Tacony Implements Crawl, Walk, Run Strategy to Increase Efficiency from Production to Supply Chain
In this case study, you’ll learn how Tacony tackled problems at the plants, found benefits along the way, and even discovered a new use case for manufacturing productivity and analytics software.
Of the benefits gained, some were expected, even promised, but others were surprising. Specifically, using SensrTrx to track performance in distribution became a first, yet it worked for Tacony, creating efficiency in the plant as a whole “filling the whole circle” from production to supply chain.
Faced with many challenges in a multi-site environment, Nick Hinman, Director of Supply Chain and Business Operations, and Ben Wohlschlaeger, Business Process Optimization Manager, at Tacony knew a solution was needed to help increase the efficiency of the plant, and as they later found out, in surprising ways. With SensrTrx, the team was able to utilize a simplified application that shows all of the necessary data, without adding too many complexities that also promised the ability to crawl, walk, and run in implementation.
Return on Investment
Reduction in Lead Time
Reducing 14-Week Backlog to Gain Half a Million Dollars in Revenue
“Being able to log into a simplified application that shows everything I’m worried about which is performance, utilization of capacity, and staying within an expected cycle or takt time, it gives me the visibility to keep a pulse on the plants without having to interact with the opps managers or bother them to get updates with what’s going on,” Nick said.
One of the big goals in using SensrTrx was the ability to get visibility into the status of the plant without bothering people, especially as Nick’s role in Missouri is physically separated from plants scattered throughout the United States. That combined with the focus of standardizing data across production floors and reducing the backlog of work orders were at the center of the SensrTrx implementation.
“The ability to standardize data is a work in progress for us but having SensrTrx as a foundation to build the standardization around has simplified the effort tremendously,” Nick explained.
The idea behind the standardization to create a repeatable process, and in Tacony’s case, that means getting 1 site up and running, troubleshoot that site, standardize that site, “and use that formula to add additional sites that mimic what we’re already doing,” he added.
If 1 plant proves to be successful, those efforts can be applied to other plants, and so on. That especially paid off in the West Chicago and Fort Worth plants were the backlog of orders was substantial.
Nick said, “Before we implemented, we had a 14-week backlog in our West Chicago furniture plant, and the inefficiency of the backorders was significant.”
Using SensrTrx, Nick and his team realized some elements couldn’t be controlled but they were able to calculate the standard output needed to be met every week to get the backlog down to where it needed to be. The results shocked even Nick.
“In 9 months, we’ve gained about half a million dollars of unrealized revenue,” Nick said. The efforts to reduce the backlog continue, and in the future, will likely increase efficiency and revenue even more.
“What we’ve gained is a balance in the labor to the work and not to overproduce if not necessary,” Nick said.
“Really, it eliminates excuses,” Ben said. “When all of the data is there, you can’t argue with it anymore and people tend to do their job.”
Tacony Corporation offers a diverse line of products and services. We specialize in distribution and marketing of products in sewing, home floor care, commercial floor care, and ceiling fans.
Variety of Manufacturing
Benefit: Real-Time Reporting
One of the biggest benefits for the team at Tacony is the ability to track data in real-time, providing insight into how operations are doing. Ben, Nick, and their coworkers no longer have to wait for an end of shift report that may or may not be delivered on time. Instead, data is collected, displayed overhead and in the app, and sent to key people at a designated time. For Nick, that’s a win-win.
“I receive emails every morning at 6 am. For me, it’s perfect because knowing what we didn’t get done doesn’t keep me up at night,” Nick said, “but, I see it in the morning – what happened yesterday – and I can quickly compartmentalize what to be worried about or what not to be worried about,” he added.
The ability to receive reports, at any time, is key to increasing efficiency in the company. The idea is to give everyone a clear snapshot of the shift, or the day’s progress, creating accountability and transparency.
“And I follow up for more of a detailed update for what’s causing the issues,” he added. “The nice thing is I can get a real quick understanding of what’s going on, in multiple sites, even if I’m in Missouri,” Nick said. The perspective is a 5,000-point view – providing the ability to know where to put the pressure and where not to.
Benefit: Visibility Extends Beyond Operations
What sets Tacony apart from others is they took initiative in implementing SensrTrx beyond just the operations side of the business by extending it to distribution. For Nick, he wanted to know exactly how efficient they were at getting things out the door because, in the end, customer delivery is the defining factor of success.
“What we’ve always lacked is knowing how efficient we are on the warehouse level,” Nick said, “And wouldn’t it be cool if we could get SensrTrx data collection and visibility at the distribution level?”
While not the use SensrTrx originally was intended for, the out of the box thinking gave Tacony the ability to see visibility plant wide, beyond the scope of operations. It tells the story of not only production performance but how product moves through the warehouse, and eventually, to the hands of customers.
“If we could integrate a transaction type with our ERP into SensrTrx, there would be no human interaction required, other than scanning something, and we could begin to track a daily standard, a goal, the number of people needed, and deduce, how efficient are we to that standard,” Nick said.
“What if we could determine the average pick rate per hour at one of our facilities,” he added, “and set a standard shift total and track it in the same way we do on the operations side?”
The results would be insurmountable.
“The visibility is great, but the true benefit is “cross-training.” If we could have manufacturing and distribution associated in both areas, and the standard is the same – green means green, we could enhance our minute by minute,” said Nick.
From a reporting standpoint, this gives Tacony the ability to “enhance the minute by minute” processes. Ben explained, “If manufacturing is behind and inventory isn’t there to ship, you can shift people over to the other side because, in the end, you can’t ship what you haven’t built.”
He added, “You need parts going to the line, coming off the line, and ensure parts are going to the customer.” Essentially using SensrTrx across the plant “fills the whole circle” – from manufacturing to distribution.
Benefit: Empowering Employees in All Roles
For Ben, he’s 100% on the administrative side of the software and is focused on training people on how to use it onsite. What’s key for him is the ability to empower the engineers at each plant to build their own dashboards and scoreboards so they can monitor the day to day operations, empowering the workforce to take initiative and own their role.
On the other hand, from an operations and management perspective, senior management uses SensrTrx to enforce and hold people accountable.
“One of the main reasons we moved to SensrTrx,” Nick said, “other than visibility, is the incentive tracking standpoint,” he said.
Nick added, “It allows us to track actual to expected performance in operations, distribution, even the warehouse, based on the SensrTrx reporting which helps support the incentive program payout.”
It’s essentially used as a goal to keep track of what’s going on at an operational level, but while allowing simplicity and ease of use.
“From my perspective, metrics are different based on the product because each product itself is different and has different ways to measure the efficiency, and there is a complexity to it, but the way we built it, it’s very easy to interpret,” said Nick, “because green means green across the board at Tacony, whether you’re building it customized or building it to the shelf.”
The underlying metrics may be different, but red, yellow, and green are standardized, allowing for simplicity across the board. That’s where the idea of incentive tracking came from. The metrics are very easy to understand, but if an operator looks up at the screen at the end of the production line and it’s red, they immediately know they need to get back on track, enabling the operator to be in control of their own progress.
“The real-time tracking towards a goal will tell you how many you’ve completed, and there’s a constant measurement of goal tracking,” Ben said. “You know from the minute you press the start button in the morning if you’re tracking towards your goal.”
“If someone is way behind at lunch, you can save the day and switch a little manpower around without losing a big amount of production in any given area,” he added.
With the “know where you stand mentality”, management can easily walk around, make decisions quickly, and “win the day” by moving a bit of production around to hit the target.
“We have the ability to really dive into jobs and efficiency that way,” Ben said. “It’s powerful data.”
That isn’t to say that the level of knowledge and goal tracking is used as a method to punish or become “big brother”, but rather there are a clear understanding and agreement that if there’s red, operations need to get back on track, together. It essentially creates a work environment that breaks down communication barriers and a lack of support while creating employee empowerment.
“I think the key is in how you message it,” Nick said. “Our incentive program is plant-wide, not production cell-specific,” he added.
Biggest Benefits Realized
“From my perspective, the real-time reporting at the manufacturing level is the biggest benefit,” Ben said and added, “I don’t know of an ERP system that does it well or gives real-time data of how your operations are functioning and be able to provide data in a simple format, even in emails at 6 am.”
The ability to centralize the data and give manufacturers like Tacony what they need to make decisions is key.
“For me, it’s the centralization and standardization of the data and the concept of pushing data rather than pulling,” Nick said.
“SensrTrx has been transformative in an accountability and transparency standpoint. It’s a tool that allows us to improve rather than a tool for discipline or poking holes in what’s not going right, and we use it as such, as a continuous improvement tool.”
“Really, it shows that we’re trying to invest in making everyone’s job easier,” Nick explained.
The goal is to build with a purpose and work with a purpose. “The idea of working smarter, not harder,” Nick said, “and SensrTrx has allowed us that platform to make those decisions simply and effectively.”