APICS Education Yields People and Process Benefits
By Jennifer Storelli
After five years of 25 percent annual growth, Load King Manufacturing Company was feeling some growing pains. Leaders at the Jacksonville, Fla.-based full-service turnkey package provider were concerned about work quality and order commitments being compromised. They also knew that they needed to fully train and engage the more than 125 new employees.
To serve its variety of clients in the food and beverage retail space, Load King uses multiple trades, including wood, metal, solid surface, electrical and graphics production; hardwood finishing; panel lay-up; equipment consolidation; design; permitting; and construction, which creates a complicated operating environment to understand, much less lead. To get the company back on track and bring everyone up to speed, Load King executives made the decision to focus on people and processes.
Initially, a few programs were implemented to improve output and maintain the company’s high quality standards, but some team members struggled to understand program applications and processes, explains Chad Grimm, chief operations officer. Company leaders turned to APICS education to help all Load King departments understand industry terminology and speak a common language, which would, in turn, increase employees’ overall operational knowledge.
EQUALIZED LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
Load King worked with an APICS instructor to train and educate staff members on the APICS body of knowledge. The business was committed to training all of the company’s leadership, from the shop floor team lead all the way up to the president of the company. “We had the directors and executive directors learning and intermingling with the team leads and shop floor managers,” Grimm recounts. “We were all in this together, and everybody was starting at the same level, regardless of prior experience or knowledge.”
About 50 employees participated in the initial round of APICS education. Two groups were trained on different days. This created more manageable class sizes and enabled personalized interaction between the instructor and participants. Also, to maintain company productivity, each group only participated in training once a week. Trainings were hosted on-site during the work day for added convenience. Once the class was completed, employees were given time to study for and take APICS exams.
From the first batch of students, 14 passed the Basics of Supply Chain Management (BSCM) exam, the first test toward earning the APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) designation. Company leaders immediately noticed a significant improvement in interdepartmental communication and collaboration. “During meetings, various team members would reference APICS content when making a point,” Grimm explains. “When solutions to challenges were difficult to come by, pulling out APICS training material for guidance became the norm.”
Employees witnessed benefits as well. “From my perspective as a project manager, it has really helped with communication between different departments at Load King,” says Ricky Regnier, project manager II. “Whether I am discussing design and build methods with engineering or scheduling end due dates with manufacturing, being able to speak the same language and understand the unique challenges throughout the organization not only makes my job easier but also has helped me pass along the necessary information to other departments to help make their jobs easier.”
Hans Vienrich, CPIM, manufacturing engineer II, notes that his APICS education and certification have enhanced his appreciation of the importance of his role. “Understanding the interaction of [enterprise resources planning] (ERP) and [material requirements planning] (MRP) has helped me apply manufacturing strategies and decisions to operations and processes,” he says. Vienrich adds that earning APICS certification has instilled in him a sense of confidence in what he does at Load King.
After this success, the business launched a second round of training for the new CPIM Part 1 course to educate the rest of the company’s leadership. This time, 53 associates representing a cross-section of all departments, educational backgrounds and ages joined the training. Nine of the participants were individuals who passed the BSCM exam but wanted a refresher. All other participants were required to test for certification, but they were not penalized if they did not pass.
The timing of the first APICS training coincided with thee major projects at Load King. The company was in the process of implementing a new ERP system; engineering modeling software; and more than $6 million in CNC manufacturing equipment, which required new build and assembly methods. “Learning how to integrate planning, scheduling, inventory, production, shipping and more into a unified system required a deep understanding of how all the parts integrate to create the whole manufacturing and shipping process,” Grimm explains. “APICS helped with educating our team on how to bring order and properly defined organization to frequently conflicting functions and departments.”
Specifically for the ERP system implementation, APICS helped the team more accurately define the parent-component relationship with setting up bills of material (BOMs). “When setting up BOM structures, what appears to be fairly straightforward can have a significant positive or negative effect on the resulting outcome for different aspects of the company,” Grimm says.
He adds that APICS also helped assuage any change-management worries by enabling opposing sides of the discussion to understand the full relationships associated with setting up BOMs, clarifying multi-level versus single-level BOMs and purchased parts, and what the collection of accurate data could mean for analyzing performance.
Ultimately, using the APICS knowledge participants gained from training, Load King leaders were able to effectively apply sales and operations planning, master scheduling, master production and material requirements planning to more accurately differentiate the corporate and operational time frames and properly format information within the new ERP system. In the end, accurate time frames were established and job descriptions were rewritten.
STRUCTURED, SUSTAINABLE GROWTH
During APICS training and the rollout of those three major projects, Load King leaders intentionally held off new business development so that they could remain internally focused on people and processes. This, they believe, helped poise the company for its next growth strategy to diversify its customer base and double its gross revenue. “Currently, our company employs approximately 200 employees. To double the size in gross revenues requires scaling up the way our management team operates,” Grimm explains. “APICS training has opened the door for coaching our team leads, shop floor managers and even directors to grow uniformly with the company.”
Now that the company is back in growth mode, the knowledge and capabilities gained through APICS training and the technology upgrades have enabled Load King to expand its services to new markets, including hospitality, entertainment and branded retail. As the company’s business continues to increase in complexity, Load Star leaders know that it will be critical for all team members to have a strong understanding of all relevant supply chain practices. This will enable the company to continue on its trajectory of success and move more quickly than its competitors. As Grimm says, “We are relying on APICS education to continue helping us achieve this.”