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Parts are enameled at a facility in Bethel, Vermont.


in place a system that tests every part of its operation. In the past, Vermont Castings


would simply load mixed parts into a crate without much thought of the order they would be taken out. Te idea was to just get pieces into a box and out the door so they could be assembled into a stove. Doing business this way, however, was not efficient. It was classic batch manufacturing and generated large inventories. Starting in the summer of 2016,


Vermont Castings implemented a rigorous and detailed way of loading recyclable totes. Each tote would have the exact number of components for one stove. Tere would be no extra pieces, meaning every shipment had to include nothing but usable parts. One mistake, even a small one, means the stove cannot be completed, slowing down the assembly line and costing the company money. “To do what we do requires 100%


quality. Now you don’t have extra parts sitting in that tote,” Nelb said. “If you’ve got one bad one I’ll just get another out of the same tote. Tat’s not the case. Every part in that tote has to be perfect. Tat is a huge change for everybody, but it’s a change for the better.” Vermont Castings’ scrap rate sits


below 1%, meaning most totes don’t have the issue with unusable parts, but getting the right pieces into totes is not the only challenge. Part of the change in 2016 was also


the order of packing. Pieces are now placed in the totes in the opposite order of how they will be taken out in Halifax. For example, if a stove door is the first item the assembly line needs to remove


Vermont Casting manufactures just what it needs to fill orders.


from the tote, it is the last that somebody at Vermont Castings will place. Tis takes discipline and train-


ing. But the end result of increased efficiency is worth it. “I remember the practical side of me thought how are we going to do this?” said quality and business process improvement manager Michael Hud- son. “Now it’s normal.” It’s also effective. “Our quality continues to make


leap frog improvements,” Nelb said. “Quality inspection is performed by the members processing or packag- ing parts, and we have a disciplined process to error-proof every customer report of dissatisfaction.”


Looking Ahead The lean manufacturing and


ability to change-over their molding machines quickly provides Vermont Castings with some capacity to seek work outside of HHT. That makes up around 5-10% of their busi- ness and is mostly in kitchen and cookware. “Te OEM business is important


because we treat every customer with the highest regard, and we offer a quality and delivery model that is world-class” Nelb said. “We’re happy to entertain more, but it has to be the right type of business.” Vermont Castings also wants to be


the right place for future workers and its community. Like other manufactur- ers, a concern for Vermont Castings is finding new workers. By upgrad- ing and keeping the facility current, offering competitive compensation packages, including quarterly profit sharing, and investing in robotics and


CNC technologies, the goal is to be an employer of choice in the area. “I think there’s a lot of pride.


Tere’s pride in our products,” value stream manager Bill Corey said. “When members see them displayed, it’s something that goes a long way towards: this is what I do for a living. I make a product that’s a high value product in people’s homes.” Te investments by the parent


company have also included spending in energy efficiency. HHT invested $104,000 to upgrade the lighting to high efficiency LED fixtures and light- ing controls, saving $20,000 in annual electric bills. HHT also invested $460,000 to


upgrade the compressed air system foundry members rely on to power the equipment used throughout the manufacturing process. Working with Efficiency Vermont, HHT installed three new air compressor units online and used two newer compressors from a sister plant in Kentucky. “Te new lights will transform the


work environment to such an extent that even without the substantial cost savings, the impact on member morale and well- being justifies the cost,” Nelb said. “Te incentives that Efficiency Vermont pro- vided for both projects helped us make these improvements, but equally valuable was the expert advice they provided in helping us select qualified contractors and the right equipment and technology for our needs.” Tose upgrades will help Vermont Castings move into the future. It’s a future Nelb is eagerly anticipating. “We’re on the front edge of


the new era,” he said. “We’ll see it through.”


July 2018 MODERN CASTING | 23


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