Minneapolis-based Atlas Manufacturing has been serving customers for more than 50 years. The precision sheet metal manufacturer engineers and builds custom metal products for a variety of original equipment manufacturer clients across the telecommunications, retail, medical and industrial markets. If it’s made of metal, chances are it can be made by Atlas Manufacturing.
As the recession spread across the manufacturing sector, Atlas felt the effects. Sales decreased and customers began asking for shorter lead times, sometimes in as little as three days. Producing quality products remained a given, but competitive pricing also was crucial to the company’s success in the Twin Cities metro area, which houses an abundance of custom metal manufacturers. Atlas’s leadership decided to invest in improving its processes to accommodate these new demands, but were unsure about how to proceed. After all, Atlas was a custom manufacturer with processes that tended to vary with each order. They needed a solution that helped make lean process improvement work in their business.
Atlas worked with Enterprise Minnesota on creating a value stream mapping (VSM) process that tracks work flow and total costs. A VSM looks at how the flow of work impacts the total costs, and helps develop methods to improve processes. A dozen Atlas employees participated and learned how minimal waste and maximized efficiency paired with best-in-class equipment would bring the most value to the customer and, over time, the best profit margin to the company.
Guided by the VSM, Atlas identified wastes in its work flow and eliminated non-value added processes, materials, and activities. Equipment and process improvements helped Atlas Manufacturing accommodate shorter lead times more easily than ever with lead times for many orders dropping to three or four days. Shorter lead times have meant happier customers and opportunities for adding new business. This has enabled Atlas to cut down inventory, which freed up the company to sell its additional 10,000 square foot storage building and improve its cash flow. Today, Atlas is hiring new workers and trying to keep up with orders.