Success with SPL Consulting, LLC

Label Logic enhances efficiency with SPL Consulting

The converter was over capacity in all areas, working significant overtime and constantly troubleshooting prior to partnering with Brian Van de Water.

Kevin Weeks (L) and Brian Van de Water

Greg Hrinya, Editor01.22.24

Label Logic has significantly improved its operational efficiencies with the help of SPL Consulting, LLC, a specialist in strategic planning and Lean implementation. SPL Consulting, LLC was introduced to Label Logic through a previous co-worker, Chris Doerr of Packaging Validators.

Initially, Karen Cripe, president, was reluctant to engage in the process due to previous poor experiences. In the past, consultants had done more harm than good. Her husband and CEO, Jeff Cripe, was on board and the decision was made to embark on this journey.

After the hesitancy, Karen notes, “Partnering with SPL was the best thing we ever did.”

Label Logic was over capacity in all areas of the business, working significant overtime and constantly troubleshooting problems that would crop up. This formula left little time to focus on lasting change and improvement.

Karen explains, “We were moving fast and needed help.  We had over $500,000 in WIP and we overwhelmingly failed at execution from top to bottom. Morale was low and stress levels were high.”

Through SPL’s Business Assessment, SPL identified setup reduction as the first area on which to focus. Kevin Weeks, at the time the quality and estimating manager, shares, “We were having backlog issues, and were scheduling hand to mouth daily, with very little faith we would run what we planned that day. We were all over the place, very busy and never could get caught up. Through the SMED Kaizens, we identified areas where we could save time creating standard processes and predictability. In just two Kaizens, we opened up capacity getting significantly more done in less time. We realized up to 46% reduction in setup time generating 2,300 hours of capacity, eliminated 1,500 miles of walking and generated $1.7M of additional revenue capacity.”

The next area SPL set as a priority was developing Label Logic’s first Strategic Plan. A key element of SPL’s Strategic Planning process is conducting a leadership team-building session. In this session, SPL uncovered behavioral style likes and dislikes, as well as strengths and weaknesses for each member of the team. This element is one of the most profound tools in helping a team recognize who people are and their worth to the team and organization.

“This process is often approached by participants with a little fear as creates vulnerability as each person shares their style,” remarks Brian Van de Water, CEO, SPL Consulting. “After the individual has shared, the other team members provide additional insight. In this case, similar to almost every session I’ve led with clients, the team highlights many more strengths the individual didn’t know others perceived.

“During this phase of the process with Label Logic, we uncovered the production manager did not like managing people but had many other strengths for the organization,” Van de Water continues. “This was very evident to me as I worked with the team. I shared with the ownership, prior to this session, that I was going to propose shifting responsibility for managing team members to their GM. We had trepidation about the production manager resisting giving up this responsibility and that he might take it as a demotion. I asked him, ‘If you could choose to give one area of responsibility to someone else, what would that be.’ He contemplated for a few moments, got up and walked to the board and pointed to ‘managing people’ and said, ‘If I could get rid of this responsibility it would change my life.’  I breathed a sigh of relief and we shifted that responsibility to the GM playing to his strength with people skills.”

Karen states, “Through this process we created the development path for key members of the team and achieved vast improvement. Kevin Weeks is now the director of operations partnering with Lindsey Rangel, vice president, and between the two oversee nearly every aspect of the business.”

Karen adds, “SPL’s process showed us a way to look at each area of our business. We reviewed section by section what was working and what wasn’t. Lasting improvement was made by implementing the Strategic Plan. Not only did Brian help us create our plan, but he taught us how to instill a culture of discipline to follow through and execute.”

Weeks concurs, sharing, “We knew we had issues and what the big problems were, we just didn’t know how to go about making the change. We had a culture of frustration and spinning our wheels. Label Logic was good at identifying problem areas, talking about them and not proving able to improve them. SPL brought the ‘how’ to do it. This included not only how to implement change but gave us processes to drive follow-up and verify plans were working and being followed. Most importantly, he showed us how to hold ourselves accountable for execution.”

Label Logic also looked at the shipping process. There was a lot of confusion on what was shipping, where things were, and handled most shipments of 4-5 times. A Kaizen was conducted for shipping identifying areas of waste in the current process and layout.

“We eliminated racking and consolidated staging areas from multiple locations, to one,” says Van de Water. “Having a single staging area reduced handling of product to only two touches; bringing it to shipping and then moving it to the truck. The shipping and warehouse areas are clean and organized. In most Kaizens, a fundamental element of Lean Enterprise is 5S.  The shop is now organized and clean and tools have a place.”

Label Logic still had one big problem that was established as the No. 1 goal for the year: reduce/eliminate WIP. Karen comments, “You gave us a goal to reduce it to one day or less or eliminate it. We thought you were crazy. At the time, we had an employee tracking WIP full time. It created numerous inefficiencies. We had all kinds of errors because we couldn’t track it. It was a common occurrence to run something on press only to find out later we had it in WIP. During a Kaizen focusing on WIP, we uncovered two jobs that had been run multiple times and had WIP that was two years old.”

Weeks adds, “The painful reality of excess WIP with a few instances where the customer obsoleted an item, only later to find $25,000 of WIP that was now a loss. What impact did it have? Through SPL’s challenge we were able to virtually eliminate $500,000 of WIP, freeing up floor space by eliminating over 50 pallets. That was cost not sell price. We no longer have to track it because it truly is in process freeing up a full time person to do other value added tasks. Jobs now only flow one direction, from the press room to bindery, with no additional movements. We achieved this goal and virtually eliminated WIP in 8 eight months.”

Karen notes the impact SPL has had on changing the company’s culture. “Brian also talked about team building and once we started trying a few things and actually following through, it changed our culture in a big way. We took the team to a Notre Dame football game and to a baseball game. Our culture began to shift to one of positivity and family focus. You can actually feel the positivity when you walk out on the floor. We didn’t always have that. You taught us to be open-minded. It was hard to have someone come in from the outside and tell us what to do. As you challenged us to try new things, you were relatable to all levels of the organization. Brian’s interpersonal style and results have led to a high level of trust in you by the entire team. His technique of assembling cross-functional teams from all parts of the company have created buy in and a culture accepting of change. People are willing to try because if it doesn’t work, we can always change it back.”

Label Logic has embraced SPL Consulting’s presence in its facility. Karen concludes, “Brian is a true success story pure and simple. Our team felt like we benefited from everything you told us to do. We learned how to follow through and execute. It was transformational and in total generated over 18,000 hours of additional capacity. I would recommend SPL Consulting, LLC to anyone looking to improve as the payback is unheard of.”