Quality is of the upmost importance to everyone here at Magnatag; nearly every product we offer is both made and shipped from our in-house production facility. This week I sat down with our Lean Manufacturing Operations Manager, Neil. I wanted to pick his brain, learn more about what exactly goes into production, and how he’s able to ensure that our whiteboards are always held to the Magnatag standard.
So how long have you been working with Magnatag?
“I joined the company in 2007, so I’ve been with the company for about eight years.”
“So my job title is a lean manufacturer operations manager. I basically oversee all of the operations side of the business including: manufacturing, purchasing and warehouse. The biggest part of my role is ensuring that quality is paramount to what we are producing, that we are hitting customer-lead times as advertised, and finally overseeing the cost of the manufacturer to make sure we are producing our product in the most efficient manner. “
You mentioned quality assurance, what steps have you implemented to ensure that everything that comes out of the factory meets standards?
“Well, first I think you need to look at the business as a whole; we first start with the R&D side of the business, in terms of how the products are designed and what kind of materials we use to work with. Look at vendor selection for example; this is a huge part of what we do on the production floor, and I like to think of it as the foundation of our business. We’re selecting vendors that are going to be consistently producing a great [raw] product for us. I like to describe this philosophy as “minced-meat in, sausages out”—and what I mean by that is that having a good quality foundation, ultimately leads to a more robust and reliable product. “
“Now once we get the materials in-house, we can really start talking about what goes on in the factory. One of those first things is inspecting our raw materials to ensure they conform to the Magnatag standard of quality. We’ve sort of developed a culture within our business—everybody in the factory is a quality inspector—from everyone in the associate level, to those higher up in the management chain. We’re all considered quality inspectors, and this framework largely derives from the fact that we look at every product from a consumer mindset—you’ve got to ask yourself, “Would I be willing to spend money on this product?” That’s something that we really try to drive home with everyone. If you wouldn’t be willing to spend your own money on a product we ship, what makes you think it’s appropriate for the customer?”
“Once a product is all set to go, we take one final product inspection in our shipping department. The guys down in shipping meticulously look through every product before we decide to package it up. They’re kind of like the goalkeeper of our organization. This kind of brings me to the point of our distributors; we have a long-standing relationship with the company’s that actually deliver our product. We view them as an extension of Magnatag in the sense that, sure they may not be under our payroll, but they’re still a conduit between our company and the customer. I guess you can say there is a sense of trust between us. We monitor that relationship very closely. “
How often would you say something doesn’t meet standards here in the factory?
“The truth is with any manufacturing department you work for; you’re going to find some defects. Due to the sheer volume of our products, you’ll never be able to truly have absolutely zero defects. We come across many products everyday, and we wind up having to weed through our products in-house. Our approach is simple: if there is any sort of defect found in our product, then we scrap it. We utilize the 5 why’s of lean manufacturing within our factory, which allows us to really hone in on where the defect may have originated from, and stop it before it becomes a real issue for our customers.“
Do you often hear back from customers in this regard?
“Absolutely. We have an open-door policy throughout the company; people are encouraged to speak-up if they recognize that something is off. If there are any sorts of problems on the floor, I most certainly want to be aware of it. The day-to-day running of the business is like most manufacturing facilities—I mean we do have errors and mistakes that happen, but they are always rectified here in production.”
Since all of Magnatag’s products are created in such a hands-on manner, do you ever find it difficult to meet the demand for a particular item?
“Yeah it can definitely be tough to manage, especially with our aggressive lead times. Obviously our competitors are not offering what we do when it comes to promising the shipping of a product within a five-day period, and that can sometimes cause an internal struggle for our members of the production team. The struggle really derives from maintaining such a high quality product with such an aggressive production schedule. So to answer your question: yes there are many challenges, but we never allow them to compromise the quality of our work.”
Do you notice any similarities with some Magnatag products in regards to how they are used?
“Obviously our standard products are designed to be universal for certain applications. I’m not so sure about what our competitors are offering in that regard, but I know that in terms of what we’re working on for the future, we are well ahead of the competition. Even when we look at the accessories we offer, there is always the option to sort of mix-and-match them with whiteboards of your liking. Say you want to add some magnetic lettering to your board, that option is always available.”
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