Misco Products

Misco Products – creating an entirely new and competitive workplace.

By Tom Harper
The Manufacturers Association

“Why wouldn’t everyone want to be like MISCO? asks Dwight Bowen, who certainly knows a thing or two about the Reading-based company.

Bowen’s question is a good one, because MISCO Products Corp. has found a way to thrive in its industry for the last four decades while continually looking at ways to improve itself and, in the process, its bottom line.

MISCO manufactures cleaning and maintenance chemicals for the industrial, food service, health care and institutional markets. In addition to its MPC brand of cleaning and maintenance chemicals, MISCO offers its customers two specialty brands, Majestic Carpet Solutions and Solution Depot Chemical Concentrates.

But while the company has thrived throughout the years  MISCO celebrated its 40th anniversary in April  company officials realized that it could be much more efficient in its operations. For MISCO, the only way to go was lean.

Lean manufacturing.

Put simply, lean manufacturing is the means by which companies streamline their operations and processes to make them more productive more efficient and more cost-effective. This streamlining, in turn, helps to make companies more profitable.

“In October of last year, some members of our Operations Management Team went to a roundtable presentation on lean and had a brief overview of the process, says Bob McClennan, MISCO’s marketing manager.

“We immediately thought it was something to investigate further as a possible means to address some of our problems.

Some of those problems, McClennan says, included order backlogs and long turnaround times during busy seasons.

“We had disconnected processes with inventory buffers as insurance’ against problems or breakdowns that might arise. … Under the previous way of operating, we were stressing our operation to the breaking point and were in no position to support a sales increase.

MISCO officials decided to fix the problem by contacting The Manufacturers Association to find out how they could implement lean manufacturing. They were then introduced to the person who would help them realize their goals and much more: Dwight Bowen.

Dwight Bowen is The Manufacturers Association’s affiliate consultant specializing in lean manufacturing. Bowen began working with MISCO in December of last year. He says his first tour through MISCO’s plant was quite memorable.

“I remember walking through the plant with the Operations Management Team and laughing with them about their flow and inventory levels, Bowen says. “They were very aware that they were making mistakes, and incredibly so, I was much more brutal than I usually am.

MISCO and Bowen worked together to set up work cells and connect operations to create a cellular flow.

“That way, when a problem arises, the pain that it causes is so great that production stops, McClennan says. “Therefore, you are forced to fix your problems rather than compensate for them, like building inventory buffers between disconnected processes.

The turnaround in MISCO’s productivity as a result of the company’s switch to lean manufacturing has been staggering.

“MISCO has absolutely blown the doors off the competition, Bowen says. “From December to March, their throughput time went from nine days to three days. That’s remarkable.

“They changed the way they did things, he continues. “They created flow in their processes, and they reduced inventory. They got it into their souls by saying, OK this is going to work,’ and they believed it.

Lean manufacturing’s effects on MISCO’s overall business can’t be underestimated, McClennan says. It has created a greater cohesiveness among the Operations Management Team and supervising staff in decision-making, and it has helped the company guarantee consistent delivery.

And there’s also lean’s overwhelming impact on MISCO’s bottom line.

“(Lean manufacturing) has helped us realize a 12% increase in sales for 2002 over the year before, mainly by better satisfying our existing customer base who have been ordering more and additional products from us. This is the most profitable way to grow sales, from within, McClennan says.

Why any company wouldn’t want to follow MISCO’s lead in realizing it needed to make the switch to lean manufacturing baffles Bowen. While he concedes that change is difficult for many companies to realize, he says the fact that there are no huge capital investments involved with lean manufacturing should compel businesses to make the switch immediately.

Lean manufacturing, Bowen says, will allow a company to enjoy the following benefits: lower operating and inventory costs; less space needed for inventory; increased productivity, quality and flexibility; and much more.

All these benefits serve to create a better place to work, says Bowen, adding that MISCO has made the most of its opportunity to do just that.

“The reason why they’re successful is because of their unflinching commitment to lean manufacturing.

You can now count McClennan among lean manufacturing’s greatest advocates.

“I would recommend lean manufacturing to any company who wishes to gain dramatic improvement from existing resources. If a company is considering capital investment, new technology or facilities expansion as ways to improve their operation without investigating lean, there is a very good chance they are planning to spend money that does not need to be spent.

“In helping our member companies, such as MISCO, benefit from lean, I think the biggest revelation for me has been that lean is not just another flavor of the week! Bonnie Spayd of The Manufactures Association says. “Lean thinking has been kept secret in large corporations for decades and we (The Manufacturers Association) have recently made the lean process affordable for small to medium size companies. The affordability coupled with the obvious return on investment has increased the demand for lean events in our member companies, says Bonnie.