Greenheck uses “pit stop” Kaizen events and other key tools to encourage and implement continuous-improvement projects.
It’s not difficult to spot the shiny, steel, domed rooftop units that keep the air moving in industrial, commercial, and residential buildings. These are a core product of Greenheck Fan Corp. Becoming a market-share leader for air-movement components hasn’t happened by accident for the Schofield, WI-based corporation. Through strategic and progressive capital investments in equipment, technology, and people, the company has thrived by living on the cutting edge.
“We actually live on the bleeding edge of technology,” said Greenheck’s maintenance-technology supervisor Paul Smith. “We are so fresh and progressive, we sometimes get technology that isn’t necessarily proven yet. We get the opportunity to make this happen, and it gives us an incredible advantage.”
Ask any of its 3,400 employees—from co-founder Bob Greenheck to upper management, to maintenance journeymen and operators. This fearless approach to ingenuity and new ideas has led to a robust continuous-improvement program that helps the company process 20 million pounds of steel annually to build air-movement-and-control equipment that includes fans, dampers, louvers, kitchen-ventilation hoods, energy-recovery systems, and make-up air units from just one of its 17 Schofield facilities. Greenheck also has manufacturing facilities in California, Minneapolis, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mexico, China, and India.
Greenheck was founded almost 70 years ago when brothers Bernard and Bob Greenheck began manufacturing lawn mowers and milk-delivery cooling troughs in their horse barn in Schofield. Bernard was a sales and marketing expert, while Bob was an engineer and manufacturing guru. This combination of skills helped to build the innovative company, which is still privately owned and operated. “Innovation is just part of this company’s DNA,” said manufacturing-operations manager Mark Haase. “Bob Greenheck has always been an innovator. He is super intelligent and still very involved in the business. He is able to look at a process and question why are we doing it that way. His approach is to go find a machine that will do what we need it to do. If we can’t find it, let’s make one that will make the manufacturing process easier and better for our customers.”
Greenheck engineers work closely with operations, maintenance, and key vendors to leverage ideas that improve processes, reliability, production, and end-user satisfaction. Greenheck executives are not afraid to make capital investments that support continuous improvements.
“We have a whole operation dedicated to building equipment for ourselves,” Haase said. “A lot of our equipment is custom. We are able to take some labor out of the process and do things more efficiently. The company is willing to make the investment. Bob Greenheck then likes to see the return on that investment. It is common to see him in the plant, especially when we get a new piece of equipment. He wants to know if it is running yet.”
It’s not just equipment and technology that get attention from the top. In 2003, a substantial investment was made to achieve maintenance excellence. The investment began with hiring Jim King as the company’s maintenance project manager.
The drive for excellence
Six of the 17 facilities in Schofield have manufacturing operations. Within each manufacturing site, there is a maintenance and tooling body shop. Facility 2 is the largest, with 325,000 sq. ft., employing 550 people over three shifts. This facility produces more than 2,000 production orders every day and manages more than 40,000 individual parts.
The company is structured into six primary business units with more than 1.5 million sq. ft. of space on the Schofield campus. King, now maintenance manager, oversees maintenance of all the facilities, and his Maintenance Excellence team supports the entire global operation.
“The past 13 years has been a continuous process,” King said. “There is constant change on the manufacturing floor, so we are just adapting to what’s happening around us.”
The Maintenance Excellence team consists of 59 maintenance professionals in Schofield, including 43 journeyman mechanics and technicians. In addition, there is a team of seven automation-and-control technicians, focused on reliability maintenance.
There are 93 maintenance professionals throughout Greenheck’s U.S. facilities. In 2015, they processed more than 135,000 work orders. On a normal week, the team averages 100 to 150 work orders each day.
When King arrived in 2003, the company had just started its GPS Program (Greenheck Performance System), modeled after the Toyota Production System (TPS). In doing so it partnered with Rockwell Automation. The Rockwell Automation team performed a three-month audit that left Greenheck with much room for improvement and the ability to identify some low-hanging fruit.
“On a scale of 1 to 1,000, we scored 382,” King said. “This was a tough pill to swallow, but it triggered the creation of our Maintenance Excellence program.”
Prior to this audit, Greenheck operated on a batch-and-queue system where excessive numbers of spare parts were always sitting on shelves waiting to be used. The shift was made to a single-piece-flow model that was cost effective from a production standpoint. Since spare parts were less available, it forced the maintenance department to develop a more robust preventive-maintenance program.
King could easily pinpoint some of the improvements and big wins credited to the GPS Maintenance Excellence initiative that began 13 years ago.
Sweep of spare parts inventory. In 2003, Greenheck had about $990,000 in spare-parts inventory. The company increased its critical spare-parts inventory by more than five times. It is a bigger investment on the front end, but saves much more in downtime and efficiency.
“We cannot call a service company and wait for someone to get here,” he said. “More than 95% of our maintenance happens in house. The only times we go to an outside vendor is with machines that carry a warranty.”
The company tracks more than 7,000 assets. The entire corporation shares the same CMMS system. “All the plants across the U.S. can see the same database we see,” King explained. “Many of our plants work in triplicate so, for example, we have damper plants here in Wisconsin, in Kentucky, and in California. If you walked into one of them blindfolded, you would not know which plant you are in. They are identical. From a maintenance and critical spare parts aspect, we don’t have to stock three of everything.”
Utilizing a CMMS system. One of King’s first improvement efforts involved entering work-orders in the CMMS system. This was difficult to accomplish, at first. “We had many senior mechanics and technicians who didn’t like the idea of entering their own data into a computer,” King said. “But it didn’t take long for them to understand and appreciate the value. Now we have a work-order history and a machine history. Once we got their buy-in on this initiative, they began to believe in what we were trying to do.”
Greenheck developed a very elaborate and robust PM program, King said. “In our CMMS system for preventive maintenance we now have more than 300,000 individual tasks and procedures written for PMs.”
Even with the CMMS system, they didn’t have a formal machine documentation-and-control system in place. “We created a file-folder system for each individual plant,” King said. “Everything is listed numerically by asset number. You find your folder and check it out. Prior to that, it was anybody’s guess where stuff was. There was no rhyme or reason. So the cost savings in time alone has been huge.”
Pit stops. The company sponsors three-to-five day Kaizen events called “pit stops.” One of the first pit stops focused on a new IBS (integrated blankin system) the company purchased. “It was new to everyone, so it was a painful process for them and for us,” King said. “We brought in this incredible technology and wanted to be able to produce parts right away. We used the pit-stop training to break it down into individual sectors and the skills trade people began to see the benefits of taking the time for this kind of training. We learned how the machine worked and ways to prevent it from breaking down.”
The company sometimes offers as many as five to 10 pit stops every week with two to 12 participants in each. “These include the aspect of 5S and are modeled after TPS,” King said. “This is all part of the original creation of our GPS system. This is a program that’s almost 14 years old and is still going very strong.”
Greenheck moves fast with new technology, Smith said, and getting the team up to speed as quickly as possible is crucial. The pit stops are effective in accomplishing this goal.
“Whether it’s equipment addition, equipment removal, or an equipment move, we sometimes get one of these per day,” Smith said. “We recently moved several of our large CNC turret punches from several different facilities globally to even their workload and extend their life. That would be a year-long planned event for some companies. For us, it’s a Thursday.”
Customized PM system. When King arrived at Greenheck, there was no formal planning and scheduling system in place. “We tried to incorporate this, but honestly, it didn’t fit with our model,” King said. “So we moved to a formula where all our maintenance supervisors do the planning and scheduling for their dedicated segments.”
Smith said the GPS system, within the controls-and-automation group, empowers the mechanics and technicians to coordinate their own projects, which includes ordering their own parts and working with production and the supervisors. “The supervisors are here as a means to empower them to get done what needs to get done,” Smith said. “We all have continuous-improvement tools, like the TPM processes, to continue to support the floor-level guys. Greenheck is so fluid and we move so fast that by the time you put a plan together, it’s already changed. So the original structure of planning and scheduling doesn’t really fit our needs here. Giving autonomy, training, responsibility, and ownership to mechanics and technicians works much better for us.”
Growth in automation and controls. As technology became more robust, the level of technical skills required to be able to maintain these highly advanced pieces of equipment also increased. Greenheck now uses technology, such as thermal imaging and ultrasound, to provide greater reliability.
Maintenance and operations evolution
Manufacturing operations manager Mark Haase has experience with Greenheck in many roles since 1991 and has seen the evolution of continuous improvement.
“Maintenance is integral to what we do, especially with regard to our component resource center (CRC) which has the largest concentration of capital equipment for the company,” he said. “About 80% of what we do feeds into this building (Facility 2). We serve our own business needs, but we are also a service center to the entire company.”
Greenheck is a configure-to-order operation, Haase explained. “Orders come in and we build them from scratch. We don’t go to a shelf and pull parts, and we don’t have inventory buffers. A long run for us is maybe 10 units that are alike. So continuous flow is very important to us.” Haase remembers when efficiency and maintenance excellence were not core competencies.
“In the mid-to-late 1990s, when a key machine would go down, we would have to search for the part, order the part, wait for the part to be delivered, and, hopefully, when it arrived, it was right,” Haase remembered. “So we saw downtime as a really significant factor in our business. We had inventory, which would help us for a while, but we weren’t happy about tying up capital in inventory when we could be using it for machinery and technology. The one-piece-flow system has helped to minimize the downtime. We PM’ed our machines in those days, but more at a 30,000-foot level. Now we are down to 10-foot level with much more detailed PM of the machines.”
Greenheck takes advantage of its multiple resources. “The maintenance and operations teams work together. Several can be pulled from other business units to help with urgent work. We have the resources somewhere on campus to service critical needs. When I think back to 90s, I spent lot of my time chasing the maintenance issues,” Haase said. “I don’t worry about those things today because there is a very competent group with many programs in place. The amount of spare parts we keep on hand is a huge investment, so if something goes down we can make the change quickly and effectively and get the machine up and running.”
Since supervisor Paul Smith works with advanced technology, this confidence in maintenance becomes even more critical.
“We have some CO2 lasers, which are incredibly maintenance intensive,” Smith said. “The fact that uptime is high is impressive. Mark [Haase] and upper management really do understand the value of the maintenance program and how it reflects on uptime. A good example is in June when we did laser PMs, and we monitored and tracked lots of data. We noticed a trend that annually, for the past seven years, we’ve had a power drop on one of the lasers. We would replace all the mirrors and get our power up. It cost $7,000 to replace the mirrors, so it was worth it. But last year we replaced the mirrors and the power did not come back up as much as we wanted. The laser was still functioning perfectly and within the appropriate power band, but we could see it was starting on that curve of failure. Mark and upper management understand you must invest in the maintenance program for it to work. Mark made the call to replace the resonator, and that’s $130,000. That’s not something you do for no reason. But this company made it happen. We replaced the resonator, the power is back up, and we don’t have maintenance issues we had before.”
Smith said this is a good example of how the system works. “We were doing our PMs, graphing it, tracking it, looked back, saw a trend, monitored the trend, when we began to experience the failure curve we reported it to upper management. Upper management said, ‘We trust you, we believe you when you say this will be a problem in the future,’ and they made our suggested solution happen.”
The support from upper management goes back to the DNA of the company, Haase added. “Bob Greenheck has always been active enough in the business that if he saw a dirty machine or if he saw a machine that wasn’t being maintained, or if he saw someone mistreating a machine, there was limited tolerance for that,” he explained.
“This is our lifeblood. We made this investment in the equipment so we need to take care of it. We weren’t always in a position to go out and buy the latest technology. Before my time, people can tell you the story of when a building had burned down but there was an old punch left after the fire. Bob bought it, hired a guy to rewire it and that was our first CNC programmable punch. So for Bob, to buy a new machine, you better take care of it.”
“We are not a profit center. We are a cost,” Smith stated. “But the investment is still made. There was probably a time when the company really felt the pain. In order to grow in lean manufacturing, the maintenance department had to grow with it.
According to Jim King, Greenheck is fearless in its pursuit of excellence. “We are very fluid. With regard to change, it’s not just in maintenance. We shuffle manpower, and we shuffle equipment. When we get new people, we get a new set of eyes and a new set of ideas. A lot of companies look at some of these big ideas and just say ‘that’s a huge project.’ We look at it and say ‘this is a weekend.’ We’ll come in and knock it out.”
Haase agrees. “We found a recipe to be successful in a business that is low volume, high variability, and high configurability,” he said. “That’s where we excel. MT
Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years. She specializes in the industrial processing industries and has toured manufacturing facilities in 36 cities in six countries on three continents.
Greenheck Reinvents TPM
Dr. Klaus M. Blache, director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a College of Engineering research professor, recently spent time working with and analyzing Greenheck’s GPS program. This is his assessment.
As I’ve stated in many presentations, “If you have a robust, small-team, continuous-improvement process (CIP), almost any effort can be made to be successful.”
This is at the core of why the Greenheck GPS/CIP works. They have engaged people who want to make a positive difference. Their initiatives are further supported by a management style that fosters new ideas and implementations, a desire to consistently produce a quality product, and mutual respect for employees and their contributions at all levels.
This is the elusive stuff that companies look for and many never find. While observing a continuous-improvement event and touring the facility and the display/Innovation Center, I was reminded of an early book, Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Collins and Porras, 1994). We used this book as a reference when developing strategy for the Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals. The key theme was around “preserving core values while stimulating progress.” It prompted us to try many new things and keep what works.
For Greenheck, preserving the core means being the leading supplier of air-movement and control equipment that includes fans, dampers, louvers, kitchen ventilation hoods, and energy-recovery and make-up air units. Their BHAG (Big Harry Audacious Goal) for TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) to stimulate progress is “80% of all equipment-related problems can be detected by operators with proper training.” This philosophy is used on in-plant postings.
Greenheck has executed thousands of Kaizen events throughout the past 14 years. The Greenheck Performance System (GPS) was modeled after the Toyota Production System, with TPM integrated into it. In this ongoing journey, the focus is on throughput and flow versus OEE (overall equipment effectiveness).
For those who understand its beginning, OEE was intended to be a tool to reduce availability, performance, and quality losses on one machine at a time rather than measuring how it is used today. They work on floor processes (with value stream mapping) and office processes (with swim lane mapping).
Once best practices are found, Greenheck understands the value of clarifying workflow and standardizing their processes. They perform PM-completed audits and lean audits. The team members understand that CIP needs to start immediately and continue during the life cycle of the machinery and equipment. This is evidenced by Kaizen events on new equipment and existing operations.
Greenheck does many other things in the areas of visual controls, lubrication, and customized maintenance manuals. Operator involvement in the multi-disciplined Kaizen events is key. The pride of working for Greenheck Fan was evident in all of my discussions with operators, trades/technicians, engineers, and leadership.
In summary, Greenheck Fan nurtures the culture needed to sustain a highly functional CIP. This enables it to put maximum focus on issue resolution.
The complete original definition of TPM (Seiichi Nakajima, Introduction to TPM, Productivity Press, 1988) includes these five elements:
— TPM aims to maximize equipment effectiveness (overall effectiveness).
— TPM establishes a thorough system of PM for the equipment’s entire life span.
— TPM is implemented by various departments (engineering, operations, maintenance).
— TPM involves every single employee, from top management to workers on the floor.
— TPM is based on the promotion of PM through motivation management and autonomous small group activities.
Greenheck Fan has instilled these concepts, resulting in an effective TPM process.
—Dr. Klaus M. Blache