Great Lakes Window® Adopts Operational Excellence Initiative
TOLEDO, OH, 2006 – For Great Lakes Window, making the highest quality product means beginning with the end in mind. Adopting that concept, the custom vinyl replacement window manufacturer launched its Operational Excellence Initiative. “Our ultimate goal is to significantly enhance our overall level of service. That starts with our production processes and ends in complete customer satisfaction,” says Greg Irving, vice president/general manager for Great Lakes Window. Utilizing the principles of lean and Six Sigma manufacturing, Operational Excellence focuses on eliminating waste during the manufacturing process so that quality is central, production time is condensed and cost is reduced. “We needed to more clearly define a set of quality guidelines and practices at Great Lakes Window,” Great Lakes Window President Jeff Klein explains. “Operational Excellence has been integrated into our company’s core strategy and is designed to create a working environment in which we will continue to grow and exceed customer expectations.” As plant manager, Jim Smercina recognizes that Operational Excellence is not achieved by concentrating on end of line quality. “We at Great Lakes Window strive to build – not inspect – quality into our products,” he says. “Since this focus is upstream, we’ve adopted 5S and Six Sigma procedures, as well as robust process quality controls, as part of our Operational Excellence Initiative.”
More than Six Sigma
Six Sigma – a statistical program that emphasizes data collection to design out variation – and 5S – which aims to (1) sort, (2) set in order, (3) shine, (4) standardize and (5) sustain the manufacturing process – are not the only tools that constitute Operational Excellence. Other key procedures include:
• Metrics-Based System – Smercina runs daily production
reports that are designed to track production, reworks and
efficiency. He then meets with his operations team to review
the data, making every effort to deal with any issues in less
than two days time.
• Layered Process Audits – By following up with one or two
workstations at random per shift, Great Lakes Window
management is able to verify that its associates are
exercising proper operating techniques and quality
• Red Label Processing – Involves identifying and tagging
any errors – or reworks – in the window so that they can be
measured and reconstructed.
•Team Leadership – Associate supervisors are dedicated to
implementing and monitoring quality improvement actions.
Improved quality standards in the plant increase productivity and efficiency, but it’s the Voice of the Customer that’s essential to making sure Great Lakes Window customers’ needs are met. The term ‘Voice of the Customer’ is used to describe customers’ needs and their perceptions of a company’s product or service. As part of Operational Excellence, Great Lakes Window sales and technical teams are able to enter customer feedback into a comprehensive database. From there, the feedback is analyzed and used to focus the operations team on specific issues and improvement efforts. “Our customers’ feedback helps us to identify the critical features and specifications of Great Lakes Window products,” says Great Lakes Window Customer Quality Engineer Kevin Green, who heads the Voice of the Customer component of Operational Excellence. “The database is critical to helping us determine where to focus our improvement efforts and clarify key motivators of customer satisfaction.”
Reducing rework, improving satisfaction
Based on both the internal and external metrics, Operational Excellence has been a success that will help distinguish Great Lakes Window as a leader in the replacement window and patio door industry. “We currently are exceeding our objectives for internal quality performance metrics and external customer quality, and the trends are continuing upward,” Smercina says. “As the total number of reworks has decreased, our supplier satisfaction level and overall production efficiency has increased,” Smercina adds. “What that means is that with the refined quality measures in place, we’ve entered an improvement trend that continues to climb.” And Smercina isn’t alone in recognizing these improvements. Terri Lodwick of All American Window & Door Co., Inc., a long-time Great Lakes Window Dealer that services the Greater Milwaukee area, also acknowledges the benefits. “We recently had the distinct pleasure of talking candidly with president Jeff Klein, and some of the other new leaders at Great Lakes Window,” she says. “Our suggestions were met with the utmost sincerity and we left the meeting knowing that we’re a significantly valued partner of Great Lakes Window. “More importantly, the meeting resulted in positive actions,” Lodwick adds. “We’ve noticed a shift in the manufacturer’s focus to ensure that the needs of homeowners are being met. This increased awareness of our customers’ needs, along with the refined manufacturing and delivery processes at Great Lakes Window continues to help us meet our core business objectives.”
About Great Lakes Window
Great Lakes Window, headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, has been custom manufacturing vinyl replacement windows and patio doors since 1981. Great Lakes Window markets its products to a nationwide network of dealers under the UniFrame®, PlyGem LifestylesTM, SeabrookeTM and BayshoreTM brand names and distribution channels with the Napco® Window Systems and GrandViewTM series. The company has earned a reputation for operational excellence, continuous innovation, dedication to quality and commitment to energy-efficient products – including double and triple glazed window and door units with Low-E and gas-filling – across the full range of window styles. For more information about products by Great Lakes Window, visit www.greatlakeswindow.com.