Content By Thomas R. Cutler

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

Whitney Blackburn began her career as an art director for a visual communications company, where she built a reputation for intuitive design and creative leadership. Equipped with a passion for intelligent marketing and a deep curiosity for all things outside her comfort zone, Blackburn has spent the past five years pursuing a career within the material handling industry. Blackburn has advanced quickly and now serves as brand manager for Hytrol Conveyor Co., where she is responsible for the development and execution of inbound marketing strategies, brand identity and awareness, campaign development, trade show exhibition, and lead nurturing.

Blackburn is actively involved in the community, serving as a goodwill ambassador for the local chamber and on the board of directors for The Woman’s Discovery Center and the American Advertising Federation. She is a graduate of Leadership Jonesboro and her design work has received several awards, including more than 15 American Advertising Awards.

Thomas R. Cutler: What changes are most obvious in the opportunities for women since the start of your career?

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

Magline is a leading manufacturer of route distribution solutions. Back in 1947, the company was founded to “make things out of magnesium” because such products offered unrivaled strength and lightness. Magline’s first product was a modular magnesium hand truck that caught on rapidly. That was a pretty forward-thinking idea back then, and paved the way to help people do their jobs more safely and productively. Since then, the biggest change in the company has been in the role of women. 

Andrea Horner joined Magline in 1992. She has supported all facets of marketing, both domestically and internationally, including strategic planning, market research, product launches, public relations, media planning, customer engagement, channel growth, and margin analytics. After nearly a quarter century, Horner was recently named the company’s vice president of marketing. She is responsible for driving Magline’s brand strategy and revenue growth through new products and innovative marketing platforms.

Horner shared the story of her long road to manufacturing leadership success.

Thomas Cutler: What changes are most obvious in the opportunities for women since the start of your career?

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

Much has been written about the different styles of management between the genders. Although there are still few women in top leadership, particularly in manufacturing, learning from them, even anecdotally, can provide insight into the current state of leadership and a future where more women are seated as C-level executives.

Kara Demirjian Huss started her career in fashion marketing, then moved to manufacturing, leading marketing efforts for family companies such as Tillotson (a manufacturer of carburetors for power tools) and T/CCI (air conditioning compressors for heavy-duty trucks and military vehicles). Huss is currently vice president of global marketing at T/CCI. In 2000, along with business partner Katherine Smith, Huss launched DCC Marketing Group. Her leadership and expertise meld practical business strategies with strong marketing plans that move the needle for businesses.

Recently Demirjian shared some of the most obvious changes in opportunities for women since the start of her career.    

Thomas Cutler: What is the most significant change you’ve seen in manufacturing over the years?

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

This is the last in a series about how lean manufacturing has affected the people and the companywide culture at Hytrol Conveyors, a designer and manufacturer of advanced conveyor systems. As described in part 1 and part 2, dozens of interviews were conducted with a wide range of employees at the Jonesboro, Arkansas-based plant. This article features director of materials Andy Maupin and maintenance manager Jerry Beshiers.

Thomas R. Cutler: Please share a little about your lean experience prior to joining Hytrol.

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

In November 2014, Quality Digest Daily published the first in a series about companywide lean cultures and how a lean journey affects people and companies. Jonesboro, Arkansas-based Hytrol Conveyors, a designer and manufacturer of advanced conveyor systems, allowed an in-depth examination of why lean manufacturing drives its entire culture. This is the second interview in the series.

Chris Taylor, Focus Factory manager at Hytrol Conveyor, was a leader of the company’s initial efforts in lean, although he had no prior experience with the improvement process before joining the company in 1992. Over the past dozen years Taylor has worked in almost every department and, with the exception of shipping, has managed every value stream.

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

It’s rare to find a company where the lean manufacturing culture is companywide, ingrained in every employee. But such is the case of Jonesboro, Arkansas-based Hytrol Conveyors, a designer and manufacturer of advanced conveyor systems. As a longtime contributor to Quality Digest Daily, I wanted to dig a little deeper and explore what makes Hytrol the exception to the rule.

I conducted a series of short Q&A interviews with employees from several levels of the organization to capture their individual and collective take on why lean manufacturing drives the entire culture. This is the first of a series of interviews.

Chris Glenn, vice president of manufacturing and engineering operations at Hytrol Conveyors, had experience in lean manufacturing prior to joining Hytrol. He told me where he first learned lean methods and about his role in Hytrol’s lean journey for the past seven years.

Thomas R. Cutler: What was your lean manufacturing experience prior to joining Hytrol?

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

Within the retail industry, it’s impossible to look at the quality of material handling processes without looking at delivery to retail outlets. Nearly three-fourths of the total costs of direct store delivery (DSD) rest with warehouse, order assembly, and delivery to retail customers. The remaining 30 percent of costs come from demand and supply planning, manufacturing, order generation, dispatch planning, and transportation.

Warehouse SKUs have quadrupled during the last 15 years, which has exacerbated the complexity of organizing and ensuring the accuracy of loading and delivery of product.

And of course, on top of all of this is the importance of safety and maintaining a healthy workforce that is too often plagued by injuries. An aging workforce with great experience and knowledge is being lost due to the inability to endure the physical activity required for DSD delivery. Fuel costs and increasing fleets have also contributed to this complex quality equation.

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

How materials are transported throughout a production system can affect not only a company’s lean implementation but also on product quality itself. In many industries the material handling system helps ensure that part damage—cosmetic or functional—doesn’t occur while a part or subassembly makes its way through the production process. If you’ve ever seen parts or kit trays move along a conveyor, jostling against other parts or the conveyor structure itself, you understand the issue.

In this article, we’ll look at the three functional areas of material handling—material protection, flow, and presentation—and how technology can ensure that parts move safely and efficiently through the process. We’ll also consider how a holistic approach to material handling, one that encompasses the process from kitting to the shipping dock, is better than a cobbled-together system that doesn’t consider the entire product production process.

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

R ecently more than 194 manufacturing IT managers and directors were asked to identify what would facilitate collaboration and productivity improvements across their organizations. More than 150 people completed a multiple-choice email survey, which contained both open-ended and multiple-choice responses. Of those who responded, 95 percent identified quality assurance management as a critical area that needed to improve technological collaboration.

Many of the respondents represented medical device, automotive assembly, and electronics manufacturing enterprises; others were involved in some aspect of machining. Although respondents perceived that the quality operation was siloed from other company functions, they noted it was simply part of the company’s culture rather than a deliberate isolation. This quality silo had evolved from a lack of technology, preventing collaboration across functions.

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By: Thomas R. Cutler

Lift trucks are one of the most important transport vehicles for goods at almost all companies. Automating the functions of a manned lift truck to positioning, monitoring, tracking, and identification enables fewer accidents, less material damage, higher productivity, and best-practice standard operating procedures.

The hallmark of quality is consistency. No two forklift drivers obey or interpret the rules of the road the same way. These fluctuations in human driving patterns compromise health, safety, productivity, and quality. Only when the human variance is removed can quality control processes be realized and errors, damage, and injury prevented.