Dedication to the success of your customers is key to keeping them coming back. But operating a more lean and efficient organization is essential to becoming more profitable and staying ahead of the competition on a global basis. That is why Micro Stamping Corporation of Somerset, NJ, has revamped its operations in order to become a more efficient and competitive organization.
Founded in 1945 by the Semcer family, Micro Stamping has 60 years of expertise in metal stamping, forming, machining, sharpening, finishing and assembly services to deliver the highest quality metal products to the automotive, aerospace, medical, industrial and electronics industries.
According to Frank Semcer, Jr., Director of Administration, the company significantly boosted its payroll to 300 employees in 2000. By the time the bottom started to drop out of the economy in 2002, Micro Stamping had 175 employees. The downturn in the global economy gave Micro Stamping no choice but to address operations and look for new ways to function in a more cost-effective and productive manner.
After attending a Shingo Conference in Detroit to learn about lean techniques to revitalize the company, the concepts were applied through the use of focus groups that concentrated on particular areas of operation. And it paid off. Sales in 2005 have increased 50% since 2002 while Micro Stamping has only increased headcount by 15%. The Somerset operation employs 198, while a relatively new operation in Largo, FL employs 15. The Florida operation manufactures plastic and insert molding components for medical, electronics and automotive applications.
Using Engineering to “Build a Better Mousetrap”
A key market for Micro Stamping is the manufacture, assembly and plastic component production of medical parts.
Frank Semcer, Jr., adds “We also offer assembly in a clean room environment, automation assembly, and in-die assembly, giving us the added flexibility to fulfill all job requirements, particularly for the medical industry.”
Micro Stamping’s stable of equipment includes 10- to 60-ton presses and one 150-ton machine. These are primarily used for the company’s automotive, medical, and electronics production work.
One of the reasons Micro Stamping is indeed so successful is due to the engineering team’s ingenuity “When we needed a way to reduce operational costs and free-up press operators’ time, we turned in-house for a solution,” says Brian Semcer. “An automated part chutes and turntables system allowed us to improve die ‘hits per service’ and process efficiency by 75% and 35% respectively.”
“With high-volume and high speed runs well in excess of 1 million pieces, our parts containers fill up very quickly” adds Frank Semcer, Jr. “We didn’t want to waste operators’ time with non-press work and felt we could apply that time to more productive operations.
Applying New Initiatives to Reach Maximum Efficiency
When a company has been in business for 60 years, it is often difficult to change the way “things have always been done.” But Micro Stamping was up for the challenge.
Re-engineering and applying a 5S initiative to the packaging room have also improved overall efficiency and cleanliness. “Before this improvement process, we had nine or ten people working in the packaging room, and now that number is five,” reports Brian.
“Those extra personnel now work in other areas of the plant where our manufacturing volume has increased.” One of the priorities of this group was to find a more effective way of packing heavy, bulky and high volume parts. The group created an ergonomically correct packaging line where the packers do not have to perform any lifting operation in order to complete the job.
Another area where Micro Stamping has made significant progress is the Automated Optical Inspection system. Used throughout the plant, it has reduced set-up time significantly and eliminated in-process inspection by product technicians. Thus allowing technicians to perform more value added activities.
With Automated Optical Inspection, the first part manufactured goes through a 100% inspection, which might include measuring up to 80 dimensions. Instead of a QC inspector taking seven to ten hours to manually inspect the part, it is now done automatically through the use of programmable optical gaging systems.
Micro Stamping’s lead frame stamping process has also served to decrease lubricant and solvent cleaning usage by 50% while improving die life 300%. Company teams re-engineered the entire production line and recommended a high-speed recycling lubrication system which uses less oil and distributes the oil more consistently. Because of this, it requires less solvent to clean the parts – another cost savings. With more consistent coverage on the metal strip, die ‘hits per service’ has improved by four to five times. This has led to a reduction in lubrication and solvent which has helped Micro Stamping meet some of their environmental goals.
Another initiative at the company is the sensor lab, which works directly with engineering, design and tooling to ensure that all considerations concerning tool safety and part quality are planned in advance.
From the moment a project is in design, the sensor technicians perform an extensive range of tests on processes and process materials, using a variety of different sensors to ensure the best possible solution. Sensor characteristics are studied to create sensing solutions for continuous in-process monitoring. The resulting information dictates the type and precise placement of a sensor in a progressive tool.
Brian Semcer notes “The sensor lab and its technicians have made die protection more sophisticated. Brian adds, “All of these initiatives have come from our highly motivated employee teams who submit them through the company’s suggestion system. They solve and manage the initiatives and are rewarded with a 10% bonus based on the cost savings to the company.”
“Our goal is not to reduce employee head-count, but to transfer employees newly acquired manufacturing programs. Our turnover rate is between 3% and 7% which is pretty low by industry standards,” adds Brian. The company has numerous employee recognition programs, such as the Eagle Awards, which allows anyone in the company to be recognized by their peers for a performance above and beyond their normal job functions.
And since safety is an important part of any organization — especially one like Micro Stamping which deals with a lot of moving parts and heavy machinery — a company-wide barbeque was held last year to commemorate the company and employees beating the previous safety record. Everyone was treated to an afternoon event complete with lottery tickets as giveaways. One lucky employee had a $50,000 winning ticket!
Micro Stamping’s success could not be achieved without a trained work force. Micro Stamping’s new hire training program called STAMP (Supportive Training and Mentorship Program) is comprehensive new employee training. Included in the training is a Mentorship Program which provides new hires an assigned mentor. The mentor is responsible for all the hands on training. To complement the program, Micro Stamping offers new hires Supportive Training (classroom training) in areas outside the normal day to day job responsibilities. Once the STAMP program is completed, the new hire is assigned to their new job and is allowed to work independently.
With field agents assigned to every county in the state, Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP) agents have worked their entire careers in manufacturing, and several have owned their own businesses. Their job is to work with companies to identify opportunities to im