For decades, manufacturers have relied on lean initiatives to speed up production, improve quality and lower costs. After seeing the success manufacturers and other businesses enjoyed on their own lean journeys, Tweet Garot CEO Chris Howald wondered how lean practices could help his business as well.
“I’ve always been interested in lean and continuous improvement, and when we were going through a leadership change, I thought that would be a good time to adopt some of the same principles to our mechanical contracting business,” he says. “We are intentionally creating a manufacturing company within our current construction delivery model, which will create greater efficiency and value for our customers.”
While working with lean consultants, Howald says one suggested Tweet Garot look at its processes from a manufacturing standpoint.
“That really helped,” he says. “We are now on a manufacturing type of scheduling and it has made a big difference.”
A leader in the prefabrication of materials related to the installation of HVAC, plumbing process piping systems and sheet metal equipment, Tweet Garot uses its manufacturing mindset to prefabricate ducts, pipe assemblies and other pieces in a controlled environment.
“The result is better quality control, less waste and overall improvement,” Howald says.
The company’s lean journey played a key role in its decision to combine its four production facilities into a single 108,000-square-foot facility in Wrightstown, which opened in late 2018. Tweet Garot maintains its corporate headquarters in De Pere.
“We had four different facilities, and a single piece could go through three of them. It made sense to bring everything under one roof,” Howald says. “It also made it easier for us to focus on standardization.”
The centralization of all tooling as well as piping, plumbing and sheet metal fabrication into one facility allows Tweet Garot the opportunity to innovate around collaborative workflows, says Leah Cohen, the company’s director of manufacturing. She was hired to help Tweet Garot make the switch from a construction mentality to a manufacturing one when it came to production.
“By doing all the work at one site on a particular project, we not only save time since there’s no need to transport items back and forth, but we save money, too,” she says.
The building boasts several features that improve safety and allow Tweet Garot to better implement its lean processes, including additional jib cranes and new remote-controlled overhead cranes that help move materials more safely and efficiently; pre-piped weld gas in place to eliminate the efficiency loss and safety risks involved in changing out gas bottles at each station; and ventilation systems that place source hoods immediately above welding stations and other fume-heavy activities.
Having all employees under a single roof will foster improved collaboration and innovation, Cohen says. Since many of the employees may not have worked together before, she says teambuilding activities were held to bring everyone together.
“Being at one location will allow us to leverage the talent and skill sets from all of our teammates to share best practices and resources,” Cohen says.
In addition to its lines dedicated to HVAC, plumbing and piping processes and sheet metal production, the new facility includes a large, flexible area for employees to work on production needs and to build assemblies, modules or kits, as needed.
Flexibility also was built right into Tweet Garot’s new facility: The eastern wall was constructed so the building can be expanded easily, Howald says.
“If we are able to grow thanks to our lean processes — which we think we will — we will be able to accommodate that,” he says.