Chris Jaquez, president of Industrial Cooling Exchangers Ltd. (ICE) knew little about New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership before 2017, when Four Corners innovation director Denise Williams met him at a local economic development function.
Then “she kind of popped in (to ICE’s Aztec facility) and said she was aware of us and gave us the rundown of what they do,” Jaquez said of New Mexico MEP, a nonprofit organization that helps manufacturers transform their operations to become more profitable and competitive.
Because the northwest corner of the state has fewer manufacturers than more densely populated cities where New Mexico MEP has offices, Williams said, “We look for customers and build relationships. I would drop by (ICE) and say hello, and he finally asked me to attend one of their group meetings.”
Thus began a six-year partnership between New Mexico MEP and ICE, a father-son business that fabricates large-scale cooling systems for businesses working in the oil and gas, mining and power-generation industries. Besides selling and servicing heat exchangers and coolers, ICE employees can repair, rebuild, replace, clean and refurbish radiators, fuel tanks, fans and louvers, among other equipment.
The MEP-ICE collaboration began with Williams leading an onsite seminar to introduce the ICE work force to lean concepts. The session featured hands-on activities to show how small changes in a fabrication plant or office can improve efficiency and eliminate waste and redundancies.
Williams then visited the plant during a routine workday to study how workers did their various jobs. “It was mostly process management, to help us see gaps in our workflow,” Jaquez said.
Once Williams understood the rationale for the company’s procedures and practices, she offered ideas for how the company could better track its inventory and restructure and reorganize some workspaces. New Mexico MEP also helped secure a grant that allowed ICE to revamp its website to make potential customers more aware of its products and services.
“It’s made our customers more aware of how dynamic we are in our offerings,” Jaquez said of the website project. “That’s definitely brought us more customers and more traffic to our business.”
What Jaquez calls ICE’s “lean journey” includes training in various aspects of lean methodology, including the basics of 5S: a system designed to optimize productivity by organizing, cleaning and decluttering workspaces.
The relationship is ongoing, with training seminars and projects conducted at least once a year.
The onsite classes and other sessions “have helped employees see where they can step into other roles and take some ownership” of the job, Jaquez said. “Production has improved.”
He added, “She’s been very instrumental in providing information and making sure we are in the loop about classes and grants that are available. It’s been easy to arrange (training). They’ve been very flexible, working around our schedule. She is definitely a team player and wants to see us succeed.”
Email New Mexico MEP for more information about how its services can help your business. To learn more about ICE, visit iceexchangers.com.