EMI Industries - Thinking Globally, Delivering Locally
Over the past several years, a number of fixture companies have acquired new facilities (often at distressed prices) as others have gone out of business. Some simply change the name on the building and continue to operate as they always have, while others work to incorporate the new facilities into their day-to-day operations, at various levels.
When Tampa, Fla.-based fixture company EMI Industries decided to create a multi-plant solution by adding manufacturing capabilities in various key regions of the country, executives believed that it made sense to replicate many of the manufacturing strategies the company had implemented in its Tampa headquarters. In addition, they wanted to be sure they could capitalize on new, emerging technologies to benefit their company and their customers.
The basic covenants of EMI’s plan, as envisioned by EMI’s president, Alan Harvill, stressed the importance of ultimate flexibility, low overall cost of ownership, sustainable processes, maximum responsiveness, and one-piece flow manufacturing. “The primary objective of our multi-region strategy is to provide our customers with a competitive advantage so they can successfully grow their business,” says Harvill.
To do what Harvill and key executives Jim Stifler and Peter Schaller envisioned, all of the company’s factories were designed on the same basic platform, focusing on state-of-the-art machinery, training personnel, inspiring leadership, centralizing production data, and implementing a universal system specifically designed to manage the production on an “all for one, one for all” theory.
The theory was that all locations would act independently and yet could be utilized by the corporate planners to balance the workload and/or take advantage of special requirements either by geography or talent. For example, a facility strategically located near a major customer could fulfill orders more quickly while reducing logistical costs. Also, since each facility would have the same manufacturing capabilities, if one was at full capacity, another facility could help get new jobs completed on time.
In addition to the company’s Tampa corporate office and manufacturing facility, EMI secured additional properties in Arlington, Texas; Alpharetta, Ga.; Boonton, N.J.; and Cranston, R.I. Each location was positioned near key clients in geographic areas with major transportation hubs.
Each of the five facilities utilizes essentially the same basic machinery and compatible software that allows them to take advantage of standard programming applications that facilitate part, unit, and job sharing. A key benefit is that the design, engineering, and production process can take place without regard to which location will ultimately fabricate it. In addition, as each factory is so similar to the others, all best practices can be realized to maximize efficiency.
In an industry that is constantly under assault, requiring new and demanding designs as well as shrinking deadlines, Harvill says that the company has benefited from the new model. By utilizing this “all for one, one for all” approach, he says the company is able to respond in a predictable strategy to gain advantage over industry competition located in single, large facilities. Through the use of redundant process machinery, cost of support, training, and obsolescence have been minimized.
One noteworthy benefit, Harvill says, is the cross-training of employees. Because machinery is similar in each plant, key personnel can move from plant to plant to maximize efficiencies. In addition, preventative maintenance cycles are more predictable, given the data accumulated by the company’s custom manufacturing software. Repair-or-replace decisions are more straightforward and solutions are more obvious.
The store fixture industry is known for its ability to respond to all manner of customer design requirements. With new products being introduced every week, part processing flexibility was a key component of the plan. The decision to replicate many of EMI’s existing production solutions with similar machinery and software in each plant allowed the company to predict part flow, process time, quality, and more. Other management objectives were also met, such as cross-training, predictable service costs, and exacting tolerances. By replicating the capabilities in each plant, corporate planners are also able to move production around as needed.
Production flow and flexibility determined much of the ultimate choice of machinery and the plant layout that serves to “direct traffic” of all the various pieces and parts. It was decided that traditional plantflow methods utilizing a forklift and the company’s pallet system was going to work best and drive the ultimate flexibility they desired. Primary materials can include melamine, HPL, high-grade plywood, raw flakeboard, and MDF.
Panel Saw or Nested Based
To drive maximum flexibility, EMI decided to use both panel saw and nested-based techniques. By doing this, the product component type would determine which method was appropriate. Production planners could monitor equipment utilization and balance the plant flow for maximum efficiency. The Tampa facility was a leader in introducing this flexible system and the decision to replicate its benefits was part of the original mission.
Each plant also has some unique talents and capabilities of its own. Some locations have metalworking production and others have wood finishing.