About The Company
On weekday mornings for the past twentyfive years, Bryon Bettinardi has shown up at his business in South Chicago to run Bryco Machine, sending off estimates, holding production meetings, and running a $3 million, thirty person turning shop that has weathered as many ups and downs as the Chicago Bears. Before him, Bryon’s father, Don, a machinist at Argonne National Laboratory, opened Donson Machine in 1978. Bryon went to work for his father right out of high school and eventually rose to become shop foreman. After a few years as foreman, Bryon asked for a raise and his father replied, “I think it’s time you opened your own shop.”
Founded in 1983, Bryco Machine grew in fits and starts until the late 1990s when it began losing work to other shops with similar equipment and capabilities. “We had a specialty in the early 90s — small diameter parts requiring precision turning, milling and drilling on our bar-fed CNC Swiss-type lathes,” says Bettinardi. “At that time, there were a hundred of those machines in the Chicagoland area. Now there are at least seven hundred, creating too much competition and causing margins to plummet.” Three years ago, Bettinardi made plans for change in order to recession proof the business and guarantee its future. He hired a director of operations and technology, reinvested substantial amounts back into the business, and purchased new equipment. Within a year, Bettinardi had stemmed the red ink and within two years, the shop was expanding at a faster rate then ever in its history. Today, Bryco Machine excels as a fifty-person precision manufacturer of complex parts that require cutting edge equipment and high level machining. The shop produces everything from prototypes to 150,000-piece runs. Sales are projected to reach $7 million this year.
It is a tribute to its president that Bryco Machine, which just three years ago seemed headed for trouble, is now one of the fastest growing machine shops in the Chicagoland area. While others retrenched, Bettinardi reinvested. He bought eight new Eurotech turning centers, increased use of their shop management software, and embarked on lean manufacturing to ensure success in their new niche: precision machining of larger, more complex parts. He focused the business on hydraulics, wireless communications, electronics, defense and medical industries. The shop began to specialize in parts like cartridge valves and hex bodies, all requiring sophisticated equipment and advanced machining, parts that China and other offshore competitors could not produce competently for U.S. markets. All the while, the business grew. Bryco’s lean manufacturing program resulted in a 66 percent increase in sales volume in just two years.
The transformation began in 2004 when Bettinardi hired 33 year old Dennis Gilhooley Jr. away from IBM where he served as a process improvement and supply chain management consultant. Gilhooley’s first project was expansion of their shop management software into every facet of the business. Data from their Exact JobBOSS system helped drive more change. In late 2005, Bettinardi and Gilhooley added seven CNC turning machines to their stable of thirteen. Five were bar-fed turning centers from Eurotech. Machines with dual spindles and turrets for simultaneous machining of multiple pieces. They built on 12,000 square feet of workspace to accommodate largediameter production turning. Bettinardi’s total investment that year was $2.5 million, about two-thirds of the shop’s annual sales. Their new capacity grounded them in the business of producing larger diameter parts. But at the same time, quoting and costing problems developed because Bryco was doing a new kind of turning. Bettinardi could no longer take a quick look at the shop and determine machine capacity and job cost. So he installed PCs running JobBOSS Data Collection on the shop floor. In 2007, he and Gilhooley launched a company wide lean manufacturing program combining employee initiatives with consulting and guidance from The Chicago Manufacturing Center. The CMC is a nonprofit serving Chicago’s 16,000 small and mid-sized manufacturers, part of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership under the U.S. Department of Commerce. Gilhooley’s consulting background and supply chain expertise well-equipped him to oversee Bryco’s lean program. Today, about halfway through their lean implementation, profits have risen from 2 percent to 8 percent in two years. “We don’t care about $10 million in sales if it costs $10.2 million to generate it,” admits Gilhooley. “What’s key is profitability, and that is gradually increasing.”
While his competitors retrenched, Bryon Bettinardi re-invested in his Chicago turning shop by pouring capital into equipment, personnel, and lean improvements. In just three years profits have increased, sales have doubled, and productivity has skyrocketed. Inventory levels and set up times continue to fall. Bettinardi has recession-proofed the business.
Benefits & Results
The How: Business-wide involvement with re-organizing, streamlining and training In February of 2007, Bettinardi and Gilhooley attended a free Lean 101 workshop at the CMC to learn the basics. Realizing there was much they could implement themselves, they launched the Bryco Lean Team. The team began by re-organizing tooling, then moved on to streamline more processes and reduce nonvalue added work. “Bryon and Dennis involved all of us from the start,” says plant foreman Ricky Hamilton. “Anywhere from the simplest things like garbage cans in every area to more complex decisions like changing tools and tracking inventory, they made the employees a part of the process.” That same year, shop floor personnel underwent 5S training, pinpointing where they could cut waste. “Right off the bat we identified that we could reduce set ups,” says Gilhooley. “Then we identified the inefficiency of everyone having their own toolbox and buying their own tooling. Instead we created set-up carts and standardized the tooling in a cart with every tool a set-up person would need. Now our set up personnel just wheels the cart over and are assured they have what’s needed.” Bryco also hired a timesaving job puller to select the tooling and gauging for the job based on the schedule board. That and other lean improvements reduced set up times by 66 percent. Meanwhile, enthusiasm grew and morale improved.
In August of 2007, Gilhooley and the Bryco Lean Team began collaborating with the CMC to intensify lean improvements. They initiated a total reorganization of the shop floor. Bryco Machine spans two buildings totaling 15,000 square feet. Originally when they moved into the buildings, machines were placed wherever they fit. As part of the lean journey, Gary McGregor, Manufacturing Specialist with the CMC, evaluated Bryco’s plant for inefficiencies. He and the Lean Team then redesigned it to accommodate improved job process flow and new machines, mapping out what Bryco wanted the future to look like. They also collaborated to visually map a job’s production path from estimate to shipping. This value stream mapping led to the running of parts in families, and freed up space for four new pieces of equipment along with two more down the road. As part of the shop floor redesign, Bryco also eliminated 6’ x 3’ benches next to each machine and instead, installed 1.5’ x 1.5’ tables. The team then converted nine of the old benches into 6’ x 2’ inspection stations with standardized gauging, where each station served three machines. Periodically, Bryco employees formed 5S teams and engaged in a Kaizen blitz, a short term project to improve a process. The blitz focused resources on a specific objective, leaving little time for resistance to a new paradigm. Training and Kaizen blitzes were followed by analysis and possible rearrangement of an area.
Now, nearing the end of year one, lean improvements at Bryco have permeated the culture, transformed the shop floor, and strengthened the bottom line. According to McGregor, employees have more respect for cleanliness, neatness, and organization, management places a high value on employee training at all levels, and machinists understand the cost of changeovers and the importance of reducing inventory.
The WOW: Profitability, outstanding service, and ahead of the competition “Bryco is already far ahead of their competition, primarily because Bryon and Dennis have embraced change,” says McGregor. “They’re actively learning and teaching new techniques, technologies, and ways of applying them. Not many small companies do that; most don’t think they need to.” Gilhooley believes the shop is running at 95 percent capacity. He believes profits in 2008 will jump significantly because most investments into the business occurred during the previous two years. Bettinardi agrees enthusiastically and cites statistics. “Output per employee has increased 30 percent in two years, and will increase even more as the program continues. All eight new Eurotechs, worth $300,000 each, are running at 95 percent capacity.” The shop’s service remains topnotch thanks to Bryco’s longstanding reputation for 99 percent on time delivery. “Our on time delivery is one of our trademarks,” says Bettinardi. “This lean program with its focus on continuous improvement has strengthened our ability to keep that up.” McGregor agrees. “Lean has set the stage for continued outstanding service, impressive in itself, but the over arching benefit is profitability.” Looking back, Bettinardi admits his investments in equipment, space, talent, and lean manufacturing were risky. Nevertheless, time, growth and profitability have justified all of it. Productivity at Bryco has risen 30 percent and keeps increasing.
Meanwhile, Bettinardi’s morning routine remains the same. He’s at his desk by seven a.m. every day, walks the shop floor, meets, with Gilhooley and others, and handles all the quoting. The only difference is, now he’s running a shop in the midst of gravity defying growth.