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Contract Manufacturing Profile


out the capabilities. Rudd reported that they will also add ad- ditional five-axis capacity with a five-axis Robo Drill and vari- ous three-axis milling equipment along with welding capabili- ties. A Zeiss Contura G2 CMM for dimensional measurement supports their quality and measurement programs.


Quality and Certification as Foundation


Many established companies use lean initiatives as ways of improving quality—on ‘fixing the business.’ In the case of Apex, starting a lean journey meant building the company from scratch on a foundation of best practices. For example, the company began its start-up phase with a full-time continu- ous improvement manager. “We are focusing on three pillars of lean—5S, Total Pro- ductive Maintenance, and Standard Work,” Rudd explained. 5S is the lean term for organizing a workspace for efficiency, often described in English (translated from the Japanese) as sorting, set in order, systematic cleaning, standardizing, and sustaining. TPM is dedicated to improving machine availabil-


ity and uptime through maintenance. Reducing uncertainty in machine availability through TPM is critical in achieving maximum efficiency.


They received their lean training through the nonprofit Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC, Plym- outh, MI). MMTC is helping them gain AS9100 certification, with their lean training as an initial step in that journey. “We chose to get AS9100-certified first because it is important in the aerospace market. Also, we will get ISO9001:2008 certification automatically along with it,” said Rudd. “Frankly, not having the AS9100 could be a barrier to entry. A number of customers are keen for us to complete our AS9100,” which he predicts will be by summer 2013.


Lean principles with layout, TPM, and Standard Work are aimed at getting AS9100 Certification.


“We do not normally work with start-ups,” said Mike Coast Request our


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106 ManufacturingEngineeringMedia.com | March 2013


president of MMTC. “Most startups are not in a position to benefit from our help—typically we work with organizations that have at least 15 employees. We started writing the quality management systems they were going to use without even having the machinery in the building,” said Coast. “That was a little unique for us, but with their established business plan, they knew what kind of business they were in, what processes were going to support that, and therefore we could help them develop a quality system.” The machining equipment Apex was going to start with was in place by the time the MMTC consult- ing task was finished, so “everything worked out as planned,” according to Jim Rice, the engagement supervisor for MMTC. Rice explained that MMTC helped Apex by defining what he terms the “upper tier” of a quality system, and from that developed specific instructions and details they would need to operate efficiently. “This meant developing the Quality Manual and mandatory procedures,” said Rice. From that emerged


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