Advanced Interconnect Manufacturing (AIM-Rochester, NY) produces cable assemblies, wire harness assemblies and electromechanical assemblies for a wide range of OEMs, including those in the commercial bus, truck, automotive, industrial automation and medical equipment industries.

In 2005, the company began a lean manufacturing program to improve both productivity and the quality of its products. Central to this change was a partnership with wire-processing equipment manufacturer Schleuniger Inc. (Manchester, NH), which helped AIM to use its existing equipment better and improve its processes with the latest wire-processing technology.

Prior to embarking on its lean journey, AIM was experiencing a combination of poor productivity and an increasing defect rate on the shop floor. Another major issue was underutilization of equipment. Poor ergonomics, poor product flow and clutter also raised a number of safety concerns.

Following a complete wire-processing audit-completed in cooperation with Schleuniger regional sales manger Harry Coates-AIM's wire preparation department repositioned the entire floor to improve material flow and place it nearer to the company's termination department.

The AIM team also reconfigured the termination department by centralizing the equipment in each work center, thereby allowing for product "in and out stations." At the same time it purchased several new machines with an eye toward improving quality and decreasing the number of job setups required. In the process, AIM vastly improved overall productivity.

"Schleuniger worked with us to better understand and utilize our existing equipment, which was very beneficial to us. It's great when you have a company that not only understands the industry, but is willing to take the time and find out what your current needs are," says AIM president Tom Hess.

Hess adds that without the recent changes it would have difficult or even impossible for his company to accommodate the recent increase in demand it has experienced.

"The increased productivity from our existing equipment and the new Schleuniger equipment that we purchased has allowed us to meet our customer requirements," says Hess. "The wire preparation department has not been a bottleneck, and it easily could have been, as it sometimes is for a wire harness manufacturing facility like ours."

In addition to helping with the wire-processing and termination departments, the machine and floor audits helped create a new mindset for the company as a whole. Workers in all departments now strive to increase efficiency and productivity.

"Quality objectives are being met consistently for the first time in years.... All departments of the company have now joined in," Hess says.

Since the original audit, AIM has continued to conduct continuous-improvement projects department by department as needed. The company also plans to perform additional large-scale audits down the road to ensure it doesn't slip back into any of its old habits.

For more on wire processing and lean manufacturing, call 603-668-8117 or visit www.schleuniger-na.com.