Posted by William Mullane | November 7, 2016
Woodgrain Millwork began as a family owned company when Merrill “Bud” Dame started a small molding company in Cedar City, Utah in 1954. Today, Woodgrain is still family owned and is led from corporate offices in Fruitland, Idaho by President and CEO, Reed Dame, and Executive VP, Kelly Dame. Members of the third generation are also involved in the company in various positions. Woodgrain is a diversified wood products company focused on producing high quality doors, windows, and moldings. The company has approximately 5000 employed in 19 plants located in the United States and South America. With over 50 years in the Millwork Business, Woodgrain continues to build on its tradition of excellence as a market leader and has grown to become one the largest Millwork Companies in the world. Woodgrain’s vertical integration strategy allows it to bring high quality products to market competitively. With aggressive growth, competent management, foresight and a passion for perfection, Woodgrain continues to be an industry leader.
As part of its commitment to continuous improvement and outstanding customer service, Woodgrain developed a goal in 2007 of eliminating $18 Million in waste from activities that did not provide value to customers. Corporate Director of Continuous Improvement, Bob Shaw, emphasized that Woodgrain looks at Lean as a corporate endeavor, not just something that is done on the factory floor. Woodgrain had done a lot of training and education in “Value Added Management” and Lean principles but wanted to create a culture, language and methodology of continuous improvement that would be consistent across different plants, cultures and countries. Woodgrain approached TechHelp and requested a standardized Lean training program for its Continuous Improvement Managers. Dr. Larry Stauffer of TechHelp and the University of Idaho was already working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) to develop curriculum for a Lean Enterprise Certificate Program (LECP) that seemed to fit Woodgrain’s needs.
The Lean Enterprise Certificate Program met Woodgrain’s requirements in that it was designed to align Lean practices between plants, throughout supply chains and across industries. The program would also give workers the opportunity to improve manufacturing skills and earn a nationally recognized and portable Lean Knowledge Certificate. Woodgrain also liked the fact that LECP participants were required to complete a Lean project in the workplace to complete the program. This fit Woodgrain’s desire to drive Lean benefits throughout the company.
- 21 Woodgrain managers from 19 plants in the U.S., Brazil and Chile were selected to complete 32 hours of LECP academic training during an intensive one-week course at Boise State University.
- All participants were required to read “Lean Thinking” and “Learning to See” in order to prepare for the LECP program.
- TechHelp used its wood products oriented “Buzz Saw” simulation activity to provide a realistic factory simulation for Woodgrain managers.
- After finishing the academic portion of LECP training, all participants were required to complete improvement projects in their home plants in order to gain experience applying Lean principles and to complete the LECP certification process.
- Each of Woodgrain’s 21 LECP trainees successfully passed the LECP certification exam and earned a “Lean Knowledge Certificate”.
- Initial LECP Kaizen activities at Woodgrain plants generated $3 Million in cost savings. Woodgrain is seeing a tremendous return on its $70,000 investment in LECP and Lean.
- Woodgrain’s Lean initiative has helped the company meet its goals to ship on time and complete, improve safety, improve first pass quality and drive Lean benefits company wide.
- Woodgrain has institutionalized its commitment to Lean by appointing a Corporate Director of Continuous Improvement at HQ and Continuous Improvement Managers at its plants.
- Woodgrain is training a cadre of Lean Champions who carry the spirit of continuous improvement throughout each plant.
- Woodgrain purchased its own Lean factory simulation kit in order to provide continuous improvement training to Lean Champions and other workers.
- Woodgrain is encouraging Continuous Improvement Managers and Lean Champions to seek additional Lean certifications.
- Lean is helping Woodgrain weather the recent downturn in the housing industry and is preparing the company to come out of the slowdown in a strong position.