Amy Fitzgerald

Recent Posts

Unlocking Global Growth Opportunities with ExporTech

Posted by Amy Fitzgerald on May 9, 2018 2:42:01 PM

Calling all Chicago metro manufacturers with an eye on global sales!

Are you struggling to take advantage of growth opportunities in global markets?

Are you re-actively selling to international customers who find you, rather than taking a proactive and strategic approach to international sales?

If YES… ExporTech could be the answer.

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Capturing Employee Tribal Knowledge - Before It's Too Late

Posted by Amy Fitzgerald on May 4, 2018 10:35:00 AM

By 2025, nearly 25 percent of the United States population is expected to be 60 years of age or older. With this demographic preparing to exit the workforce and enter retirement, what can be done to retain their knowledge and pass it down to the next generation of employees? After all, a good portion of the knowledge that our “employee elders” possess is not written down or stored within a computer—it’s stored in their head. And this is especially true within the manufacturing sector.

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Quality Management Expert joins IMEC Team of Technical Specialists

Posted by Amy Fitzgerald on May 2, 2018 10:56:21 AM

David McFarland is the newest addition to the IMEC team, bringing a strong background in quality management and data analysis to Illinois organizations. As a Technical Specialist with more than 25 years of experience working in academic and industrial settings, David has a passion for assisting companies with their culture of continual learning and improvement in pursuit of organizational excellence. 

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Spotlight on Success: Focusing on flow and maximizing space to increase employee and customer satisfaction

Posted by Amy Fitzgerald on Apr 30, 2018 8:13:00 AM

Doran Scales Inc.  |  20 employees  |  www.doranscales.com

Doran Scales is a digital scale manufacturer located in St. Charles, Illinois.

SITUATION

As competition began to grow and internal processes became more cluttered, Doran Scales faced the realization that they could no longer operate as an “80’s” manufacturing company – living off of high profits, consistent customers, and minimal demand for quality products. Mark Podl, CEO, knew the operation needed significant improvement and by starting with the shop floor operations he could begin the transformation to an up-to-date, lean and quality-minded, 21st century organization.

SOLUTION

Mark first engaged IMEC in setting the framework for how they would approach and prioritize the many improvements through education on the fundamentals of lean manufacturing. By then identifying the need for a shop floor “clean-up,” the Doran Scales team alongside IMEC laid out a plan for an improvement to the physical plant layout through several Kaizen events. By streamlining manufacturing processes and organizing tools and people in a more efficient flow, the team was able to kick start the journey to lean – each individual owning their incremental improvements and committing to the new way of working. “Pushing past the initial stigma of needing to be ‘fixed’ was difficult for some,” said Podl, “but having the guidance of individuals [IMEC] with experience has been extremely helpful. They provided us with the support we needed to get from point A to point B.”

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Spotlight on Success: Leveraging lean for an organization-wide efficiency transformation

Posted by Amy Fitzgerald on Apr 24, 2018 11:34:34 AM

Advantage Components, Inc.  |  60 employees  |  www.aciwires.com

ACi is a contract cable and wire harness manufacturer located in Joliet, Illinois.

SITUATION

In early 2014, Advantage Components, Inc. (ACi) began to see exponential growth in sales and subsequent production. But with space constrained in their current facility, the company knew it was time to make room in the existing facility or expand beyond their four walls. ACi leadership, had previous experience working with the principles of lean manufacturing and were interested in committing to increasing efficiencies in the current space before committing to a new facility. Through a quick online search of experts in the field of lean, ACi discovered IMEC.

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Industrial Cybersecurity for Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses (Whitepaper)

Posted by Amy Fitzgerald on Apr 5, 2018 8:30:17 AM

Whitepaper and executive summary provided by the ISA, a technology and workforce training partner of IMEC.

Effective cybersecurity management is essential for all organizations, regardless of size. There are many standards and guidance documents available to help organizations determine a way forward.

The ISA whitepaper “Industrial Cybersecurity for Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses” is intended to provide a starting point for SMBs, particularly those that manage industrial processes and employ some level of automation. Specific examples include SMBs in the chemical, water, or wastewater treatment sectors.

While it is generally accepted that Operational Technology (OT) system security requires different or additional measures than general-purpose Information Technology (IT) system security, it is also true that smaller companies might have difficulty implementing much of the available guidance.

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Employee Safety, Workplace Risk Management the focus of the new ISO 45001

Posted by Amy Fitzgerald on Mar 30, 2018 8:15:00 AM

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recently released the new ISO 45001 standard for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHSMS). Published on March 12, 2018,  ISO 45001 provides a framework to improve employee safety, reduce workplace risks and create better and safer conditions for workers everywhere.

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Is Your IT System Living Up To Its Capabilities?

Posted by Amy Fitzgerald on Mar 27, 2018 4:35:26 PM

Companies that purchase a new manufacturing information system do so to better manage the business, cut costs, and improve customer relationships – i.e. the “strategy”.  However, when it comes to implementing the system – the “art of execution” – many companies settle for a less than fully-functional solution.  An audit, or gap analysis, of your existing system may yield substantial opportunities for improvement, especially if your company:

  • Does not have an IT manager or other personnel intimately familiar with the system.
  • Is upgrading an existing system but wants to pinpoint the potential benefits first.
  • Experiences disruptions because of underutilized or incapable systems.
  • Is in an industry where customer requirements or regulations change frequently.
  • Is on a lean journey.
  • Has concerns about system fault-tolerance and/or disaster recovery.
  • Is experiencing very large year-over-year growth patterns.
  • Customer or supplier information exchange interfaces have changed.
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Retro Commissioning Proves 'Blessing' to Quincy Hospital

Posted by Amy Fitzgerald on Mar 21, 2018 10:45:00 AM

The following case study highlights the efforts of one Ameren Illinois customer, showcasing the available implementation incentives for energy efficiency measures with a payback period of one year or less. Ameren Illinois is an energy efficiency partner of IMEC.

By all accounts, the folks at Blessing Hospital in Quincy, Illinois, run a tight ship. So, they were understandably skeptical when Sitton Energy Solutions, an independent energy management and consulting firm, proposed a retro commissioning survey of the 307-bed facility.

“We were tentative at first — it seemed like spending dollars in the hopes of saving dollars,” says Jerry Melching, Project Specialist for Blessing Hospital. “And we had already taken care of the low-hanging fruit.”

That skepticism did not deter Erik Merker, Director of Energy Services at Sitton Energy Solutions.

“We hear that all the time — that ‘there are no opportunities here’ — but why not have an expert validate that when the initial survey doesn’t cost the owner anything?” he says. “There are golden opportunities in retro commissioning — and Ameren Illinois incentivizes it very well.”

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The Bottom Line on Plant Layout: Efficient flow of goods can save you money

Posted by Amy Fitzgerald on Mar 19, 2018 12:45:18 PM

Imagine this scenario: Altimax Manufacturer, founded 20 years ago, operates out of rented warehouse space in a large industrial complex.  The warehouse is a metal building and has had three additions, all of different size, shape and roof height over the past 15 years.  Business is good and Altimax expands, hiring more people, renting additional space, adding new products, and using new technologies.  Rather than reorganizing space to incorporate each new operational segment, however, the plant layout has evolved irrationally as the company has grown.  Top management realizes it's got a problem, but the cost of removing walls, cleaning up old stock and moving equipment inhibits the adoption of a more rational plant layout.  Sound familiar?

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