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fighting each other for resources. By expressing appreciation for the contributions of the workforce and seeking front-line input and buy-in on the company’s direction, we encouraged the valued employees of Hixson—the experts in the trench- es—to own their processes. Hixson’s renewed commitment to targeted improvement guided us to measure everything, allowing for objective evaluations and focused troubleshoot- ing in order to continuously qualify and strengthen processes. We essentially took a step back, decided our trajectory, and in a unified effort manned the helm to get there. As the tone in the workplace started to change and become


more optimistic with the increased sense of empowerment and structured progress, Hixson parlayed the energy into our operations and workforce development. Improvement initiatives, such as kaizens and 6S visual workplace events, were conducted in every department. Front-line employees and customers alike had a forum to say what worked and what didn’t and from there, their collective resources were pooled to provide meaningful and lasting changes. Highlights of our successes include increasing the Planning


Department’s throughput velocity by over 25%, reorganizing the Anodize and General Plating Departments to optimize workflow, and instituting a “standard of appearance” that has been complimented and even modeled by some of our Fortune 500 customers. Of course, these events were also able to help identify bottlenecks in the processes which in turn guided cross-training and procedural improvement efforts. While maturing our processes and gleaning a plethora of


employee feedback, Hixson identified a major vacuum in the training practices of old. With the help of the SEA roadmap, we were able to fill this void with focused, homegrown training courses. We developed master trainers with the skill sets needed to connect with employees-turned-students and get a consensus buy-in to maintain the new systems once the training ended. We also used the wealth of knowledge and experience of our employees as a pool of subject-matter expert resources. Weighing our internal knowledge with industry best prac-


tices, the master trainers developed training programs to help employees hone their technical and soſt skills in what they have proudly dubbed Hixson University or HU. HU provides soſt skills in a series of trainings conducted by master trainers in the realms of communication and time management. For technical skills, HU is piloting a competency-based training program, which is a self-paced, hierarchical curriculum with assessments, labs, and mentorship for the company’s value- added processes. Te outputs of all these methods are clear in Hixson’s busi-


ness results. Because we continually track everything (sales, in- ternal and external rejects, OSHA incidents, customer satisfac- tion, efficiency, delivery, throughput velocity, profitability—you name it), we can slice and dice the data to show which factors are most impactful to the bottom line and trouble-shoot from


there. Te leadership also feels we have a much more sophis- ticated ability to identify issues early on and solve them before they have a chance to affect customers, and then the supply chain. In fact, that confidence is supported by several industry awards throughout the past several years: the workforce has been recognized for Operational Excellence (2011) and Supply Chain Innovation (2010), the leadership team was awarded the Stephen E. Barton Leadership & Culture Award (2009), and a key executive earned individual accolades with the Richard Hall Award for Leadership Excellence (2010).


Hixson’s Masking Department served as the pilot case for lean, undergoing a series of improvement events to achieve standard workstations contain- ing zero clutter and maximizing workflow.


Given enough time, Hixson would have come up with


many of the improvements they eventually made. But the industry is changing so rapidly there isn’t enough time to invent everything from scratch. Hixson acknowledged that SEA was integral to Hixson’s lean journey. SEA provided the A to Z roadmap, a committed and supportive staff to provide guidance and direction, and a platform for Hixson to present their progress to an expanded customer base. ✈


SEA is an aerospace and defense nonprofit alliance founded in 2003 by prime and tier-one companies and led by sub-tier suppliers committed to accelerating supply chain performance. SEA provides a lean management system and a voluntary supplier certification program for enhanced visibility, performance, and collaboration. SEA is funded by supplier memberships and sponsorships.


Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing 2013 101


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