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Department Spotlight

Thread Roll Drivers

Thread Roll Drivers for 2024

A driver represents a key activity that drives the operations and financial results of a company.

 

In Thread Roll, we chose three drivers this year that we really wanted to focus on:  Parts Produced, Machine Efficiency, and Training Hours.  We also have a year-long mini game called “Make the Boss Pay” which is aimed at tackling Cost of Poor Quality (CoPQ). We were able to win that mini game in Q1, and the team leader treated his team to a fun lunch.

Parts Produced

We track and record parts produced daily on our department scoreboard.  This allows us to see where we are as far as how many parts we’ve rolled in relation to our absorbed costs forecast.  And everyone knows, the more quality parts produced, the more profitable Fastco will be.

Efficiency

We track this measurable weekly in our team huddles.  This allows our team to see on average how efficiently the machines are running in relation to their standard run rates in PLEX, our ERP system.

Training Hours

We track training hours weekly in our team huddles.  We track the total number of hours team members are logged into machines under “Training.”

Fastco employee careers

Behind the Drivers: Our Challenges

Cost of Poor Quality and Training seem to be the two biggest challenges facing Thread Roll right now. Luckily, with help from our department scoreboard and mini game, we are able to track and review these numbers regularly.  I feel these challenges go hand-in-hand. Once we’ve established more training in our department, the CoPQ numbers should drop considerably.

Training Days

This leads directly into what I am most excited about for Thread Roll in 2024, which is training, training, training!  The “Training Days” we’ve started have helped up and coming setup personnel to be able to focus more on setups without the need to stop what they are doing to dump production pans.  We will continue to implement more of these “Training Days” when opportunities present themselves.

by Matt Kik, Thread Roll Team Leader

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Department Spotlight

Cold Heading Metrics

Cold Heading Metrics

At Fastco, our Quality Policy is “Striving to Meet Customer Expectations Through Continuous Innovation.” This may sound like vapid wordiness or mumbo jumbo, but the truth is that continuous innovation takes work. Behind that work, we need concrete data to prove out what we are doing right and how we can improve. That is where metrics come in. This week, we are talking about Cold Heading Metrics.

In all departments, metrics are one way that we can measure our progress. The Cold Heading Department’s metrics include the following:

Production Output

This is a measure of our output, or how many pieces we make per month. This impacts our absorbed costs. The more pieces we make, the more favorable the absorption will be.

Plant Tour West Bay
Aerial View of the Cold Heading West Bay

 

Downtime

When a machine is down, we aren’t making money. With this metric, we are measuring downtime as a percentage of the total hours for each job. We chose to only record the forms of downtime that we have the most control over which include: Unavailable Setup/Operator, Troubleshooting, and Weld/String Wire. This metric would impact the absorption and profitability because, in theory, the less downtime we have, the more parts we can run.

An aerial view of Fastco's cold heading bay.
An aerial view of Cold Heading Bay 2

 

Setup + Run Times vs Standard

We have standards established that tell us how long it should take to set up a machine, and how long it should take to run a job. This metric compares our actual times to the standard times as a percentage with 100% meaning the actual times and standard times are equal, and anything under 100% means we set up and ran the job out quicker than our standards, meaning we saved labor dollars on the setup. This metric would also impact the department’s absorbed costs. If we take longer to run a job out, then we are using more resources making each part more expensive, hurting our absorption number and our overall profitability.

Scrap bins with minimal scrap for sustainability.
A scrap bin

 

Scrap

This is the dollar value of all the setup scrap we make per month. Keeping track of this will make us more aware of how much money we throw away every month in scrap, this is money taken directly from our bottom line. This metric impacts the scrap number for the company.

by Sean Higley, Cold Heading Team Leader

 

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Department Spotlight

Purchasing Update

Purchasing Update 2024

It’s time for a Purchasing Update from the team that works seamlessly with Fastco’s tool rooms and other departments to handle inventory and purchasing.

In Purchasing, one of our recent points of focus has been tooling inventory accuracy and management.  On the inventory control side, we have been working tirelessly to ensure the Plex Toolset BOM’s are accurate and fully loaded, giving us greater visibility on cost, inventory value, and projected tooling needs. Optimizing our storage solutions for tooling has freed up space in the shuttles for new work.

Meanwhile, our purchasing assistant has sorted and labeled obsolete tooling provides a significant savings on tooling material as we’re able to repurpose this old tooling for current jobs.

Purchasing Update on Department Goals

Our number one goal this year is Point of Use Storage for tooling.  It’s been on our list for quite a while. This year is the year we can get it done.

The Purchasing team, clockwise from top left: Aaron Headrick, Julie Boyce, Tracy Eno, and Ginny Beld.

Open-Book Management and Purchasing

The open-book style of management has generated some great discussions and questions from our team.  We’ve incorporated some of these into our processes. We are working on implementing additional ideas that will ultimately improve profitability in the future.

The inventory control team had already been communicating potential (or actual) stock outs to the Tool Room and Purchasing functions. The addition of our scoreboard drivers will generate long-term solutions to some of the common issues we’ve been seeing. With the improved transparency, score boarding, and utilizing the Great Game of Business framework to conduct business, I am incredibly excited to see what cross-functional collaboration we achieve. In addition, I am eager to see how much better Fastco will be performing in the coming years!

by Aaron Headrick, Purchasing Manager

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Department Spotlight

Administration Spotlight

Administration Spotlight

2023 was a challenging year for the Administration department, however the team stepped up and worked together to keep things running smoothly. Fastco’s controller position was in a state of flux for most of the year, but since the end of 2023, the entire team has been going strong and working together to keep things running as well as implement changes in the Finance and HR departments to help Fastco improve and remain compliant.

With the addition to our department of a full-time administrative assistant, we plan to utilize our time better.  Job duties will be redistributed within the team.  There will be more time to focus on preparing for instead of reacting to situations that come our way. We are working towards improving our process so that we are consistent and have a more proactive approach to problems.

Six people against a white background, all members of the administration team.
The admin team: finance, HR, and IT

Open-Book Management & Administration

One of our department’s tasks is to promote open-book management by bringing financial literacy and updates to the company. Open-book management can show employees how their efforts impact the bigger picture. With open-book management employees can see how their efforts impact Fastco’s finances, which usually inspires greater investment in their work. This helps employees realize the power they have to make a better financial outcome for themselves and their coworkers by working together.

In 2024, we are working with our business coach to implement company-wide huddles. This will improve engagement in open-book management as well as the financial results of the company. I am excited to see what type of impact these huddles will have on our company and employees. For our department, we are looking forward to implementing ideas and projects that will help us move towards more accurate reporting for finances and more consistency in the HR area.

by Jodie Shaver, Corporate Controller & Employee Relations Manager

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Department Spotlight

Engineering Update

Engineering Update & Achievements

The greatest achievement to come out of engineering last year was the team brainstorm of getting a new, complicated part with an internal hex drive on the end to strip off of the extrude pin. We have lots of talented individuals that were able to combine their knowledge to get the part to work, starting from the design phase, simulations, tooling trials, the mechanical arm mechanism, along with the wiring of the actual stripper mechanism.

The Engineering team at Fastco.

In addition, training on the floor has been a huge success thanks to Sean Higley. The new setup people have been given a better opportunity for growth. They are better equipped to help their co-workers in the bay. It saves bay bosses from the added burden and frustration of training new people. It also ensures setup personnel receive consistent, proper training.

2024 Goals

It is difficult to pick a #1 goal for Engineering. We tend to take the mindset that each thing we work on is the #1 goal to achieve at that time.

It would be cliché to say that our #1 goal is to make sure Fastco succeeds and is as profitable as possible. That should be the overall goal for everyone.  Our #1 goal for the year could be to make sure that everyone in the department completes any ongoing training.  We also need to make sure all new equipment is properly tooled and all jobs designed. The #1 goal could also be to rapidly design for samples so they move through the facility on or before their due date. Or our #1 could be doing our part to keep production is as efficient as possible. Our #1 goal could be making sure all control plans and prints are accurate.  I’m not devaluing having a #1 goal, but our #1 goal can and does change daily.

If I had to pick one #1 goal for the year, it would be having a 0 turnover rate in 2024. I also hope that the Engineering Team continues to enjoy what they do.

by Josh Symon, Engineering Manager

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Department Spotlight

Sales Update

2023 Sales Update

In 2023, the Sales team won substantial new business awards, representing about 10% of our net sales. While this fell short of our robust new business award goal, it still puts us on solid footing for achieving our long-term strategic goal of growing Fastco’s business by 10% year over year. This is the most important goal that the Sales team has and we continue to prioritize winning new work.

Sales Update: a sampling of 2023 new business.

 

Sales Update for 2024

This year, we will be working hard to achieve our secondary goal of diversification. We will be prioritizing getting our outside sales managers, Milo Boyce and Andy Ike, out on the road to meet face-to-face with current customers, particularly in the non-automotive sector. In March, Milo and Nick DePompolo, our sales engineer, will be going to the NASCC Steel Conference in San Antonio. We look forward to meeting new potential customers and connecting with current customers and suppliers there.

Our sales engineer, Nick DePompolo, and quoting coordinator, Jake Kieffer, at a recent talk with PMA West Michigan.

 

More Innovations

Some really cool innovations have come from the Sales team this year, including a New Business Referral Program, which turns every team member into a sales team member. Open-book management with its open dialogue about revenue and profitability has helped bring about ideas like this. It has also helped to get our team thinking of ways to maximize profit while also staying competitive in a tough market. We’ve come up with new strategies for pricing high volume jobs that will run on under-utilized equipment. We are hoping that 2024 brings in even more new business than 2023.

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Department Spotlight

Quality Department Spotlight

Quality Department Spotlight

For this Department Spotlight, we are highlighting the Quality Department’s progress in 2023.

In 2023, the Quality Department’s greatest achievement was helping to lower the Cost of Poor Quality/Scrap by performing extra audits when needed in various areas to aid in this. While the end of the year’s COPQ was not ideal, we are still lower than 2022’s totals!

Fastco team member in quality
A team member inspects parts for quality assurance.

The department’s goals this year have included increasing audits and adding a layered process audit system for dimensional checks on the floor in manufacturing areas. This enables all levels of Fastco teams to review product and document it, from team members to team leaders, and managers.

A team member conducts quality checks as part of the cold heading production process.

I believe that open book management has helped most team members see where the company is financially. It has also helped team members understand our long-term stability. This has helped to raise morale, get more discussions going, and build an ownership mindset in team members.

We look forward to seeing more process improvements in 2024. We will continue to prioritize safety, quality, and production, in that order, during this year and beyond.

 

by Brian Kropp, Quality Manager

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Department Spotlight Manufacturing

Production Control Update

Production Control Update

It’s time for a Production Control Update from the department that manages logistics, material handling, and trucking.

This year, the Production Control Department’s greatest achievement has been taking a more active role in managing our raw material supply chain. We’ve worked hard to negotiate pricing with our long-time steel suppliers and keep material costs stable. Raw material is Fastco’s largest expense. Keeping steel costs controlled enables us to better support our customers and avoid price increases. It also helps us remain competitive in the market.

Goal for 2024 (and beyond!)

Another Production Control Update is that our number one goal for 2024 is to lower machine downtime both internally and due to waiting on supplier. The more the machines run, the higher our absorption can be. This leads to higher productivity and better on-time delivery to our customers.

Open Book Management

Open book management has had a significant impact in helping us achieve our goals. The biggest impact has been the success at engaging everyone in the profitability of the company. Everyone likes the little extra money a profit share can provide. Understanding that cutting costs on raw material and keeping machines running is a big bonus (pun intended) to the potential for continued and higher profit sharing among team members.

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Department Spotlight Manufacturing

Tool Room Update

Tool Room Update

Recently, the Tool Room’s greatest achievement has been the ability to keep up with required production. We have been a little short-handed. All of our tool room personnel have done a great job working together to keep the tooling output at a high level in order to minimize downtime in other areas due to waiting on tooling. We also had some help from the Engineering department filling in. Thank you to those who helped us out.

 

I would say our #1 goal for 2023 would be to focus on working on the right tools and keeping up with production. By doing this, we can help to ensure parts are available to minimize downtime in other production areas of Fastco. This allows production to continue and get more parts out the door. In the long run, this means more profit for Fastco and more profit sharing for the employees.

The south side of Fastco's main tool room.
The south side of Fastco’s main tool room.

The positive impacts I have seen from open book management in the tool rooms is more buy in from the employees. People have begun to ask “what can we do to help.” I would like to see the tool rooms continue working on new and improved ways to increase our output and overall abilities. I want to see Fastco continue to move forward and try to perfect the Great Game of Business.

by Tom Fredricks, Interim Tool Room Team Leader

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Department Spotlight

Maintenance Department

Maintenance Department Update

This year, the Maintenance Department a lot to be proud of, but it’s greatest achievement has been completing repairs and projects in a timely manner, despite working with fewer team members and several new team members. Though we have a small crew, we are continuing to keep unplanned maintenance downtime low.

Maintenance Goals

Keeping downtime low is the Maintenance Department’s main goal. In addition, we are focusing on the top 10 list for fixing and/or replacing key equipment in all production departments.

Maintenance team member, Dale McGarry, cleans the shop floors.

 

Open Book Management

With the growth of open book management at Fastco, the department has gained an increased understanding of the need for keeping machines running so that parts can run and be sent to the customer. I think seeing the sales numbers has a big impact as well.

I would like to continue to see effective training of our department’s newer team members. For example: electrical repair, machine repair, and planned inspections on key equipment are all areas where we can continue to learn, grow, and improve. For the company as a whole, I want to see continued education of team members on the Great Game of Business. Every team member should know how their job can make an impact on the company.

by Steve Kowalczyk, Facilities Manager