Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Air Suspension Conversion Kits: Giving You Quality and Savings in the New Economy

Recently, at Strutmasters.com, the demand for our air suspension conversion kits has grown significantly. This caused us to rethink our entire production department. For several years we have run as a "Lean Manufacturing" business.

This approach keeps you as close to zero inventory as possible. You can predict from your sales history, your growth pattern and order inventory for production that will keep you as close to zero inventory as desired. This worked very well for us until this year. With the impending economic downturn, our sales have skyrocketed and predicting future requirements has become almost impossible. Ultimately, we had to rethink our entire operation.
First, we decided to ramp up our suspension inventory. But before we went there, we invited all of our vendors in to make sure that they could fully understand our new goals. We wanted to make sure that our vendors were really our partners. We had to get them to ramp up in a time when they are usually ramping down. Once we had all of our vendor-partners on board, we looked at what it would take for us produce a lot more product. We began interviewing the many applicants that recently came our way because of local area layoffs. Since we were already lean and mean, we couldn't ask our present employees/team members to do much more. We were very fortunate to hire several very good folks.
With some extra help on board, we set out on a plan to completely revamp our entire production department. Initially we hired a "Quality Control Manager" who has been informed that our goal is to quality control our product all the way to the customer's door. So as we were redesigning our suspension production operation, we kept quality control as the top priority. This meant that we not only looked at how we build our product, but how we package the product, how we store it, how it was stacked on pallets, and how it was loaded on UPS trucks for deliver.
Previously, our assembly area had been very adequate but under the new plan we would need a much larger area to store our suspension solutions. We changed the assembly area to become a "boxing the product" room. It's a clean climate controlled area and is where the final quality control inspections will be made.

Product will then be placed on palletized on plastic in house pallets for uniformity and neatness. Because we are going to greatly increase our suspension production, we had to separate the raw goods and finished product storage area. We more than tripled our shelving and pallet racks. We cleaned out a 40,000 square foot area for receiving product. We relocated our cardboard baler and compactor near the doors to the docks.

Our plan is to un-box raw goods after they are received in inventory, then get all the empty boxes ground up and bailed for recycling. We have contracted with our local sheltered workshop to come in and take care of the un-boxing. Raw goods will be removed from the boxes and put into plastic bins. We are also using the workers from the sheltered workshop to build boxes and assemble some small suspension components that are well within their range of function. Supervisors accompany them to insure quality.
The large strut machine that handles 24 at a time had to be relocated to handle more traffic. Everyone has been cross trained in all areas and then placed where they are happy and productive. Instead of building for two weeks out, we are now building two months at a time on each product until it's boxed, wrapped in plastic, palletized and shelved. The result is increased production that allows us to be prepared for the increased orders in this economy when folks are keeping their cars and looking for a fair deal on suspension solutions and great service.
Our project is a work in progress as we find things everyday we can improve on. We meet almost daily with our teams and discuss better ways of keeping our operation efficient so we can continue to make sure that our suspension products are available at affordable prices and most of all that it is quality controlled all the way to the customers door.

It's the Strutmaster way...