Continuous improvement is the driving force behind every decision at Wisconsin-based Eggers Industries. A vertically integrated manufacturer of architectural wood doors, panels and veneered components, the 127-year-old firm is a lean advocate and recently completed value stream mapping at its facilities in Two Rivers and in nearby Neenah.
With approximately 265,000 square feet of space, the Two Rivers facility hosts the company’s headquarters as well as the manufacturing of flush doors, stile and rail doors, door frames, architectural panels, wood ceiling tiles and the production of accessory items, such as veneer wrapped trims and mouldings. Architectural doors are manufactured at the Neenah facility. Combined, the two plants provide Eggers with approximately 600,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space.
The Neenah facility has a production flow system for manufacturing a streamlined product mix, says Charlie Philipps, director of manufacturing. In comparison, Two Rivers combines production flow with cell batch manufacturing. At both facilities, value stream mapping yielded significant results. At the modern, one-story facility in Two Rivers, one project alone reduced the path of product travel by the equivalent of three football fields, says Philipps.
Mary Streu, vice president of manufacturing, says, “It’s been a continuous journey. When we complete one area, we move on to another area.”
Throughout the manufacturing cycle, the company uses one-piece flow where possible to optimize production and reduce work in process. “We have had a 70 percent reduction overall of our work in process,” Streu adds.
Improved Process Flow
As part of the lean journey at Two Rivers, Philipps says Eggers first targeted the stile and rail area for improvement — a five-month process — before spending approximately eight months revamping the core section. The veneer operation was the most recent to be tackled.
It took almost a year to complete, but Philipps says Eggers was able to reduce the floor space in the veneer area by 49 percent, by moving machinery and eliminating non-value-added steps.
“Our platform will continue to evolve,” adds Streu. “Our intention is to continually move and add equipment, and also take out obsolete equipment, for continuous improvement.”
Eggers consulted with Ben Dipzinski of Woodworking Intelligence on the lean project, including machine selection and layout. In the new veneer floor plan, the travel for architectural faces alone was reduced by several hundred feet, Philipps says. The process now flows seamlessly from a two-sided inspection table that feeds from either end into a centrally located crosscut clipper, then to the Josting double-knife clippers which drop waste directly onto a belt feeding a new Kuper FAZ chopper. The chopper is connected to a dust collector.
From the Josting clippers, the slices are automatically conveyed to a Kuper KLM glue applicator and then travel to the Kuper fanning machine. From there, an adjustable transfer conveyor brings the veneer fan to a Fisher & Rückle FZL crossfeed splicer. The system is automated in such a way that a flashing light signals the operator when the adhesive reaches its set time, and the fan can be run through the splicer. Also unique at Eggers is the use of a small camera on the FZL that allows the operator to view the back of the machine and ensure the veneer is exiting correctly. The veneer then moves to the Fisher & Rückle Edgemaster for edge reinforcement and trimming.
For larger veneer pieces, Philipps says, Eggers has a separate line that feeds from a crosscut splicer to a Kuper longitudinal inline splicer, while a third line for sketch faces feeds from a Fisher & Rückle Omnimaster to Kern lasers.
By reducing the footprint in the plant area, Eggers was able to expand capacity in other areas such as profile wrapping, CNC machining, edgebanding, boring, mortising and finishing, Streu says.
“The ability to cross-train employees has been a very key component in the course of this transition,” she says. Company wide, Eggers employs 450 people. “We have reduced the head count in some areas, but we rotate employees to other areas to add capabilities.
“Our philosophy is to reinvest in the company, in good times and bad. We believe in managing to the future. This allowed us to stay a steady course over the past few years,” Streu adds.
Expanding Product Range
Eggers’ wide range of capabilities, and the diverse markets it serves, help separate it from competitors. According to Streu, Eggers also prides itself on its sustainable manufacturing practices and sustainable products which contribute toward LEED program credits and other environmental building initiatives.
“Requests for products with no added urea formaldehyde have increased dramatically over the past few years. All of Eggers doors are automatically CARB (California Air Resources Board) Phase 2 compliant; other products can be CARB Phase 2 compliant upon request,” says Ann Duebner, vice president of sales and marketing.
New products are launched regularly, Duebner says. “If the product is something that we believe fits well within a certain market segment, we will also do some special promotion within that market segment.
“For example,” she adds, “we introduced the eiDoor 2 years ago. We rolled it out to everyone and did some special target marketing to the medical market as this high impact removable edge door was a good fit for that market.”
Eggers also continues to expand its acoustical door offerings and is working on a vinyl clad wall panel with a flame spread rating, Duebner says. Other new products include fire-rated, perforated serpentine ceiling canopies, acoustical panels, stone panels and a lightweight foam core for oversized doors, sliding doors, or special market segments where the weight of a hinged door is a factor.
Eggers markets its products through its website, eggersindustries.com, advertising, newsletters, educational programming for architects and designers, and trade show displays. “We are also just entering the social networking arena with a brand new Facebook page, a Blog that is under development, product pictures on Flickr, and you can now follow us on Twitter,” Duebner says.
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