affords ChemArt greater control over the quality of the decorative and industrial products that it manufactures and distinguishes the company from its competition.

Situation – Attain Higher Quality & Service

Over its 30-year history, ChemArt has focused its energies on continuous improvement and process control.  The company has made operational improvements in every facet of the business, most importantly quality, capacity and profitability, but also including environmental, health and safety programs.  Past performance improvement activities had made significant reductions in scrap generation and external rejection levels.  ChemArt is an ISO 9001:2000 certified company and has received multiple awards for service, quality and its continued commitment to manufacturing excellence.  ChemArt takes great pride in producing products that are “Made in America.” A testament to its commitment in this regard was ChemArt’s appearance on John Ratzenberger’s “Made in America” show on the History Channel in December of 2005.  Notably, ChemArt holds the status of the sole producer of the White House Ornament over the past 26 years.

Based on its past continuous improvement achievements, ChemArt prepared to attain an even higher level of quality and service through the implementation of Lean manufacturing processes to create an environment that will be both successful, and sustainable, in the twenty-first century.  ChemArt’s President, David Marquis, contacted Polaris MEP (formerly RIMES) in early 2007 for assistance with training and implementation of a Lean initiative.  Opportunities for process improvement and cost reduction in both manufacturing and the front office were identified and work began in earnest in the summer of 2007.

Solution – Lean Manufacturing

Upon completion of an enterprise assessment, Polaris worked with ChemArt to help it secure a training grant, funded by the Rhode Island Governor’s Workforce Board.  Upon grant approval, Polaris and ChemArt began training over 80 employees in Lean 101, Value Stream Mapping, and 5S.  Polaris then worked with ChemArt to select a Steering Committee to begin implementing Lean principles into the day to day operations at ChemArt.

Results – Cost Savings & Employee Growth

ChemArt began with two Lean 5S projects, one in its chemistry lab and the other in its industrial metal storage area. As a result of Lean training and implementation, the lab was totally remodeled and the company is preparing to convert a portion of the lab space into a clean-room for inspection of the industrial components it manufactures.

The Lean 5S concepts helped the company evaluate its needs differently and lead to conclusions that the lab space could be better utilized and that the department was improperly staffed.  The lab 5S team greatly reduced potential safety hazards in the lab, streamlined testing procedures and freed up valuable space that will now be used to better support the company’s business.  The company realigned the staff servicing the lab as well, resulting in annual savings of $55,000.

ChemArt’s Lean efforts in its metal storage area also showed a good return on investment.  The company has greater understanding of its industrial metal inventory as a result of a complete revamp of its storage system.  The metal storage 5S team was able to generate revenue and free up valuable space by recycling metal inventory that was not being used, including over $13,000 in copper.

ChemArt began value stream mapping the “front end” of its business in mid-summer 2007, with an eye toward streamlining the process to provide faster turnaround time to its customers.  By questioning long-accepted practices, ChemArt has been able to increase the value it provides to customers by removing non-value added steps such as multiple internal approvals.  The removal of one such approval resulted in a supervisor regaining approximately four hours per day, nearly half of the supervisor’s schedule. The time saved equates to approximately $15,000 per year, but more importantly, the time that the Lean process reclaimed increases the speed with which ChemArt can provide products to its customers.  Contrary to the common misconception that Lean means fewer jobs, the combined efforts of the Lean initiative at ChemArt has also allowed for employee growth. Not even one year into its Lean initiative, ChemArt has hired a Compliance Administrative Assistant, a Designer and a Business Development officer.


The Lean training and implementation has allowed for a fundamental change in the way we approach problem solving. Decisions are now based upon teamwork, gaining consensus and buy-in from the managers and employees. As a result, the company is more flexible and adaptable. The Lean initiative has allowed non-management employees to develop and utilize problem solving and management skills that they would not have been called upon to use before. It has inspired our employees to push themselves out of their comfort zones and to take leadership roles within our company.

– Kurt Hague, Vice President of Corporate Development