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CBIL Helps Give Area Businesses Competitive Edge in Global Market

February 08, 2008

Marquette Tool & Die Co.
Marquette Tool & Die Co. employee Curtis
Lowry stamps out part for Toyota
automobiles. The plant partnered with the
college's Center for Business, Industry
and Labor to implement the 5S System to
maximize workplace productivity.
Businesses large and small constantly are looking for a competitive advantage in today’s global economy.

Sigma-Aldrich and Marquette Tool & Die represent two ends of the manufacturing spectrum, one being on the cutting edge of biotech and the other being at the core of our country’s traditional manufacturing base.   However, both types of industries are vital to the future economic health of the United States and both face significant pressures to continually improve their productivity if they are to remain competitive in their global marketplaces.  Both opted to partner with the college’s Center for Business, Industry and Labor (CBIL) to help them become more competitive by implementing a lean manufacturing process call the 5S System, which focuses on extracting waste from work processes and maximizing ability to use all workspaces productively.

Bob Serben, director of CBIL, noted that his organization considered it an honor to be selected by St. Louis companies like Sigma-Aldrich and Marquette Tool & Die to provide services that are so vital to their futures. 
"I’m always delighted at the very productive work that comes from the partnerships we forge with our clients," Serben said.  "More importantly, our clients are delighted -- and that’s what counts." 

Sigma-Aldrich Strives for Continuous Improvement

Founded in 1951, St. Louis-based Sigma-Aldrich is a Fortune 1000 business with more than 7,600 employees worldwide and annual sales of more than $1.7 billion in 2006.  Sigma-Aldrich and its subsidiaries engage in the development, manufacture and distribution of various biochemicals and organic chemicals worldwide. 

Deborah Slagle, Sigma-Aldrich’s vice president of operations, said the company test-implemented the 5S System in its distribution center, then continued implementation of 5S throughout the organization.  
In the "sort" phase of 5S, its research and development (R&D) teams identified more than $250,000 of unused or seldom used equipment and items.  Many were redistributed to other departments in the company, not only opening space and improving workflow in R&D, but also saving money by not having to purchase the equipment for these other departments.  An operations facility reclaimed more than 5,638 square feet of manufacturing space (valued at approximately $845,700) and saved more than 520,000 non-value added steps per year -- the equivalent of 270 miles -- and counting.

"Sigma-Aldrich fosters an environment of continuous improvement," Slagle said.  "We are constantly looking for new tools that will drive improvements in service, quality and safety.  CBIL has provided and continues to provide outstanding support for the implementation of 5S across our St. Louis facilities."  

Efficiency a Must for Marquette Tool and Die Co.

Marquette Tool and Die Co. is a small, family-owned company with 60 employees.  For 70 years, MTD has produced metalworking tool, dies, metal stampings and assemblies, primarily for the auto industry.  According to Don Freber, MTD president and owner, global competition has forced its customers to be more demanding of their supply base regarding quality standards, operating efficiencies and pricing.

During the past six years, CBIL has assisted in securing Missouri state grants to gain ISO certification and implement plantwide efficiency programs such as Statistical Process Control, 5S and Lean Manufacturing.

"These programs train our operating personnel as well as supervisors and managers in using quantitative methods of measuring quality, as well as procedures for eliminating wasted time and other resources throughout our organization," Freber said.  "The programs have played a large part in getting all of our people involved in continuous improvements in all phases of our business.  Without such training through CBIL, I truly believe we would not be able to continue in what has become an extremely competitive, and certainly shrinking, manufacturing industry. The competitive arena of global outsourcing requires that the search for these increases in efficiency be ongoing and become second nature to all of our employees’ performance." 

For more information about St. Louis Community College’s Center for Business, Industry and Labor, contact Serben at 314-539-5310 or by e-mail, rserben@stlcc.edu, or visit the CBIL website, www.cbil.org.