Most Innovative Plant

Champion's Plant
Windows now move straight from final assembly to the loading dock at Champion.

Champion Window
Manufacturing Co. LLC

Cincinnati, Ohio

The Champion Lean Supply Chain is a vertically integrated system flowing from manufacturing to the consumer. Strategically, this is a significant part of the company's customer value proposition and provides it with a distinct competitive advantage in the replacement window and home improvement market where it sells directly to the homeowner.

Six years ago, in response to the voice of the customer, Champion's executive team infused the window manufacturing operation with best-in-class practices. Part of Champion's vision for the ultimate customer experience included a three-phase, long term plan for a lean, waste-free manufacturing system. In addition to bringing that vision to its window manufacturing operations, Champion also introduced new strategies at its entry door and room enclosure production operations.

Window Manufacturing
Phase one of the strategic plan converted the window plant from a push to a pull system. The improved master scheduling process now starts with customer orders from the company's 69 sales and service locations around the country. Truckloads of complete orders are scheduled seven days prior to shipment. The quantity of truckloads varies with demand.

Champion's Plant2
New equipment added as part of the window plant upgrade included an glass cutting line with automatic glass drop and a butterfly assembly table.

Constraints within manufacturing were identified and all other processes were subordinated to the constraint. Work cells and assembly lines were analyzed to eliminate waste. Purchased parts kanbans were implemented, reducing inventory by 27 percent. Within the first year, the fill rate of customer orders improved to 97.1 percent. After three years, the fill rate improved to better than 99 percent. The number of shipping associates needed to support manufacturing was reduced by more than 50 percent.

Phase two of the overhaul consisted of purchasing new equipment to improve ergonomics, safety, manufacturing quality, capacity, operational flexibility and redundancy. To improve safety, automatic drop tables were added in the cutting area. Also, a butterfly assembly table was added to the glass line. Two ergonomic vacuum lift manipulators were added for employees handling heavy glass. Employee cross training was enhanced to maximize flexibility in the product mix.

Major changes to the plant layout were implemented directing all final assembly operations straight to the loading dock. Adding ring wrappers minimized handling and placed packaging within the assembly line. Queues between operations were reduced more than 90 percent.

The most recent phase has involved eliminating the warehouse and loading production straight from assembly onto a trailer. Custom-made windows are batched and sequenced in reverse order of delivery to enable efficient loading. This resulted in a 77 percent reduction in warehouse floor space needed. An excess of 30,000 square feet was made available for other manufacturing needs.

Entry Doors
In its entry door business, the reengineering process started five years ago impacted sales, installation, customer service, manufacturing and finance. It involved cultural and process changes coupled with moving into a renovated 50,000 square foot facility. Big gains in sales (+121 percent), quality (+39 percent), output (+89.4 percent), reduced labor costs (-9.6 percent) and improved delivery performance (+220 percent) were realized over 4 years.

Keys to the improvement were empowerment of the direct labor associates with the introduction of the Toyota Production System coupled with the addition of a state-of-the-art "green-friendly" infrared oven.

Champion's Plant3
New coating equipment in the door plant helped improve quality and efficiency, as well as make the operation more environmentally friendly. Champion also implemented process improvements to improve organization and flow in the facility.

With a transition from a classic form of management to a coaching/mentoring management style, Champion has worked to break down the layers of communication. Each hourly associate has been transitioned into a manufacturing professional with total ownership of their quality, safety, housekeeping, and attendance. This ownership is encouraged and rewarded. The door division has adopted the philosophy of "building the quality in" versus "inspecting it in," along with a "quality at the source" process, which requires each cell to be a supplier to the next operation and a customer of the cell preceding them. Each cell has the right of rejection if the material does not meet specifications.

The company uses a pull-type manufacturing process with one piece, repetitive flow between 11 in-line manufacturing cells. Value stream planning and mapping developed the flow for the facility, with each cell then ergonomically designed to minimize all types of waste. The plant is completely visual (Visual Factory). Hourly associates use these indicators and move from cell to cell making each associate more productive.

The other key to improvements are the two conveyor-driven coating/stain infared ovens Champion invested in. These systems are electric and use no natural gas. They shut down immediately and fire up in a matter of minutes, using less energy than gas-fired systems with longer start up and shut down cycles. The curing time for coating on doors has also gone from 72 hours to less than 5 minutes, providing a hard surface that is more user friendly during final assembly and installation.

The coating booth has excellent ventilation and one spray gun for white and one gun on a color changer that can change between any one of 12 water-based, environmentally friendly colors in less than 30 seconds. This process has eliminated the need for setup and aligned the booth for one piece flow.

A second stain infared oven replicates the coating system but on a smaller scale. The company has reduced the hand-staining time by about 80 percent due to a new carrier that is ergonomically designed to be at the optimum position for the associate, thus increasing their dexterity during the shift, translating into higher quality.

These new systems were installed in under four weeks and came up to speed quickly. Downtime on the system has been limited to four hours over a two year period. This was accomplished by using the kaizen principles and failure mode and effect analysis. FMEA breaks the system down by area and anticipates what can go wrong. The team then designs their way around it. This process brought together the equipment supplier, management and the hourly associates, bringing out the best each had to offer. It also transferred the responsibility of this equipment from the supplier directly to the work force. Thus, when the equipment was installed the hourly associates were right there to take ownership.

Patio Enclosures
In Champion's enclosure business, the company leadership realized that if growth and profitability were to continue at a rapid pace, the unit would need to move from an entrepreneurial style to one of operational excellence. This transformation went into high gear in 2003, when a lean deployment strategy was developed. Key elements of the plan included a plant layout redesign, the development of a preventive maintenance system, demand leveling and pull systems, the implementation of a quality improvement process, and a shift to a more performance-driven workforce. The plant was redesigned in several phases using value stream mapping to guide the efforts.

Phase one saw the introduction of one-piece-flow cells and pull systems, which greatly reduced required manufacturing footprints and supported flow. Partnering with suppliers to redesign material packaging, which significantly improved safety and storage requirements of materials was phase two. Phase three featured the implementation of 5 S organization of all materials. When complete, there was not a single piece of material, equipment or process that had not been moved. The plant was configured for flow, eliminating waste throughout manufacturing and supporting material handling processes.

This journey into operational excellence freed up space facilitating additional entrepreneurial opportunities for the company, including the introduction of its Basement Living System and motorized retractable awning businesses.

While the plant was physically transforming, change was happening within the culture of the workforce. Professionalism, attention to detail and customer focus were cultivated. Plant metrics were developed, goals established and progress communicated to facilitate the improvement process. A performance management system tied to these principles was implemented to formally connect workers' performance to plant goals. Standard operating procedures were developed and training was improved with documented procedures to formally instruct workers on how to perform their jobs-together creating a foundation for a system that "Builds in Quality."

Using 2004 as a baseline, these improvements contributed to a 53 percent improvement in customer quality, 18 percent productivity increase, 70 percent line fill rate improvement, 26 percent labor cost improvement, 48 percent order fill rate improvement, 100 percent elimination of overtime, 62 percent reduction in safety incidents, 56 percent attendance system improvement, 48 percent reduction in internal defects/scrap, and a 15 percent reduction in plant operating expenses. As part of a green initiative, the company also made great strides in improved scrap recycling to include all major raw materials.

Although Champion invested in new equipment as part of the overhaul of its three operations, once again, our winner for Most Innovative Plant reflects the importance of people and processes in manufacturing.


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