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  • Alicia Wallace

Michigan Works! Helps Reacher Manufacturing Train on LEAN Principles

Updated: Feb 11


Reacher Manufacturing Corp. in Alpena Michigan produces conveyor systems that assist to move packages around the world. They operate on an Operations Excellence model which consists of repetitive manufacturing. Over a year ago they started down the path of implementing lean manufacturing. VP of Operations, Jon Cox, came to RMC in September of 2020 and at that point they hadn’t implemented lean manufacturing in any area of the plant. At Jon’s previous employer of 12 years, he had learned and implemented these principles in many areas of the business and knew it would be beneficial for Reacher.


Over the last year Reacher has begun implementing many lean principles. The problem is, many of the workers on the floor didn’t necessarily understand why they were making the changes. Jon realized he needed to get his staff trained on Lean Manufacturing Training, so he reached out to his Michigan Works! Business Solutions Professional, Shelly Blankenship, to see if she had any resources to help provide this training.


Utilizing the WIOA Adult Incumbent Worker Training (IWT) program, Shelly was able to help Reacher pay for LEAN Manufacturing training for 23 employees. The training was provided by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center.


Jon reports that since the class he can see there is buy-in to what they are doing. He’s heard employees who have taken the class sharing what they learned with peers. He notes that they seem to understand that implementing these lean principles will make their jobs easier, provide better quality to their customers, ensure they hit delivery dates, and most importantly, provide professional growth opportunities for the employees that want to take advantage of it.


“I am so proud of the entire RMC team,” says Jon. “Since taking the class, Earl Lewandowski was promoted to Shop Foreman. He has taken Reacher to a new level by implementing 5S across the plant. He not only has implemented it, he is teaching the why we are doing what we are doing.”


Jon continues, “Harman Saini has also had new opportunities of implementing some principles of lean in our other plants located in Alpena and our new facility in Standish. In Standish he recently lead the entire plant layout and I believe what he has learned in this class helped enable him to do that. I would recommend this class to anyone who deals in manufacturing!”


Brittany Wilburn and Earl Lewandowski are two of the employees who received the training, which resulted in certification.


“The Lean Manufacturing Training has helped me greatly understand the cost of time,” says Brittany. “Putting procedures and steps in place to work more efficiently has helped my team significantly. We changed the flow of our workspace to be more well-organized and now have the tools that we need on-hand to reduce lead time. We have also introduced a form of Kanban in our receiving department. I had heard of the term, but did not have a very good understanding of it prior to taking the class. After completing the course, we have drastically reduced our work in process, structured our space, and are more prepared than we were prior. The experience was appreciated!”


Earl agrees, “The Lean Manufacturing Training is a success story that is never ending. The benefits of the class are being used every day at our shop. From learning what a Kanban is, to being able to see and figure out what daily wastes we have with production, and setting up visual queues throughout the shop so it’s easier for our employees to be more productive. I myself will continue to learn more about lean manufacturing to help make Reacher a more efficient and productive company.”

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