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DORIS COOPER: EAPC business excellence adds new dimension to design services

What could you do with a 50 percent productivity improvement? A new business division at EAPC Architects and Engineers offers clients another tool to improve their bottom line by removing waste and improving operational flow.

"Business excellence is complimentary to the design and management EAPC does for our customers' building and industrial projects in the sense that my focus is to look at the people and interactions within a building or process and to see how we can do better," says Chad Frost, director of business excellence for EAPC.

Chief Operations Officer and Principle Architect Wayne Dietrich says it's a new dimension to their design team and a natural evolution for this progressive company, which specializes in architecture, engineering, industrial, and wind energy design.

Frost may collaborate with building designers and clients to pinpoint areas where a company's process can be streamlined and the square footage reduced. Business excellence is also a way for EAPC to add value for its clients after a design project is complete by offering continuous improvement services to customers' actual operations inside the building.

"Company culture is a big aspect. I can draw all day and not break through that," Dietrich said. "With these tools, we can help people accept planned changes and design a better, more effective and efficient floor plan to serve the majority."

Powerful tools

Frost has more than 20 years of experience managing production floors and working with management teams in companies, including LM Wind Power and AGCO-GSI. He uses proven principles of lean production and Six Sigma approaches to help customers achieve their goals. These tools, which are used in organizations worldwide, can generate benefits ranging from improving processes and reducing unnecessary steps and duplication in workflow to enhancing employee productivity and company profit margins.

"If you haven't done an assessment of your manufacturing or service operations before, then it is highly probable you can expect a minimum 50 percent improvement when applying these tools and strategies," Frost said.

Retrax, a local manufacturer of after-market pickup bed covers, brought Frost in to train about 12 supervisors, who are now implementing modifications to workstation layouts and production flows.

Manufacturing Engineer Brad Derosier said the employee response and outcomes have been positive, and many of Frost's recommendations have been incorporated. Through their work with Frost, Derosier said, "We are investing in our employees' continuing education."

General Manager Scott Fuller said Frost's organized program was what the company needed to jump-start their move to lean. "We knew to be successful we would need an outside resource. It's nice to have it just a mile down the road," he said.

"It's not a finite thing. We hope to see continuous improvements and will revisit it on an ongoing basis," Fuller said.

Retrax's example

Frost worked with the team at Retrax to identify ways they could improve the flow of their processes and reduce or eliminate waste. A Kaizen event helped them implement a logical reconfiguration of their production floor. Frost says a Kaizen event, a Japanese term for rapid improvement, is a natural next step to the business excellence training provided to companies because it allows them to apply the key facets of the training and quickly see the concepts and benefits.

At the core of a business excellence consultation is the company's greatest resource, its employees. "We sometimes limit our ability to see improvements or reach our growth potential because we don't involve the employees in the improvement process," Frost said.

Frost said with this addition to its services, EAPC has the capability to not only design the best buildings, but also help its customers get the most from the operations inside those buildings.

"With Business Excellence, we want to be the best value for our customers and after their experience with us, I want them to come back and say, 'When can we do this again!'"

Cooper, Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation's (EDC) marketing and communications associate, profiles an EDC business member or client company regularly. The EDC provides access to resources to help primary sector businesses expand in the Grand Forks region. Learn more at www.grandforks.org

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