Niagara Transformer Corp., Part 2

Niagara Transformer Corp. power generator.

Before Niagara Transformer’s current facility expansion got under way, the Buffalo business was seeking to overcome space challenges and shift manufacturing emphasis from smaller-sized electric power transformers to larger units. A New York State Department of Labor grant kick-started the company’s introduction to the waste-eliminating operational approach of Lean in 2005. Application of the methodology enabled efficiency gains across all departments and, since then, Lean practices continue to drive change in the engineering, manufacturing and purchasing departments with UB TCIE’s assistance. Niagara Transformer President John Darby calls the engagement a work in progress that has improved flow and communication, lowered costs, and increased productivity.

The Approach

  • Utilized simulation modeling tools, coupled with a Lean perspective, to analyze the feasibility and efficiency of a proposed new facility layout
  • Provided a Lean foundation in eliminating waste to nearly a dozen engineers and purchasing department personnel
  • Through value stream mapping activities, gained insight into decision-making and process flow of product design and procurement
  • Elevated staff knowledge of material control and inventory management with custom training
  • Received support for continuous improvement activities in operations, engineering and procurement divisions with a TCIE Lean Executive-on-Loan professional

The Impact

  • Developed a layout for the new facility, to open in 2013, that will improve throughput with adequate space, equipment and personnel requirements based on optimizing operational flow and processing
  • Improved processes and procedures, work flow and quality by formalizing work standards
  • Eliminated labor hours in the winding shop by 5% annually
  • Drove out $22,500 annually in material costs
  • Achieved a 10-percent reduction in product design lead time to increase throughput while maintaining quality