QRM News

11
Apr

QRM Helps Put Freedman Seating Company in the Driver’s Seat

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Seats made by Freedman SeatingUsing QRM to cut lead time, enter new markets, and boost profitablilty by Kathleen Watson

Freedman Seating Company has operated for 120 years, developing new products to parallel the evolution of transportation in the United States. From upholstered seats for horse-drawn buggies to sleek seating for today’s high-speed trains, Freedman has kept pace with each new method of moving people around and between towns and cities.

A solid record of satisfying customers with quality products and on-time delivery has earned Freedman a reputation as a premier supplier of seating for a variety of vehicle types: airport and hotel shuttles; package-delivery trucks; and buses serving the school, luxury tour and public transportation markets.

“We thought we could just overlay our existing manufacturing model on this new market,” company president Craig Freedman says. “But lead times went up, sales went down, cash was dwindling and loans were rising. We came to realize that we were involved in two separate, distinct industries.”

New 4ONE line’s customization not good fit with existing products

Metal components for Freedman’s small- and mid-size bus customers don’t change much or often, so stocking some parts has been a reasonable practice. But the new 4ONE line, as it is called, brought multiple custom features and more stringent specifications; manufacturing it has required a different approach.

“We struggled for a couple of years,” says Production Director Gerardo Hernandez, a 19-year Freedman veteran. “At the end of 2008, we undertook a companywide initiative to implement Lean. We got a good start through 2009 and were making some progress, but the new 4ONE product line had made our business more complicated.”

“We thought we could just overlay our existing manufacturing model on this new market, but lead times went up, sales went down, cash was dwindling and loans were rising. We came to realize that we were involved in two separate, distinct industries.” - Craig Freedman, President

“Lean is good when you have repetition,” Hernandez says, “but Lean didn’t address the issues we were having with 4ONE. We were dealing with seating that was more customized, falling into the high-mix, low-volume category. We were struggling with inventory issues and knew that we had to modify our material-control system.”

As committed to personal development as he is to continuous improvement on the factory floor, Hernandez was in the midst of adding a certificate for operations management to his credentials in 2010 when he heard about QRM — Quick Response Manufacturing. He decided to attend a workshop in Madison, Wis., to learn more. On his return, he told Craig Freedman that QRM looked promising.

“I was tired of spending money on consultants to help us with Lean,” Freedman says. “We needed to be able to do more ourselves. We partnered with the QRM Center and had students come to our plant to help us analyze our problems and develop solutions. Our employees worked alongside the students, learning about QRM and how to apply it to their jobs.”

Read the rest of the article by downloading the full PDF.

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