Spotlight on: Lean Manufacturing & Continuous Improvement

Q&A with MasterCraft Boats

We sat down with our clients Larry Janosek, Vice President of Operations, and Tim Oxley, CFO, of Tennessee-based MasterCraft Boats to discuss how their employee empowerment program and emphasis on continuous improvement helped them cultivate a reputation for industry leadership in operational efficiency and best practices for factory management. The company has achieved three ISO certifications and last year was recognized as a winner of IndustryWeek’s Best Plant Award.

You recently won an IndustryWeek Best Plant Award, and lean principles are an important part of MasterCraft’s philosophy and culture. How has encouraging continuous improvement helped your bottom line?

MasterCraft’s process philosophy is deeply rooted in a culture of continuous improvement, where every person in the organization is focused on the elimination of waste with the goal of improving all aspects of the organization. We believe that to achieve sustainable operating results, organizations must foster a culture where every person is engaged every day in making small changes. Our associates are on track to implement over 17,000 continuous improvement ideas this year.

It’s important to communicate a shared vision of what the company’s future state looks like and the path the organization will take to get there. This includes making sure employees understand why the strategic goals are important and how tactics and operational details support those goals.

Policy deployment is a method for insuring that the strategic goals of the company drive progress and action at every level within the company. It achieves this by aligning the goals of the company (strategy) with the plans of the middle management (tactics) and the work performed by all employees (operations). People perform best when they have a purpose and when they understand not only what to do, but why certain tactics are important.

IndustryWeek reported that MasterCraft has increased on-time delivery to customers to 96 percent since 2012. Have supply chain efficiencies contributed to that success?

We’ve shared our lessons learned through our focus on continuous improvement with our supply chain. Our suppliers have been able to reduce waste in their processes, shorten lead times, forecast better and improve first-time quality, which has had a positive impact on our organization’s ability to deliver. We have provided our suppliers with systemic self-assessment tools that have helped them develop better internal systems.

Lastly, our suppliers recognize how important it is to have strategic tools and guidelines in place to help them ensure that their operations are as efficient as possible. They benefit from reduced variation in their processes and some have recently obtained or are in progress toward obtaining their ISO 9001 certification for quality management.

As manufacturers of a splurge item, how does a limited audience and potentially sensitive demand impact your production strategies?

Our production strategy has and will continue to be set up for flexible manufacturing. Our production lines are balanced and set up to run any model on any production line, which allows us to react in the event of changes, whether predicted or not. This setup allows our customers to create a highly customized version of our product to meet their needs.

MasterCraft’s production is highly labor-intensive and you don’t have plans for implementing robotics. Is your production philosophy evolving in other ways as the industry moves toward greater connectivity and high-tech production?

We continue to invest in technology to boost our real-time reporting capabilities, along with our data collection systems and technology related to testing and product development.

How can manufacturers continue to push the envelope in terms of lean manufacturing? What trends do you expect to dominate in the next 12 months or beyond?

In order to push the envelope in terms of lean manufacturing, organizations must continue to provide adequate development opportunities for their employees. Tools and systems do not operate a business—people do. Excellent organizations tend to have cultures that are built around collaboration and empowerment. To achieve ideal lean results, it’s important that employees embrace and carry out lean principles.
This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “Manufacturing & Distribution” newsletter (Summer 2016). Copyright © 2016 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved.