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Raising the Bar at Alexandria Industries

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Alexandria IndustriesMaking the transition to Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) from traditional manufacturing philosophies and practices doesn’t come easily. Just ask Tom Schabel, CEO of Alexandria Industries.

“Are there challenges to implementing QRM? Absolutely,” Schabel says. “So many QRM concepts are contrary to traditional manufacturing.”

But the rewards become evident, and they’ve all been measurable for Alexandria: reduced lead times, consistent on-time deliveries, improved quality, expanded product lines and market share, targeted acquisitions — and best of all, highly satisfied customers. “If we strayed from our QRM philosophy, our customers would be more than a little upset with us,” Schabel says.

Continuous improvement has been continuous goal

The Alexandria Extrusion of a decade ago had been in constant pursuit of continuous improvement. “We’d always used continuous-improvement tools, but we saw only incremental change,” Schabel says. “Our CFO got a brochure about QRM, so he decided to see what it was all about. After attending the basic two-day seminar, he said, ‘Hey, I think we might have something here.’”

That brief introduction gave rise to internal discussions about QRM’s focus on lead-time reduction and a review of Alexandria’s on-time delivery metrics. Schabel realized that of the improvement techniques used to that point, none had much influence on delivery time. Members of Alexandria’s executive management team signed up for the next QRM training event.

"If we strayed from our QRM philosophy, our customers would be more than a little upset with us," - Tom Schabel, CEO

Orienting executives was a good first step, but it was only the beginning. The company purchased several copies of QRM founder Rajan Suri’s seminal book on the subject — Quick Response Manufacturing: A Companywide Approach to Reducing Lead Times — and senior leadership formed a study group.

Other book-study groups followed. Business Integration Coordinator Jeff Cypher, who was instrumental in the QRM transition, says, “We’d go through the book and look at each other and laugh. We were doing the exact opposite of what QRM recommended.” Gradually, everyone in the company, whether directly involved in a QRM-based transition or not, got at least an overview of what QRM was as well as how and why it worked. Those who would be involved in integrating QRM into their work area participated in more in-depth training.

Since 2002, nearly 300 Alexandria employees have spent time in book-study groups or completed some form of QRM orientation, either in-house or at standard QRM Center-conducted events. And it continues. “The key is to develop a mindset that supports QRM,” Schabel says, so those involved can provide critical input about the changes that will be made and the goals they create for themselves as a team and as individuals. 

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

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