Community Enrichment Starts on the Factory Floor at Largo Tank

When Adam Wagoner talks about community, he’s probably referring to rapidly suiting up to fight a fire, leading a Cub Scout troop, or coaching a sports team. Wagoner, a volunteer firefighter, joins his business partners in supporting community groups in all these ways.

Wagoner is an owner and vice president of Largo Tank and Equipment, a three-location manufacturing and service facility for truck-mounted equipment, fire equipment, truck tanks, and tank trailers in the Four Corners region. It’s on the floor of Largo Tank’s combined 35,000 square foot facilities where the company’s owners focus their most enduring acts of community enrichment: offering support and development opportunities to the company’s 54 workers. It’s one of the reasons employees remain with the company for decades.

Largo’s focus is welding and mechanical service work on all types of semi-trailers, tankers, and truck-mounted equipment. The company holds an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) U-stamp for pressure vessel manufacturing and an R-stamp for pressure vessel repairs.

As a registered Department of Transportation shop, it performs inspections and repairs on nearly all types of hazardous materials cargo tanks, and its certified mechanics can repair air brakes and perform inspections. The company’s truck equipment division has hydraulic repair specialists, and its parts division stocks thousands of common and not-so-common parts representing hundreds of brands.

In 2014, Wagoner attended a Lean 101 workshop conducted by Denise Williams, Northwest Region Innovation Director for New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), when it hit him that lean strategies would be a good fit for Largo Tank’s longstanding company culture of promoting from within and encouraging professional development among workers.

Lean training engages and encourages workers to find solutions to challenges. It is one of the tools used by New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (New Mexico MEP), a nonprofit organization that helps businesses transform their operations to increase productivity.

Wagoner, who was already knowledgeable about lean concepts, invited New Mexico MEP to conduct multiple lean trainings for staff. The results motivated him to explore additional ways New Mexico MEP could help employees and the company.

For example, when expansion was planned, Wagoner summoned New Mexico MEP, which guided the company through Value Stream Mapping to review and adjust the facility layout. Before the expansion was complete, employees were trained in an efficiency technique known as 5S in the Workplace. Continuous Improvement Tools were also implemented, helping the company stay on top of workflow changes.

“Denise gave us the tools and her time to implement [lean strategies] in a group that had never dealt with it before. She really broke it down to a digestible level for our employees,” Wagoner said.

One of the most helpful tools provided by New Mexico MEP, Wagoner said, has been getting everyone comfortable talking with one another.

“The biggest impact has been facilitating conversations where we had the guys on the floor discussing with the guys in the parts department where their frustrations came from. It helped us resolve some of the underlying tensions and improved our processes,” he said.

Those conversations resulted in role changes and the addition of three new workers in the parts department.

When Williams learned the company was manufacturing products for outdoor recreation, she connected Wagoner with economic developers building the state’s outdoor recreation industry. “She’s been very helpful. She helped get us involved in speaking at a couple of events,” he said.

Largo Tank’s ten-year relationship with New Mexico MEP has also encompassed automation, helping the company introduce robotics to some of its repetitive processes. And a new inventory management system, purchased after discussions with Williams, resulted in a 95 percent reduction in inventory loss in the year the system was deployed.

“Our profit has increased over ten times what it was,” said Wagoner. “Last year was the most successful in our company’s history, and a lot of that is because of [improved] cash flow.”

Learn more about Largo Tank and Equipment.