After eight-year quest, Grand Rapids firm wins coveted global manufacturing award

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

This week Micron Manufacturing, a Grand Rapids precision machining manufacturer with just 30 employees, earned the 2009 Shingo Silver Medallion—an award normally given to large corporations. Just 16 companies worldwide earned the prize in 2008.

The Shingo Prize is the highest recognition for lean manufacturing processes that streamline the operations of an entire company, not just the operations on the shop floor. For Micron, the quest has taken eight years, but company leaders say the payoff is worth it—for the company and its customers.

“In the past we’ve used 47 people to produce the same sales volume we did last year with just 30 employees,” says Dan Vermeesch, plant manager. “Our lead time in 2000 was 49 work days (about seven weeks) from order to ship date; in 2008 it was 12 days.”

Raw material no longer sits around for weeks before it’s used. Micron was able to use money it used to have tied up in materials to buy CNC (computer numerical control) equipment.

“In 2000 we had no product made by CNC machines,” Vermeesch says. “Last year 38 percent was from CNC equipment and in ‘09 it will be 50 percent. This equipment is an accelerator for us, but we had to have lean systems first.”

The decision apply for the Shingo Prize and use the prize guidelines taught the company what world-class lean efforts really were. Micron was already employing lean processes on the shop floor, but hadn’t expanded the concepts to the entire company. Developing a quarterly strategic plan, empowering employees to do and improve their jobs, and enabling employees to effect changes in the company are basic steps to lasting corporate-wide efficiencies.

“Our entire company is part of it,” Vermeesch says, “and without that you do not win the Shingo award.”

Source: Dan Vermeesch, Micron Manufacturing; Tim Mroz, Right Place, Inc.

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at [email protected].