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12/04/08 Sacramento Company Cleans-up -- Process Improvement Saves $100,000

In down economy, Sierra College trains businesses in cost cutting tools that boost productivity

ROCKLIN – In less than 45 days, Comtek Computer Systems (comtekcomsys.com) with Sierra College (sierracollegetraining.com) trained 300 employees to re-evaluate the effectiveness of their work space, eliminating over $100,000 in excess or unused tools, rework equipment and supplies, according to Steve Tichy, Business Process Analyst for Comtek. “As a result, excess materials uncovered by the evaluation are being returned to suppliers and other ‘found resources’ add up to future savings,” said Tichy. “Plus, workers from the plant floor to the office areas now can visually see all the tools they need to do their jobs, increasing productivity and giving our company a competitive advantage.”

In the current business climate, businesses are using Lean Process Improvement techniques to cut waste and increase efficiency. Comtek’s dramatic savings were possible because of 5S -- a Lean business tool that stands for Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. Sierra College Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT) is working with local businesses to identify and cut waste, as well as utilize existing resources more effectively, to improve the bottom line. These tools will enable prudent companies to survive in the current economy. “We were absolutely blown away by how much excess had piled up over the decade of growing a start-up company,” said Tichy.

For Energy Absorption Systems, a 40-year-old company in Rocklin, the Sierra College Process Improvement training helped staff rethink processes that had been adopted over the years according to Aaron Cox, Continuous Improvement Team Leader. “We’ve saved time, reduced redundancy, eliminated errors and increased consistency using more standardized processes to replace duplicated systems that had grown with the company,” said Cox. “Rather than having multiple spread sheets and databases of information, we are now planning to replace them with our ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] software in 2009 so all departments can use the same system and functions can be automated.”

Energy Absorption Systems has also sought ways to reduce “inventory time/wait time” when an operation is waiting to be processed by another employee, explained Cox. “If a plan is checked by three people, you lose time while it sits in each person’s in-box,” said Cox. “If the process changes to require only two checkers, you save one person’s time plus the wait time between checkers. We are also eliminating steps and combining procedures. For example, engineers now have the option of making minor changes on drawings themselves without having to wait for technical services so a project can proceed. This makes our company more responsive to customers.”

According to Sierra College trainer, Jes Vargas, only about 5% of work performed actually produces value for the customer. “Elimination of true waste requires that you focus on 95% of the activity that is non-valued added to the customer,” said Vargas. “For instance, overproduction to keep people working and the machine running actually wastes resources. When a company overproduces, it has to handle, store, insure and risk obsolesce of the excess material.”

In addition to Process Improvement training for employers, Sierra College Workforce Development & Continuing Education Division offers customized business training in soldering, supervision, communication and other business topics, and is currently offering a series of Supply Chain Management classes for individuals. These courses are co-sponsored with the Sacramento Chapter of the Association for Operations Managers (apicsacramento.com). The next class on Execution & Control of Operations starts January 13 in Roseville, CA at the Sierra Gateway Campus. The next two classes are Master Planning of Resources, starting March 3 and Strategic Management of Resources, starting April 21. Supply Chain Management is another tool to help local companies facing a difficult economy.

The mission of the Workforce Development & Continuing Education Division is to deliver flexible learning opportunities that produce change. Since 1997, the Sierra College CACT has worked with manufacturers and technology companies in Northern California from Sacramento to the Oregon border. For more information, go to www.sierracollegetraining.com or contact Carol Pepper-Kittredge, Sierra College Workforce Development and Continuing Education at (916) 660-7801.

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