Elvin Martin’s business changed in April of 2016.
Martin, the owner of cabinet-manufacturing company Mullet Door, acquired the business in 2001. And in the past 16 years, he did what every good owner does…
He drummed up more business.
The shop eventually took on more work than it could handle, and Martin considered all sorts of solutions to help his employees stay on top of the demand.
In 2016, he found a definitive answer.
Martin attended a Lean seminar in Duluth, Georgia. That’s where he met Jim Lewis and Brad Cairns, who agreed to help him streamline Mullet Door.
In April of 2016, Lewis and Cairns spent three days observing Mullet Door’s workflows, habits, and processes. They made notes and prepared suggestions, and then Martin made the most important business decision of his life.
He surrendered control of his company’s processes. He totally and utterly committed to process improvement, and put his faith in the tried and true principles of Lean.
Lewis and Cairns repaid his faith by making immediate improvements to Mullet Door’s processes.
They first noticed a heavy surplus of manufacturing materials in Martin’s workshop – stacks and stacks of unused lumber. That was a simple solution – they called the lumber supplier, and started ordering only as much lumber as was necessary, but no more than that.
Cutting Batch Size
The next item on the list was the immense size of Mullet Door’s orders. A customer might ask for 100 doors, but Lewis and Cairns didn’t process that order as 100 doors. Instead, they processed it as 10 orders of 10 doors, which prevented confusion and overwhelm, and allowed work to move more quickly.
Lewis and Cairns convinced Martin to shut the shop down for an entire day. On that off-day, the group cleaned up the workshop by removing anything that was unnecessary – unused carts, old paperwork, worn out tools, and anything that was cluttering up the work area.
The group also rearranged the layout of the entire workshop. All workstations were moved to create more space, and to facilitate the flow of work from one station to the next.
After a lot of thought and effort, Mullet Door has increased production 30% to 35%, with fewer employees than they started with. Their original goal was to make 100 doors per day. Now, on good days, they approach 200.
The culture has shifted too. The new system is easier to work in, and employees don’t feel so hurried to complete their batches. They can be deliberate and focused in their work – and despite increasing production by a third, they report feeling less stressed than before.
“I never thought it would be this stress-free,” Martin told the Woodworking Network. “Part of it is breaking habits, getting people to think. Once they started seeing improvement they bought into it.”
Customers are also benefitting. With the new processes in place, Mullet Doors is making cabinets better and faster than before. And Martin is free to do what he’s done so well for the last 16 years…
… he can keep drumming up new business.