Just in time Featured

9:26am EDT April 22, 2005
Ted Swaldo and his team at ASC Industries Inc. in North Canton used to be forecasters. In the past, they'd guess how many aftermarket water pumps their automotive and light truck customers would buy, then manufacture those pumps and store them until an order arrived.

"That became very inefficient for us because no matter what we tried to forecast, they always wanted something different," says Swaldo, ASC's president and CEO, and one four engineers who founded the company.

After two years of examining its methodology and assembly processes, ASC implemented just-in-time manufacturing, and today, receives an order, pulls the components, assembles the pump and ships it within three days.

ASC adopted a more sophisticated computer system, connected company departments and redesigned fixtures and tooling so employees could change setups quickly during an eight-hour shift.

"Normally, setting up a machine used to take us two hours," Swaldo says. "Now we do it in eight minutes."

Other changes included bar coding to find inventory quicker and move it faster, as well as the installation of computers on forklifts.

Convincing employees to change the way they worked might have been a challenge, but ASC's in-house training center divided the new system into parts and trained small groups at a time.

"Everybody bought into it. They understand it, and they're functioning quite well with it," Swaldo says.

The overhaul at ASC was designed to satisfy the demands of its customers, Swaldo says.

"Before, (lead time) used to be seven to 10 days; we cut that down to three to five days, so they were happy because they got the order sooner," he says.

Implementing a more efficient manufacturing process is ASC's key to success.

"For a water pump that's assembled in China, there are probably five to 10 people involved in building it, and they would build one about every minute," Swaldo says. "We have been able to create robotic assembly equipment where we build a water pump in less than 15 seconds with two people."

The price of raw materials may be comparable worldwide but Swaldo says the one variable companies can control is the amount of labor that goes into processing components.

"(You) have to study it and see how you get the same production with less manpower. It's all about efficiency if you want to compete on a global basis," he says.

HOW TO REACH:

ASC Industries Inc., (330) 899-0340 or www.asc-ind.com