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Productivity Jump Helps Firm Win Lambeau Contract

You don't have to be a huge operation with hundreds of employees to reap the benefits of lean manufacturing. Even the smallest of companies see lean as a powerful tool to improve productivity and attract new customers.

Milwaukee-based House of Stone witnessed this firsthand after landing a major contract for the Lambeau Field Renovation Project. The contract represents nearly a 20 percent increase in sales this year for the company, which employs 11 and is located in the heart of Milwaukee's old industrial district.

House of Stone manufactures granite and marble counter tops used in commercial and residential construction. For the Lambeau project, it will fabricate the DuPont Zodiaq™ quartz-surface counter tops used in luxury skyboxes, public restrooms and concession stands.

"The efforts we made to streamline our operations and increase productivity allowed us to take on a large commercial project like this," said Korkut Colakoglu, co-owner. "We've got the capacity to complete this project within the critical time frame. We knew going in that the Packers aren't going to wait."

House of Stone has increased productivity 40 to 60 percent as a result of a recent project with the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP). The productivity boost will allow the company to process about $400,000 to $500,000 more in business with its existing workforce, and without having to add new equipment or plant space, said co-owner Jim Perdzock. Milwaukee-based manufacturing specialist Wayne Raisleger said small firms like House of Stone have much to gain from lean initiatives.

Through a process similar to value stream mapping, a lean tool used to identify waste, Raisleger helped to identify bottlenecks and constraint points throughout the company - from order entry to fabrication to product delivery.

One example of non-value added time (waste) was the amount of time people spent looking for tools. Individual toolboxes were assigned, and tools have been color coded for ease in locating. Procedures in the front office also were revamped and streamlined to save time and money. The movement of materials within the plant was streamlined as well.

Colakoglu said the company knew there was room for improvement, but like other small firms, didn't have the time or internal resources to tackle the problem on its own. "WMEP gave us a new point of view, a different way of looking at things," he said.

The company is already more profitable, he adds. "The time and labor savings have reduced our overhead and overtime tremendously."

One special challenge facing the company was its diverse workforce and the fact that several languages are spoken by employees.

"I give these folks so much credit," said Raisleger. "Everything I said had to be translated."Raisleger soon realized many of the employees were visual learners.

The Principles of Lean workshop offered at Milwaukee Area Technical College(MATC) was a good way for employees to "see" what happens in a lean environment. Employee translators also helped explain the concepts.

Perdzock and Colakoglu have been running the company since 1999. Perdzock has been in the stone fabrication and installation industry for about 20 years; Colakoglu, a native of Turkey, came to the U.S. in 1991 and obtained a Master's Degree in construction management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They each had their own companies prior to creating House of Stone.

House of Stone is on a major growth track. Since 1999 it's expanded from a 3,000 to 20,000 square foot plant and has picked up many new customers.

"We're excited about our future growth prospects," said Colakoglu. "We're looking forward to accomplishing great things in the future."

"Much of the credit for this goes to our employees," said Perdzock. "We've got a great team here."

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WMEP provides technical expertise and hands-on implementation assistance to small and midsize manufacturing firms on advanced manufacturing technologies and business practices includinglean manufacturing, ISO, value chain management, and strategic repositioning services for manufacturers and manufacturing facilities located in Wisconsin.

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