Changing with the times Featured

10:02am EDT January 24, 2005
Spend a few minutes talking with Jeff Korach, president of The Tremco Group, and you'll come away with one firm belief: When it comes to business, change is good.

"It's the same old theory," says Korach. "Just because your grandfather did it one way or your father did it one way or even you did it one way -- that doesn't mean that's the way to do it. Technology changes, circumstances change."

And so, Tremco changes.

Korach and his staff implemented a strategy called Business Process Excellence (BPE), based on the Six Sigma approach used by GE, Motorola and Xerox. The idea is simple: Identify a process in the company with high variability and change it to reduce variability. More consistent results lead to less wasted money, material and time.

For each process change, a cross-functional team is selected, briefed on the problem and improvement goals, then given free reign to tackle the problem. Once the team recommends a solution, the company implements it, monitors it and quantifies the results. This process continues until project goals are met.

One example at Tremco involved the process of changing between different colored Urethane products. The process required two separate machines and was generating up to 30 gallons of hazardous waste scrap every time colors changed, leading to expensive disposal fees and high material costs.

The project team recommended a using a simple plastic piping pig to keep colors separate, removing the need for two machines and preventing color mixes. Adding the use of the pig to the existing process cost less than $300, reduced the scrap to almost nothing and saved more almost $82,000 in yearly waste disposal fees.

Tremco focuses only on quick-hitting changes.

"Our projects last between two and six months," says Korach.

But at any given time, there are 10 or 15 processes under improvement, involving hundreds of employees. Since 2003, 37 BPE projects have been completed, saving an average of $80,000 per initiative.

Says Korach: "This is nothing new in the world, but it's working quite nicely for us. In this kind of economy, with these issues, you've just got to get better at the way you're doing things. It's the only way to remain competitive."

How to reach: The Tremco Group, (216) 292-5000 or www.tremcoinc.com