Lean principles, big return

Lean principles, big return

December 11, 2013 11:57:22 AM

GenMet is a full-service metal fabricator, primarily servicing truck and construction OEMs and the Point of Purchase industry. With continuous equipment upgrades and lean business practices, GenMet’s annual sales have grown from $3m to $12m since it was purchased in 1999 by Mary and Eric Isbister.

The company, formerly known as general MetalWorks, relocated from Chicago to Milwaukee after the great Chicago Fire of 1871. After the move, the original owners hired everybody they could and rented every horse stable available in the area to fabricate the metal needed to rebuild the city of Chicago. 

Governor Doyle GenMet

Going Lean

Today, GenMet is one of a growing body of U.S. fabricators that follows lean manufacturing practices to reduce waste and improve overall customer value. Company CEO, Eric Isbister, credits the company’s success to its team culture. GenMet employees are continuously trained on Lean manufacturing Principles and play a critical part in maximizing efficiency and productivity.

“Every employee here adds value to the organization,” he explains. “Purchasing high-tech equipment is only beneficial if you have the culture to make the machines profitable.” This team environment starts from the very top. The company earned ISO certification in 2006 to provide the structure for building processes and supporting continuous improvement and employee involvement.

GenMet is a Woman-owned Small Business (WOSB), which is an organization that helps many of its customers meet government requirements. To assist WOSB, the Department of Defense awards a percentage of prime and subcontract opportunities to women-owned businesses each year.

GenMet President Mary Isbister serves on Milwaukee’s next generation manufacturing council and on the board of the Wisconsin manufacturing extension Partnership. She recently presented on the topic of lean manufacturing practices at the Wisconsin Manufacturing Matters Conference.

“Five or ten years from now, we’re not going to be producing the same products we are today,” she says. “Manufacturers must be innovative, find new ways to add value and create products that are not easily replicated by low-wage overseas competitors. it’s a whole new ball game.”


System Upgrade

When the Isbisters purchased GenMet, they inherited a stand-alone, 3000-watt Mitsubishi Laser. They soon realized they needed a long-term competitive advantage to stay competitive in today’s global market.

They worked with Mitsubishi distributor Jeff Lampe of advanced manufacturing Solutions (AMS) to upgrade that machine to the company’s first automated laser system. The new system helped GenMet automate the manufacturing process, cutting lead times in half and minimizing the labor factor in customer quotes.

More recently, the company worked with AMS and Mitsubishi’s encore division to trade in their existing equipment for a newer, more advanced laser system. The new Flexible manufacturing System has two 3015LVP/40cFX Mitsubishi Lasers operating with a 16-shelf material tower, six product carts and an automated material handling system. The new machines cut twice as fast as the previous ones did, and deliver better edge conditions that have reduced deburring requirements. The new system has allowed GenMet to transition into more complex, highly engineered products.

“Mitsubishi’s trade-in program makes it possible for small business owners to upgrade to state-of-the-art technology without starting from scratch,” says isbister. “the service and training we’ve received from amS and mitsubishi over the past decade have been exceptional. the teams at amS and ncell worked together to train our staff on the new systems, helpingus maximize our efficiency. they’re showing us lessons learned outside of our company. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. mits, amS and ncell are keeping us moving forward.”

Continued Growth

With its move toward automation and lean production, genmet has experienced continuous growth. in 2007, the company purchased a second 16,200 ft2 facility in Slinger, Wi, to house the company’s welding facility.

Employee count has also grown from 50 to 80 employees in the past year. the isbisters have infused 
genmet employees with confidence that the automation and new equipment isn’t a threat to their jobs; it enables continued growth companywide.in January 2008, Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle chose to launch his next generation manufacturing Plan from genmet. The plan focuses on efficiency and lean manufacturing principles.


Leave a Comment

Fields with * are required.