Lean played role in Cessna's move to new plant

Tags: lean manufacturing

When Cessna Aircraft Company, a Textron Inc. company, was evaluating its 60-year-old McCauley Propeller Systems manufacturing plant in Vandalia, Ohio, it knew that relocation was inevitable and, as the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of light and mid-size aircraft, it had a lot riding on the move.

“We needed to relocate an entire company within a very short window, with the least amount of interruptions to production and downtime,” says Jimmie Veal, a Textron Six Sigma black belt with 13 years with Cessna. “We could not risk sacrificing our client relationships and missing deliveries.”

Veal was the project manager assigned to the relocation task, and he knew it would not be a simple assignment. He turned to The ACCESS Group (TAG), experts in lean manufacturing consulting and plant relocation based out of Nashville, Tenn., to complete a feasibility study for the business impact of the project.

“Our overall goal was to control our costs,” says Veal. “TAG assessed our operation and unveiled a multitude of ways to implement lean manufacturing techniques at our new plant.”

After TAG spent almost nine months evaluating and planning the move, they turned to Jackson, Tenn.-based Jabezco Industrial Group, its partner in relocation services, to move the 140,000-square-foot Vandalia, Ohio, operation to its new 110,000-square-foot home in Columbus, Ga., with a one-month schedule compression initiated by Cessna.

“Having never managed a facility relocation before, I don’t think anyone at Cessna believed the time frame would be met,” states Veal. “During our initial walk-through of the Vandalia facility, I was overwhelmed with the task before us. The thought of moving an entire manufacturing operation in such a short duration seemed monumental. The Jabezco team put me at ease that day with their total confidence of completing the task successfully.”

Jabezco provided complete process and plant relocation services including millwright labor, electrical, mechanical, general labor and material handling expertise.

“There were challenges with a few pieces of unique equipment,” says Veal. “Jabezco wasted no time finding an expert through their strong alliances to support the start-up and keep the project on schedule.”

Jabezco, working in harmony with TAG, brought unique value to the project by determining the optimum move sequence through first understanding the process flow, inventory levels, demand, etc. This allowed Cessna to cease operations in Ohio on August 16 and ship a fully manufactured propeller from the new plant in Georgia on September 12. “That is how I will always measure the success of this project,” states Veal.

“Looking back on the relocation, I really believe that Jabezco never looked at the project as ‘moving equipment’ but rather as ‘moving value streams’,” says Veal. “Above all, I am most grateful for the way Jabezco managed to execute this move at nearly $250,000 below the contracted guaranteed maximum price while dealing with a one month schedule compression initiated by Cessna. This unexpected benefit was due to careful management of resources and expenses.”

Today, the Columbus McCauley Propeller Systems operations are producing more product, have employed cost and production efficient robotics vs. manual labor and are following lean manufacturing principals.

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