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Action Plan on a Map:  Value Stream Mapping Raises Awning Company's Productivity

Work by Rader AwningCompany Profile: 

Rader Awning & Upholstering, Inc. designs, manufactures and installs custom awnings, shade structures, and unique fabric products for both commercial and residential applications.  Rader Awning was founded in 1947 by the Rader family and the Mowery family currently owns and operates the business.

The company has locations in Santa Fe and Albuquerque and employs over 20 people.  Rader Awning focuses on providing a high-quality product, at a competitive price, while maintaining exceptional customer service.

Situation:

Rader Awning has grown to become the leading supplier in New Mexico for awnings and related products.  It is the largest awning company in New Mexico and receives a majority of its orders solely from its name and reputation.

The demand for Rader Awning’s products and services follows a cyclical pattern as the months of March through October are extremely hectic for the company.  During these months, the company can be processing over 70 orders each month.  Since each job is custom, there are many handoffs of information between sales, materials, and production.

Due to the rapid growth of the company, the sales team did not have a standardized process for releasing orders to production.  They were including a lot of written details about the job on the work order.  This created problems for the production team who were highly skilled in assembly, fitting and sewing, but struggled in reading written English.  As a result, the information was either misunderstood or had to be clarified, causing delays or defects.

Finally, the production team received the orders in large batches, without a clear sense of priority according to due date and work content.  Orders would often be “cherry-picked” by team members with the easier ones being completed first and the more difficult, time-consuming ones waiting until the end.  As the customer deadline neared, the team would rush on the large jobs, causing defects, delays to the installation team, and additional defects at installation.

Solution:

Previously, New Mexico MEP had worked with Rader Awning to provide Lean training and 5S for the production team which improved the organization of materials and supplies for the different departments.  This time, however, Rader Awning needed to address its information processes through an Administrative Value Stream Map (VSM).  Over the course of two days, New Mexico MEP worked with a team of employees from Sales, Materials, Production and Installation to evaluate the front office processes.  They created a current state map which captured the steps from Sales, Design, Order Processing, Ordering Materials, Field Measurement, Scheduling Production, and Staging for Installation.  Then the team reviewed and scrutinized each step for validity and appropriate assignment by asking – “Is it necessary? What is its purpose? When should it be done? Who should do it?”  Through this process of scrubbing and evaluating, the team naturally developed improvement ideas for the future state, which were then captured on an action plan.

Results:

As a result of the Value Stream Map, Rader Awning was able to address several issues regarding the information released to production.  Rather than taking 30 extra minutes to  add written notes, highlighted notes, and notes in bold red marker that were not read, not understood or misinterpreted, the sales team decided to provide the information in the method that could be understood by all – pictures and illustrations.  This would allow the sales team to gain an additional hour each day to process other orders or make new sales calls.  It also would release the orders to the materials department sooner and would reduce the amount of expediting charges.  And finally, production and installation would have a clear understanding of the project requirements.

Finally, Rader Awning resolved the scheduling issues that were creating backlogs to fabricate the awnings and install the orders.  They re-evaluated the release of the order packets to each department (weld, paint, fabric, installation), reduced the number of copies of order packets that were needed, and simply kept the paperwork with the product as it was moved from department to department.  They also designed a system for scheduling production and organizing the materials for jobs.  The team implemented visual tools so it was easy to see the estimated work content in hours and due dates and enabled the team to quickly prioritize the orders each day.

As result of the project, Rader Awning was able to realize 20% improvement in productivity for each salesperson, reduce production defects by 15%, and reduce rework at installation by 25%.

“New Mexico MEP has helped us to implement practical ways to prioritize orders for production and to provide information in a visual manner.  This helps us to reduce the chaos and confusion, and create a team that knows exactly what they need to build and when they need to build it.” – Jill Mowery-Litt, Co-Owner

 

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