Management at Aztalan Engineering Inc. knew the Lake Mills manufacturer of high-tolerance precision parts needed a better and quicker quoting process in order to prevent it from losing business.

An initial project with the WMEP involved value stream mapping that focused on the company’s quoting process and eventually led to the creation of software to develop a quoting package to tie into the company’s enterprise system.

As a result of Rapid and Accurate Quoting, Aztalan has a greater hit rate for high-margin jobs and it is providing a faster turn-around time on quotes.

“It has been a game changer,” Aztalan chief executive officer Dirk Maroske said. “Our challenge in the past was that we had very limited resources to turn quotes around. None of the process expertise had been documented in a proper way. Rapid and Accurate Quoting allows us to document everything and to have a repeatable process.”

As a result, Aztalan has experienced a 50 percent reduction in quoting time, Maroske said.
The hit rate also has dramatically improved, jumping to nearly 30 percent from as low as 4 percent.

The revamped quoting process also has improved Aztalan’s profitability.

“It’ goes to the bottom line because we are quoting very precisely,” Maroske said.

Dr. Raj Veeramani, executive director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison E-Business Consortium, described Rapid and Accurate quoting as a strategic tool that is the “lifeblood” of a company.

“It is a living breathing system connected to the core of what a company does and how they do it,” Veeramani said.
Aztalan was founded by Jim Brey in July 1978 in his two-car garage with two part-time employees. A decade later the company moved into a new 30,000-square-foot plant in the Lake Mills Business Park.

In 2010, Aztalan broke ground on an adjacent 46,000-square-foot structure.

The company had been privately held but in December 2014 transitioned to an employee stock ownership plan. Aztalan has 71 employees, including 64 on the shop floor.

In addition to improving its quoting process, Aztalan also began experiencing pressure from customers to shorten its lead times, which had been, on average, 10 to 12 weeks, even longer at times.

“Our customers are looking at suppliers that can turn around orders very quickly,” Maroske said.
Aztalan turned to Quick Response Manufacturing.

Lead times have improved dramatically as a result, to as little as a week for short-run orders. Larger volume orders are being turned around in three to four weeks, if necessary, Maroske said.

“We’ve seen great results,” said Ananth Krishnamurthy, director of the center for Quick Response Manufacturing at UW-Madison.

WMEP has assisted in implementing the QRM plan and creating a plant layout.

“I think there is a very synergistic relationship between what the QRM center has done and what WMEP has provided. The combination has allowed Aztalan to make implementations a lot more smoothly and quickly,” Krishnamurthy said.

Aztalan hopes to consolidate its operations into one building by the end of 2016 to further improve efficiency.

“We are really working hard to make sure that our parts have an efficient flow,” said Megan Patterson, QRM project manager.

QRM draws from a variety of lean concepts “but really focuses on high-mix, low-volume companies,” said Michael Nebel, Aztalan’s production director.

The WMEP’s knowledge has been invaluable, Nebel said.

“The people we work with have been in the field and in manufacturing environments in different types of industry. There wasn’t a lot of tutoring necessary,” Nebel said. “They were able to walk right in an grasp what we are doing and what we need to do better.”

Jerry Thiltgen, senior manufacturing specialist at the WMEP, has witnessed major progress at Aztalan.

“They are very progressive minded, knowing that they have to change and measure themselves,” Thiltgen said. “The old way of doing things wasn’t working anymore.”