The Center is focusing on three types of innovations that can transform today’s wood products companies: Lean Manufacturing, Mass Customization and Transformational Organizational Development.
The Center offers financial and technical assistance to manufacturers in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and northern New York to implement these and potentially other transformational innovations. Financial assistance ranges up to $20,000 (or more in extraordinary cases) and can provide up to half the cost of hiring outside experts. Our team will work with companies to help identify innovation projects that have the most potential for transformational change, and can make referrals to top experts.
Lean is an effective tool for increasing profitability through increased efficiency and customer satisfaction, for positioning the company for significant growth, and for saving and creating jobs. Successful Lean implementation is also an important component of a successful implementation of a Mass Customization business model.
Properly implemented, Lean Manufacturing has been shown to substantially increase quality control and labor productivity, and dramatically reduce manufacturing lead times and inventory and related costs.
Lean Manufacturing uses a series of proven principles and tools designed to eliminate or minimize waste in manufacturing due to over-production, unnecessary inventory, over-processing, waiting, unnecessary movement of products and employees, and product rejects.
The proven methods, tools and concepts that are associated with Lean can be applied in virtually every aspect of the company. To create lasting transformation, Lean needs to be an ongoing process with leadership from management and buy-in from employees. It is critical to integrate Lean thinking as part of a company’s culture.
Additional resources for Lean Manufacturing.
Mass Customization uses advances in manufacturing and information technology to produce made-to-order items that are tailored to the customer’s needs, but are manufactured with cost efficiency and short lead times. The customer typically has access to an on-line design and visualization tool engineered to work in tandem with a back office process that generates a list of materials and parts for production.
Mass Customization is not traditional mass production. Nor is it craft production. It combines the best features of both while minimizing drawbacks. Mass Customization is a great strategy to combat overseas competition.
The increase in consumer online product research and purchasing gives manufacturers an excellent opportunity to evolve toward Mass Customization, personalization and co-creation strategies. These strategies give customers more options without compromising efficiency or quick delivery. Some pioneers in this field include Dell Computer and myAdidas.
With the exception of the kitchen cabinet industry, the U.S. wood products industry has generally been slow to take advantage of Mass Customization opportunities. The Center’s initiative is beginning to change that in our region. Whether it’s business-to- business or business-to-consumer, Mass Customization is a good strategy to combat competition, better attract and serve customers, achieve higher margins and other benefits.
Additional resources for Mass Customization.
Transformational Organizational Development
The leadership skills of key individuals in a wood products company regarding planning, communication, facilitation, collaboration, and conflict resolution are critical to company success. Dramatically improving these skills can greatly enhance performance and position a company to implement future innovations.
Transformational Organizational Development focuses on:
- Implementing effective and systematic planning, including marketing, operating, financial and human resource plans
- Creating a culture of change that supports innovation, encourages teamwork, resolves conflicts and encourages personal growth
Additional resources for Organizational Development.