Teel Plastics has forged a relationship with the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership that has extended more than a decade.
Over the years, projects have included value stream mapping, improved plant layout, various lean programs, ExporTechTM, Six Sigma Green Belt and, most recently, involvement in the Profitable Sustainability (PS). Teel also expects to again take part in the WMEP’s ExporTechTM program to bolster its business overseas.
“The WMEP is a resource we can bring into Teel and make us a better company. We can present a problem to them and they can help us solve it,” Teel president Tom Thompson said.
Teel operates three plants in Baraboo and specializes in extruded plastic tubing and profiles. The three plants employ a total of almost 250 workers.
The main extrusion plant also serves as Teel’s corporate headquarters. A second building houses TeelDas, a division that produces an innovative termite protection product. The third facility manufactures Whirl-Pak® sterile laboratory sampling bags in a partnership with Nasco, and houses Teel’s custom compounding capabilities.
Teel has been owned by the Smith family since 1999 when Jay Smith and his two children, Jason Smith and Brynna London, purchased the company.
Teel entered the PS program in late 2013. Teel management and the WMEP decided that the biggest opportunity for Teel involved improving the company’s project selection and management process, since as a high-growth business it at times had more than 100 open projects with shifting priorities that lengthened completion dates.
The PS effort focuses on project management, a non-traditional option, because the company already had implemented many traditional “green” initiatives in its plant operations.
“Teel is very green and environmentally friendly already,” said Wil Cox, senior manufacturing specialist for the WMEP. Teel moved into its new 150,000 square feet manufacturing facility and corporate headquarters in 2007. The site was designed with sustainability in mind. Specific goals for the new facility were improved:
- Energy savings
- Electrical usage
- Natural gas consumption
- Carbon dioxide emissions
Joel Soenksen, Teel’s Director of Manufacturing & Maintenance, shared that as a result of their sustainable designs efforts the plants daily water consumption was reduced by over 80% going from 500,000 to just 60,000 gallons per day.
The first step of the PS project was to design a project management system. Teel formed a cross-functional team in early 2014 and worked for about four months to create a lean project management process to select and manage projects based on alignment with the company’s strategic plan and those that would generate the highest return on investment.
“We implemented a way for different groups within the organization to get together and communicate what the tasks are within a project,” said Joel Lischefski, quality manager at Teel. “It allows the groups to communicate better and more effectively and focus on the tasks that needed to be completed.”
Teel piloted the project management process for several months and incorporated feedback from project managers and its senior leadership team. It automated the process with smart systems and smart boards. A company-wide rollout took place at the end of 2014 with a series of six training classes.
Another change was the installation of a countdown timer set prominently on the wall in the meeting rooms. Due to efficiencies achieved in the project management process, meeting duration expectations have gone from 1 hour schedule time to 15 minute stand up meetings.
“The project management system has been a great improvement,” Thompson said.
Soenksen agreed and noted that, “We have been experiencing about a 3x rate of new customers and products than previous years”.
The project management process has allowed for appropriate prioritization and has led to projects being completed more rapidly. Unnecessary projects are cut off earlier. It also keeps projects such as new product initiatives, market opportunities and capital projects to a manageable level.
“It keeps it all down to a manageable process,” Cox said.
The process has generated enthusiasm from project managers and upper management who see this as a key competitive advantage by being more responsive to new customers and new markets.
“Before, everybody had their different lists of projects. Now we have it all on one system,” Thompson said.