Heitek Automation was founded in 2000 as a pneumatic and robotic automation distributor. Today it represents over 50 brands in electrical control systems, pneumatic components, valves, robotics, sensors and more for manufacturing automation systems and maintenance. In addition to being an industrial automation control components distributor, Heitek provides custom-engineered solutions, industrial control panel assembly and aluminum extrusion fabrication and assembly. To support its growth, Heitek moved into an 18,000 square foot facility in 2015 and during the last four years has doubled employee count.
Arizona MEP Helps Heitek Embark on Continuous Improvement Plan
Heitek began working with Arizona Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Arizona MEP) three years ago after Scott Heiling, Heitek’s President and Quality Manager, attended an Arizona MEP lean manufacturing training event. Arizona MEP conducted an assessment of current operations and organizational structure. After completing the assessment, Arizona MEP and Heitek prioritized the action items with the end goal of organizing the facility and company to take on more growth opportunities while maintaining high quality and customer satisfaction.
As part of the continuous improvement plan, Arizona MEP delivered manufacturing process and flow improvements, prepared the company for ISO certification and saved the company money with the utility tax credit.
Process and Workflow Improvement to Optimize Workforce and Space
The first goal was to improve the manufacturing processes for electrical panel assembly and metal fabrication. Arizona MEP manufacturing experts led a Kaizen training event that mapped out existing processes, discussed ways these processes could be improved, determined the action items and created an implementation plan.
“At the Kaizen event we included almost every employee, obviously those in manufacturing and engineering, but we also included those in customer service, sales and accounting departments so they could see how these principles could be applied to any part of the business,” said Heiling. “The Kaizen event helped shift our mentality. Now when we run into constraints, rather than looking at the problem and saying ‘we need more manpower’, we're reviewing the process to see how we can do it more efficiently utilizing our current workforce fully."
New Position Keeps Manufacturing Talent Focused
Arizona MEP and Heitek worked to implement the 5S system to organize and optimize manufacturing floor space and flow. As a result of this process, a new entry-level position was added to prepare the work cells, stage components and package the orders for shipping. “Our skilled labor was fulfilling this role which was taking them away from the manufacturing processes that they're good at,” said Heiling. “This position provides an excellent way to learn the manufacturing processes and move into the manufacturing role in four to six months and we can backfill their role more easily. This position has been very effective for us.”
ISO Certification Checks Off Important Requirement for Customers
With many customers in medical and aerospace industries, Heitek knew ISO certification was important to retain current customers and grow its business within these industries. Preparing for certification takes a significant amount of staff time and Heitek needed to understand where to start the process. Arizona MEP’s team of compliance experts conducted an audit and developed a plan for Heitek to achieve ISO certification. “Just the fact that Arizona MEP had the right team that works with our size business, within our industry, and was the right fit for us felt very good,” said Heiling. “What we learned during the audit is that we had many of the processes documented but needed help to formalize it—adding organization and structure so we had a quality system we could maintain.” With ISO certification Heitek and its customers do not have to spend time and money conducting third-party supplier audits.
Immediate Cost Savings with Utility Sales Tax Exemption
Arizona MEP also let Heitek know about Arizona's utility sales tax exemption for manufacturers, helping them realize cost savings immediately. “It's nice to have an organization we can rely on that understands what the rules are in the state and helps us take advantage of these programs. Arizona MEP has been a big help in that,” said Heiling.
Next up on Heitek’s continuous improvement plan, Arizona MEP is writing a safety manual, conducting a financial assessment, and working with the leadership team on an organizational development plan to prepare the company for more growth opportunities. “We are experiencing a tremendous amount of growth and Arizona MEP is helping us get through the growing pains with a high level of confidence knowing we have good resources available to us,” said Heiling. “It's nice to have a wide range of people that have very good knowledge and experience in our industries that we can rely on.”