By Eric Lanke
Earlier this year, while in the Detroit area for an NFPA Regional Meeting, I had the opportunity to swing by and visit with NFPA Supplier Member Fordsell Machine Products. Dave Redfield, the president and co-owner of Fordsell, is a former Chair of the NFPA Supplier Council, so it was a great opportunity to reconnect with Dave and see all the dramatic changes that have been going on in his operation.
If you haven’t seen it, Fordsell produced a short video describing their transformation that’s worth your time. You can view it here:
[youtube id=”unw7oKJLmYY” width=”620″ height=”360″]
In the video, Dave and his wife Jean (who co-owns the business with him and serves as Fordsell’s CFO) talk about the changes they’ve been making at Fordsell in order to help it compete in the global marketplace. One dramatic change that I saw first-hand was the investments that they’ve made in “making over” their production facility. More than just a fresh coat of paint and new epoxy on the floor, this transformation included new machines, new work cells, and something Dave calls the “quality corridor,” where tooling, gauging and inspection equipment was upgraded and relocated to allow for streamlined operations and on-going improvements in the quality and cleanliness of their precision turned parts.
The focus on high precision and cleanliness was not lost on me. I was fresh off a discussion with the NFPA board about how the OEMs that our fluid power manufacturers sell their components to are reacting to increasing demands in their own customer base for cleaner and slicker-looking equipment. They’re naturally pushing that demand up the supply chain to their component suppliers, who, in turn, are pushing that demand up towards their product suppliers. Seeing a company like Fordsell make the investments they’re making to provide cleaner parts with tighter tolerances really reinforced for me how demands in fluid power’s customer markets drive the business and manufacturing objectives of companies up the supply chain.
One other anecdote Dave told me that you won’t hear in the video is the dramatic improvement in morale and productivity that came with these improvements. Although they purchased many new production machines, Fordsell kept many older, “workhorse” machines that have been turning parts for them for decades. But with the fresh paint and updated look that everything else in the plant received, the operators of these older machines felt left out, and they took it upon themselves to bring in brushes and paint to give their machines a similar make-over. The new environment prompted renewed pride in what they did, and they wanted to make sure they were part of the growth going on around them.
Congratulations, Dave and Jean, on a job well done!
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