What is the motivation to invest in a manufacturing area refresh? Productivity and efficiency to be sure, yet intangibles can be witnessed as well. Here is a case where employee inspiration to build the best was just as important.
Cicoil Corporation, located just outside Los Angeles in the Santa Clarita Valley, is a manufacturer of high performance flat cable products. The unique attributes of Cicoil’s extruded, silicone jacketed cables have made them an essential resource for aerospace, military, motion control and robotics application. Cicoil manufactures their cables into very precise assemblies for critical, often failure-intolerant, use.
While being in business for decades, the management of Cicoil was recently taken over by company President Howard Lind. Mr. Lind brought a determination to modernize the assembly process at Cicoil.
Lind inherited an assembly area that had long before lost whatever efficiencies it was originally designed with—cramped, cluttered, and in short: uninspiring and productivity challenged. He observed that two layers of renovation were needed: a new layout of the production area built around cellular activity, and, just as importantly, new technical furnishings that would facilitate precision work and make the statement to visitors and employees alike that “quality”, “care”, and “capability” are attributes embraced by the company.
Cicoil President, Howard Lind, stands before the outdated assembly area he inherited when taking over at Cicoil.
A pre-renovation assembler at a typical workbench. Note the clutter and crude electrical supply boxes and conduits.
This forest of clamped on task lights was how poor lighting was dealt with. A tangle of electrical wires and power strips added to the general clutter and disorganization that Lind was determined to eliminate.
Lind took it upon himself to conduct the search for the new workbenches. He had the vision of a jewelry factory: clean and pristine. He ultimately selected IAC Industries in Brea, California after viewing the product selection on their website. “I was impressed by IAC’s attention to ergonomics and their obvious build quality. They are very well-built, with a lot of attention to detail, and the finish promises to be very durable,” Lind explains. “I went with IAC’s Workmaster™ E-Series workbenches which, aside from being the best quality I looked at, are pretty standard-type benches, yet still offered all the associated add-ons that we needed. “
When asked about the deployment and selection of components for the workbenches, Lind explains, “From a production standpoint I had two main manufacturing philosophies that I wanted to employ. The first was to convert to the use of cellular manufacturing techniques. This significantly improves quality and reduces waste by more rapidly identifying issues within the assembly process. We now know immediately when a flaw enters the assembly flow, not after dozens of bad parts have been made. Secondly, I wanted 5S Methodology. In short, we basically took away everything from the work area and brought back exactly only what was needed. This meant that each workbench had to have every tool needed by an operator to conduct their tasks. And conversely, we had to eliminate any extra shelving, drawers, cubbyholes, etc. that entice clutter.”
IAC Industries Workmaster Series E Workbenches with EZE Reach upright posts, featuring (from bottom, up) bin cup rails, custom pegboards and utility lighting.
“5S is the name of a workplace organization methodology that uses a list of five Japanese words which are seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu and shitsuke. Transliterated or translated into English, they all start with the letter "S". The list describes how to organize a workspace for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order. The decision-making process usually comes from a dialogue about standardization, which builds a clear understanding among employees of how work should be done. It also instills ownership of the process in each employee.”
Each station utilizes pegboards to organize the specific tools and components for operator to accomplish designed tasks. 5S Methodology at work. Note the use of stainless steel worksurfaces here in the epoxy potting cell. The upper shelf is used to aggregate finished assemblies.
Cicoil accomplished the 5S initiative by adding to each of the E-Series workbenches a set of IAC’s EZE Reach upright posts that provide “off-the-worksurface” storage. For the EZE Reach uprights, IAC produced color-matching, powder-coated pegboards onto which the specific operator tools were placed. Limited drawers and shelves were employed only where needed. In addition, IAC task lighting was added to the EZE Reach uprights to improve visibility and eliminate the clutter of the individual clamp-on lighting previously employed.
To produce the U-shaped assembly cells IAC manufactured matching corner pieces to join the E-Series workbenches. “One of the things that impressed me about IAC is their commitment to modularity. They had all the pieces I needed to construct the various cells I wanted to configure. I went with plastic laminate worksurfaces for assembly cells, but needed something more robust for our potting cells. IAC supplied stainless steel tops for these benches, and they are gorgeous,” says Lind.
Clean, bright organized. Workmaster workbenches convey the quality and precision that Cicoil builds into its cable assemblies. Assembly cells utilize plastic laminate worksurfaces.
Corner pieces are designed to provide a gentle internal radius
Attention to detail—Even IAC’s corner pieces feature 180° rolled front edges.
To clean up the previous spaghetti mess of electrical wires, Cicoil employed the IAC TE-1 Electrical Channel mounted to the rear cross-member of each workbench, providing each bench with four 20 amp duplex electrical outlets. Cords for electrical devices on the worksurface now exit cleanly to the rear.
IAC TE-1 Electrical Channel is positioned below the worksurface and mounts to either the front or rear cross-member of the workbench. Pictured with rear mount.
Lind goes on to explain the prevailing investment undercurrent in Cicoil’s manufacturing revamp, “For the sake of productivity efficiencies we had to make changes, but there was more to it than that. At Cicoil we manufacture cables and assemblies that are way above average. They are used in medical devices, military equipment and ordinance, aircraft and spacecraft. These are applications where people’s lives are on the line, or in the case of spacecraft, there are no second chances to get it right; completely failure-intolerant—serious business. I wanted an environment that impresses the seriousness of what we are producing on every employee. I wanted Cicoil employees to be surrounded by precision and quality to put them in the proper mindset to impart precision into the Cicoil cable products they manufacture. I also wanted visiting customers to tour our plant and be impressed with the same vision. The IAC products we deployed are a big part of this endeavor. They are really built well, with great fit and finish. They have all the elements I wanted to convey quality and precision. They are impressive.”
Cicoil’s new manufacturing floor is now an efficient and organized workspace, and a source of pride for all Cicoil employees.
Renovating a manufacturing floor has to have a return on investment. Cicoil deployed nearly 100 Workmaster™ workbenches, with corner tables, EZE Reach Uprights and associated productivity accessories. What's the payoff? According to Howard Lind, employee morale and quality of work is "off the charts". "The assembly cells and 5S implementation provide an organizing factor that instills confidence in the teams. Confidence reduces stress, and makes for a happier employee who is willing to personally 'own' the work they are doing for us. The IAC workbenches play an important role. The ergonomic touches built in are a big improvement over our old equipment. They are more comfortable to work at, with all their equipment within reach, and the improved lighting makes a big difference"
And how does this translate from a business sense? Since Mr. Lind's transformation of Cicoil, the company has doubled its business, while at the same time reducing the workspace footprint by one third. In other words, Cicoil is manufacturing twice the product in a fraction of the previous space, and now has room for expanded growth without the expense of new buildings. In addition, quality and consistency of Cicoil's finished product has improved. So much so that the company's customers are taking note. Cicoil was recently presented with Raytheon Integrated Defense System's prestigious 5-Star Supplier Excellence Award, that company's highest recognition of commitment to continuous process and quality improvement.
Cicoil's renovation achieved remarkable space efficiencies. This large empty area representing one-third of the manufacturing floor was once filled with old benches, and is now available for future growth.
“It’s a remarkable achievement,” says Lind. “Obviously, I am very pleased with the results, and the workbenches play a big part. IAC Industries provided excellent customer service and the product met my price goals. It’s important that people can see our factory, and now we are proud to do so. We intend to continue our aggressive growth, and with our renovation we have the space to do so. When we do, we will be filling the space with more IAC workbenches.”
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