Unilux Advanced Manufacturing produces watertube and firetube boilers used by energy service companies and various facilities, including commercial and industrial buildings, high-rise residential towers, hospitals, military installations, and schools. Unilux’s “bread-and-butter" boiler is the Unilux “W” Series. Like all of the company’s boilers, it carries a 25-year warranty, though many last up to 40 years, making quality construction an imperative and corner cutting untenable. Based in Schenectady, New York, Unilux has around 40 employees.
Over the past few years, Unilux’s management team had seen competitors capture more of the W Series’ market share. Enhancing Unilux competitiveness was “a necessity,” said Mickey Lavicska, Unilux’s vice president of exterior relations. That prompted Unilux to partner with the Business Growth Solutions (BGS) unit of the Center for Economic Growth (CEG), part of the MEP National Network. BGS helped Unilux secure grants to offset the cost of growth and productivity training.
Unilux began its Lean journey with CEG’s Principles of Lean Manufacturing course. To ensure uninterrupted production, half the manufacturing team participated in the hands-on four-round simulation exercise. In the first round, the team could only deliver about 10 percent of an order with on-time delivery. The instructor promised the participants they’d be able to deliver the units with 95 percent on-time delivery by the end of the third round. Lavicska noted the team’s skepticism; however, he believed the instructor. Over the following two rounds, the instructor introduced various principles that enabled the Unilux team to achieve that goal. “That’s what turned on the light bulb for these guys,” said Lavicska.
Unilux continued the Lean work in the following months with a Value Stream Mapping (VSM) analysis of the company’s “W” Series, followed by related Kaizen improvement events based on the VSM data. The company embarked on projects to improve workflow, increase capacity, better utilize floor space and reduce overall lead times. Unilux’s Kaizen teams exceeded their targeted outcomes, reducing boiler delivery-time to between 6 and 10 weeks, down from 12 to 14 weeks. Those reduced labor hours translated into more competitive pricing and the recapturing of market share. CEG also hosted a Lean Finance & Accounting workshop for Unilux, explaining the potential financial statement impact of Lean manufacturing, especially as it relates to inventory reduction. Finally, Unilux benefitted from putting an inside sales professional through six months of Sandler Sales Mastery. "As a result, we are able to better pinpoint customer requirements," explained Lavicska. The financial impacts are significant, and the company is gaining more of the market share and keeping jobs.
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