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STS Air-Pro: Re-engineering and the Introduction of Lean Manufacturing

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When STS acquired the assets of Air-Pro and created STS Air-Pro, we understood that there were opportunities to improve the business. The company had a strong brand name, a highly skilled and dedicated workforce and strong capabilities for the manufacturing of aerospace hoses. One of the biggest opportunities that we recognized, however, was the opportunity to re-engineer the business and implement lean manufacturing principles.

STS Aviation Group spent more than six months evaluating Air-Pro’s processes and procedures while searching for new building to relocate the business. We eventually secured a new state of the facility in Miramar, Florida, which was over 12,500 square feet of open space and provides STS with a layout that would help us successfully introduce some lean principles to the business.

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The introduction of lean manufacturing was a new concept for the STS Air-Pro team, and there was the process of obtaining necessary “buy-in” from them before we could implement new principles.

According to Eric James, Director of Operations for STS Air-Pro “It was easy to be so focused on current production while not seeing the bigger picture that focused on how productivity could be improved. Moving the facility to Miramar allowed us to take a look at how things were operating and how things could be improved if we were to setup the production as a true benefit to the process. Sometimes, changing things with a veteran crew could have a negative impact on the employees, so we approached this challenge with an open mind and couldn’t be happier with the results so far.”

In order to engage everyone in the process, which is one of the key factors in introducing lean manufacturing, the STS team brainstormed with its production colleagues and brought in a lean-experienced professional to help us come up with some new ideas.

We decided to break up a typical job into various steps prior to analyzing each step. Some questions we asked ourselves were, “Can each step be expedited? Can we combine steps with another step? Can one step be worked on while waiting for something else?” These questions led us to look at our machinery to see how it could be setup in a way that would keep similar processes together and the whole process flowing in the same direction without having to back track. So, with the information we collected, we set up our machines in a way that would work for all like processes and production flow.

In short, the new STS Air-Pro facility’s layout design and machine configuration has dramatically helped increase our ability to process manufacturing orders rapidly, and early results have been extremely positive.

In the past year, we have experienced increased performance across the board and have recently recorded the best three months of revenue and productivity since the acquisition. For example, a typical month for STS Air-Pro prior to being in our new facility was to produce 1700ea to 2500ea hoses a month. These numbers have since increased to roughly 4000ea a month. Obviously, an increase in sales orders has a lot to do with the increase in hose output, but these numbers would not be possible without the changes we made to the machine layout at our new facility.

We are very proud of how the team has embraced the new processors and principles that we’ve been able to introduce across the business, and we are confident that we have built a solid foundation that is now capable of supporting continued growth.

It is a very exciting time for STS Air-Pro as the business has a new facility, a new ERP team, new leadership depth and a very energized crew that is ready to take the business to new heights.

STS Air-Pro is now poised to become the market leader in Aerospace and Industrial flex hose production and distribution, and if you would like to learn more, please visit our website.