Lean Tools and LECP Lead Custom Graphics to $65,000 in Cost Savings
Custom Graphics, Inc., a 27-year-old company located in Fargo, North Dakota, operates three divisions. The Custom Graphics division is the “core business,” according to General Manager Zach Paxton. Custom Graphics is a leading commercial screen printer and digital printing company specializing in custom decals, overlays and vehicle markings. A large part of the business is providing decals to several large agricultural equipment manufacturers, and decals, signage and coroplast signs to franchised businesses. Custom Graphics, Inc., employs about 35 workers.
The Custom Graphics Signs & Designs division is a full-service sign shop providing design, manufacturing and installation of indoor and outdoor signage, lit signage, magnetic signs, neon signs, and vehicle and fleet graphics. The company wraps vehicles in a 45 ft. by 180 ft. bay that can accommodate three semi-trailers and assorted other vehicles.
The newest division is Custom Graphics BenchWorks, which specializes in outdoor courtesy bus bench advertising. Through the cities of Fargo/Moorhead, West Fargo, and Fergus Falls, Custom Graphics provides graphics for about 200 benches.
Custom Graphics’ primary service area is the Midwest; however, they have clients “from New York to California,” says Paxton. He estimates they have clients in 20 to 25 states in the U.S. They have also served, or are serving, customers in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, and other European countries.
The Custom Graphics philosophy is “to provide the best quality and service to our customers—service that will enhance our customers’ products, business image and company identity.” When asked what gave Custom Graphics the competitive edge, Paxton said, “Our focus has always been on quality and service.” He emphasizes timely service and being able to deliver despite a short lead time.
Excess Waste and Labor Costs
Paxton had first been exposed to Impact Dakota in 2006 through a “21st Century Marketing” seminar he attended, taught by national consultant Richard Johnson. Later, he became interested in Lean, with which he became familiar through trade publications and “just being around manufacturing.”
“We knew we had waste,” said Paxton.
Lean Enterprise Certification Program (LECP), Lean Tools
Paxton enrolled in the Lean Enterprise Certification Program (LECP) offered by Impact Dakota and found that through the training he was able to implement Lean, achieving significant results. The LECP participants took part in a quick changeover kaizen in his company and were able to offer several suggestions for improvement.
“It was an interesting experience to have a group come in and watch our processes,” said Paxton. “Most of them had no idea about screen printing; they were objective and helpful.” Paxton said one solid idea coming from the experience was using multiple-shelf rolling carts to transport work into the shop.
$65,000 Savings in Labor Costs, Accomodation of 20% Growth
As a result of the training and kaizen activity, in 2008 Custom Graphics was able to accommodate a 20 percent growth in sales without having to add employees—an estimated $65,000 savings in labor costs. “This never would have happened without the training,” Paxton said. Paxton agrees that the extra efficiency was realized through the Lean projects they had completed, including 5S/Visual Factory and Standardized Work postings.
“Attending the Lean Enterprise Certification Program gave me a new outlook into our processes and the amount of waste that arises from things as simple as organization and 5S. It has given our company a great motivation to improve our processes in order better service our customer and reduce our manufacturing costs.”
-- Zack Paxton, General Manager