DOWNLITE is America's premiere manufacturer of down and feather bedding. A descendant of a 100-year-old feather processing company, DOWNLITE began to make down comforters and pillows in the late seventies. Today DOWNLITE is recognized as the leader in quality and service. Their cutting edge development and innovative products are redefining the bedding industry.
“Everyone needs to have an open mind…not I can’t…think I can…do something! When issues arrive and they will, we tend to get too many people involved and look at the short term fix rather than looking at the root cause and fixing it for the long run.” ~ Frank Carella, VP of Operations
DL profits in 2006 were less than we wanted. First year in 20 years where profits didn’t materialize despite 15% increase. Margins being squeezed as cost of materials increase and unable to pass these increases on to the customer. Seasonality of our business means that 2/3 of business in 4-5 months of time (July – Nov).
Down Lite growth in general has been pretty consistent…10-12% growth every year with the exception of maybe one year…problems internally…do we have the right processes and tools to continue to grow at that level.
“We have to make DL stronger and make it better than it is if we want to continue to grow and remain profitable. We need to increase the productivity of the plant. Most of the people that work here are so wrapped up in day to day stuff they don’t have time to step back and look at big picture.” Larry Werthaiser, Owner and Chairman of the Board
Definity Partners Plan
Early on in the project it was clear that temporary labor could be reduced. Several processes were moved from off-line operations to point of use processes at the machines. As an example, down beaters were moved from remote locations to working directly on the hauser machines. This resulted in the elimination of excess temporary labor, transportation waste associated with the off-line operation, and reduction of WIP since the team effectively eliminated a step in the process. The hauser lines saw an increase in productivity of over 150%!
In the Prep area, staging lanes were created and a flow line was set up to process work more efficiently. Through team collaboration, color coded carts were designed to clearly identify which department the prepped material was heading to next. By increasing their productivity and throughput, the prep department absorbed additional work from the production lines which resulted in increased productivity and throughput at the comforter and pillow lines.
The entire plant layout was looked at by a cross-functional team to identify opportunities to utilize existing floor space more effectively and design a flow which optimized performance of the various areas. The resulting layout allowed 4 additional machines and a pillow line to be incorporated into the existing plant footprint, while opening up another 20% of the plant for further expansion as needed.
5S work was done in various areas to manage WIP and create staging areas for incoming raw materials and outgoing product. The fill room, where all the natural and synthetic down is stored, was re-organized to allow kanban replenishment of materials vs. manual inventory and ordering on a daily basis.
Real time measurements allowed team leaders to manage their areas and adjust resources across various lines when required. Headcount models based on demand were created for each line, allowing accurate forecasting of seasonal temporary requirements.
Kevin Borquist (Plant Manager) and his team of supervisors and team leaders really stepped up and collectively challenged everything that they were doing from an operational perspective. By implementing impactful huddles and measurements driven by the floor, they created a culture of continuous improvement.
There were pockets of improvement going on in various areas of the plant previously. Frank Carella and his group were able to take a holistic approach to the entire operation. This resulted in the optimization of the overall process, not just certain areas within the operation.
"I could not have imagined these results! As a manager it has been awesome. I expected to see incredible results, but it blew everything I expected out of the water 10-fold. In 2 days we changed a whole department around (quilting), eliminated temporary labor to a point never before imagined and yet productivity skyrocketed! Changes have been made in every production department and we hit the original productivity target in two short weeks. We are tracking what we are doing now and holding people accountable. The employees are excited and trying harder - looking for and finding things that should not be there. Things we took for granted. It has had a major impact on ownership and you can see the spark in their eyes. It is exciting to see the people on the shop floor take us to a new level. I had to change my level of expectations to a higher level. As far as how this has impacted me on a daily basis I would have to say, instead of a level-10 migraine I’m down to a level-4. I am comfortable now with our team. I trust their ideas are good. The employees are dealing with a lot of fires on their own now, so I don’t have to. I can focus my time on other areas of the business." ~ Frank Carella, Vice President of Operations, DOWNLITE
What they had to say
“Our goal was to increase productivity…make more pieces with the same crew or make the same number with a lesser crew…Definity Partners helped us improve this number in all work centers…they taught us how to think and find ways to improve every work center.” Frank Carella, VP of Operations