Advanced Interconnections Corporation (AIC) is a leading manufacturer of electronic connectors used in telecommunications, automotive, military, and medical equipment applications. AIC’s wide variety of standard and custom products are known for their innovative features, quality designs, and durable performance.
In a market that is increasingly competitive, responding to customer requests in a timely manner is critical. AIC’s customer service representatives (CSRs) were being turned away by customers who couldn’t wait for documentation of special products they needed. The time for completing an Engineering documentation package was averaging 2-1/2 weeks.
AIC had just begun a Lean initiative under the guidance of Polaris MEP (formerly RIMES – Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Service) and decided to use the Engineering group as a pilot Lean core team. The team consisted of Engineering designer/drafters, a member of the Lean coordinating team, and a customer service representative. The team used Value Stream Mapping to describe both the existing process and an improved future process. The team and Customer Service agreed that an average response time of 5 days was a reasonable target and would meet customers’ expectations. The team created a system using colored folders to track individual jobs. A different color is used for each day of the week. The designer/drafters pick up jobs in the order they were received by Engineering. Priority jobs must be authorized by supervision and are placed in red folders. AIC quality control procedures require drawings to be checked by a different person than the drawing creator. A clear bin is used to stage checking jobs. The colored folders and checking bin are located in the center of the Engineering area and are clearly visible by the drafting group and by management. A control chart is used to track the weekly average duration for jobs.
Within a few weeks, workflow was improved, and the average completion time for engineering requests dropped from 12 days to 5 days. AIC has maintained this performance for over 9 months. Any excursions are immediately evident from the control chart and an assignable cause can be defined along with any necessary corrective action. The CSRs were ecstatic with the lead-time reduction. The system worked so well that a similar color-coded system was used in the terminal cleaning operation, where overtime was eliminated resulting in a $10,000 annual savings.