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Success Story: Lean Transformation Helps Growing Company Keep Up With Demand

Success Story: Lean Transformation Helps Growing Company Keep Up With Demand

Dakota Bodies develops and builds truck bodies for the service and industrial markets. Based in Watertown, South Dakota, the company has about 250 employees serving customers throughout the United States and Canada.

Dakota Bodies experienced steady growth since its inception but faced challenges in meeting market demand. The company made several improvements, adding 45,000 square feet to the facility to provide additional space for cutting and bending equipment, and hiring a Continuous Improvement Engineer to begin the process of implementing Lean Manufacturing. “We quickly learned that formal training of our supervisory team needed to occur for us to be successful,” said Joel Grode, Director of Production. “This is when I asked a former colleague from Larson Manufacturing who they used—he told me it was South Dakota Manufacturing and Technology Solutions (MTS)."

As we continue through our Lean journey, we are continuously looking for ways to improve our organization to provide a better product to our customers. We’re extremely excited about what the possibilities hold for us. Many thanks to the MTS team for leading us at the start of this journey.  —Joel Grode, Director of Operations

After reaching out to MTS, part of the MEP National Network, Dakota Bodies officially embarked on its Lean journey. MTS conducted an assessment of the company's operations and worked with company leaders to define their goals for the engagement. They decided the first step would be a Lean 101 training for a group of 40 Dakota Bodies employees, including supervisors, managers, and key operators. After the eight-hour course, Dakota Bodies participated in four separate on-site projects with MTS. The company developed a kanban system that stocks and orders parts based on customer demand for numerous part numbers and implemented tool carts to clear space in the production area. The team also improved workplace organization using the 5S methodology of Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.

Dakota Bodies now performs weekly audits on each 5S event area, raising revenues and improving overall productivity by a significant margin. The company standardized work practices and reduced training time, gaining consistency and improving quality. "The next steps will be training more of our employees in Lean, implementing a Kaizen team, and conducting a door-to-door VSM (Value Stream Mapping) exercise throughout our company,” said Grode.


  • Developed a kanban system for over 180 part numbers
  • Improved revenues by 20%
  • Saved over 2,200 square feet of room by developing tool carts
  • 5% increase in overall productivity

Could your company benefit from assistance with lean? Contact your local MEP Center for more information.


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South Dakota Manufacturing and Technology Solutions is the official representative of the  MEP National Network™ in South Dakota. The MEP National Network™ is a unique public-private partnership that delivers comprehensive, proven solutions to U.S. manufacturers, fueling growth and advancing U.S. manufacturing.

About the author

South Dakota Manufacturing and Technology Solutions

The South Dakota Manufacturing and Technology Solutions’ mission is “To provide solutions which will assist all of South Dakota manufacturers to prosper and grow”. We support industry and business in the workplace—whether that's in the office, on the factory floor, at a hospital, in a bank, or on the job site. With our manufacturing experts and network of industry resources, we provide the change that makes the significant difference between surviving and thriving. Our tailored solutions, university and community connections, and engineering know-how can help your company stay abreast of the latest technologies and best practices in engineering and business management. Ultimately, our aim is to help you increase productivity, efficiency, safety and quality. As a result, your profits rise and your business thrives.

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