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Impact Recovery Creates a Culture of Continuous Improvement

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At the forefront of Impact Recovery Systems, Inc.® is the mission to provide quality safety products to its customers.  Since 1991, they have manufactured flexible, high-impact traffic and safety devices for roads, pedestrian safety, warehouses, and facilities worldwide.

President Greg Hannah says, “It has always been the goal of Impact Recovery Systems, Inc. to be the premier manufacturer of safety products.  From early on, we knew that to do so, we would have to continuously review our manufacturing processes. As Impact Recovery Systems, Inc. has grown, added new products, and people, it is imperative that we continue to focus on quality, cost, and delivery to allow more flexibility and responsiveness for our customers.” 

Regardless of the industry, process improvement plays a pivotal role in any organization.  A company must look inward to determine how to optimize production, which in turn helps the organization and its employees.  Improvements can fix broken processes and give employees the critical time they need to focus on the most important tasks.  This allows them to feel like valued members of the organization.  Efficient processes lead to high-quality production, quicker completion times, and the elimination of waste.  Not to mention, allows companies to be competitive and grow. 

Over the years, Impact Recovery Systems, Inc. has worked closely with TMAC, in what has now become a culture of continuous improvement.  In 2007, Impact Recovery Systems, Inc. engaged with the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC), a program managed by Southwest Research Institute.  TMAC is federally funded and was established to help manufacturing growth, which in turn has made them an ideal partner.  Production/Purchasing/Inventory Manager Barbara Cheatham shares, “TMAC has always fulfilled our needs when we have leveraged their help.  Their team is very knowledgeable and has vast experience in helping manufacturers become better.”  

Cheatham is one of the main forces leading the charge.  With more than 37 years of manufacturing experience, she knows the importance of continuous improvement.  Specifically, she says, “Process improvement will help with inventory, which in turn will help with purchasing, scheduling, quality, and customer satisfaction.  From the office to the shop floor, process improvement can benefit any company (in any industry) by decreasing costs, shortening lead times, reducing defects, and minimizing inventory.  This results in increased capacity, improved customer satisfaction, and higher profits.”

In September, TMAC returned to look at the company’s products, processes, technologies, and people.  Over a three-day period, TMAC utilized Lean Six Sigma methodology.  One of the key tools involved was Value Stream Mapping, which allowed the Impact Recovery Systems, Inc.  team to clearly analyze their current process and identify opportunities.  Once the key opportunities were identified, the team utilized tools such as Cellular Manufacturing, Total Productive Maintenance, and 5S (workplace organization) to further delve into areas of improvement.

This time around, Impact Recovery Systems, Inc. is specifically focusing on its Traffic division.  SwRI program manager at TMAC Sandra Hawkins explains, “With Impact Recovery Systems’ growth, the biggest area of improvement is processing the increased number of orders quickly. To achieve this, Impact Recovery Systems has identified the need to modify their facility layout to increase flow. They will also look to implement a ‘pull process.’”

After the initial meeting in September, the team then spent some time analyzing how to put forth the resulting changes.  In November, TMAC returned to work with the company on the progress made, and any resulting or persistent challenges.  As is typical of continuous improvement initiatives, changes can take anywhere from days, to months, to a year to implement.  Impact Recovery Systems will continue to work with TMAC over the next few months. 

Process Improvement alone cannot guarantee a company’s success.  The culture of the company (from its leadership to the workers), must be one of growth and progress. Every employee must believe that what they do is important and plays an important role in the success of the company.  They must also be encouraged to take ownership by speaking up about broken processes or finding solutions to existing challenges.  At Impact Recovery Systems, Inc.® the leadership team involves employees in process improvement initiatives, as well as rewards employees who engage in process improvement.  As Cheatham concludes, “It’s great that our leadership is committed to investing in the business to help it grow and thrive.”   

By incorporating process improvement practices into its daily manufacturing practices, the culture of continuous improvement will become second nature at Impact Recovery Systems, Inc.