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Company could see as much as 20% savings at year

Howse improving bottom line with Lean concepts

LAUREL — Howse Implement, the makers of such farm implements as rotary cutters, cultivators, box blades, posthole diggers and more, are improving their bottom line by improving their manufacturing processes and their safety record.

Carlton McNeer, Howse’s safety director, said by streamlining their production processes with the help of Lean manufacturing concepts, the job has been made easier for employees. McNeer took a course in Lean at nearby Jones County Junior College (JCJC) in order to help Howse better manage their processes.

“You will become more effective and efficient when you do that,” McNeer said of implementing the Lean concept. “Lean is helping us with our processes and inventory control to better manage our inventory. Process-wise they’re teaching us how to better utilize each employee without making them work harder.”

Although such Lean techniques like moving a forklift from point B to A may seem small, those are the kinds of things that help the bottom line, McNeer said.

McNeer said Howse chose Lean instead of other available concepts because of friends at a Bay Springs company who believed in it. McNeer soon contacted JCJC about finding out more about Lean.

JCJC set up a workshop next to the Howse plant, and McNeer and others at Howse liked what they saw. So they decided to begin implementing the concepts.

Implementing Lean, McNeer said, means saving as much as 10% to 20% off the bottom line at the end of the year. “We’ve just taken our first step,” he said.

In about a month, assistant supervisors will be trained in Lean, and in two months value stream mapping of the plant will be done. Within a year, and at least by the end of two, McNeer hopes to have Lean fully implemented at Howse.

“I won’t be disappointed if we don’t, but I’d like to have recognizable results within a year,” he said.

Already, McNeer can see a difference at Howse. “People are stacking things in the right places,” he said. “It’s just a matter of implementing it in the whole plant. It’s time consuming, but it’s worth it.”

McNeer took JCJC’s course on Lean on June 29. By June 29 of next year, he hopes to have at least all the assistant supervisors trained in the concepts, and hopes to have done value stream mapping for both groups as well as having started implementing the major concepts in the receiving department.

“These guys stay real busy,” McNeer said. “Around October, business slows down until January. We’ll hopefully have plenty of time available for training then. A lot depends on availability.”

Implementing Lean concepts into Howse is not difficult, but the educational part has not been easy, McNeer said.

“It’s educating everyone on the concepts and getting them to buy into the program. Some of these are radical new concepts. It’s hard to get everyone to buy into it automatically because you’re changing the way they do their basic job functions.”

The two Howse brothers, Ben, president, and Barry, vice president, are proactive leaders with a business plan, McNeer said.

“They’ll do it (implement Lean),” he said. “They’re behind it 100%. I got the information for Ben to look at and he and Barry decided to go with Lean because they thought it would give the best results.”

In addition to implementing Lean in order to improve Howse’s bottom line, McNeer has also incorporated a safety incentive program. Safety bonuses will be given out at the end of the year depending on how much the company saves on workers’ compensation insurance.

McNeer’s daily safety walk-through and hazard observations and weekly safety meetings in each department seem to have made a difference, too.

McNeer’s forte is training, and he said the better trained that employees are the safer they are. “Our goal is to have one million accident-free man hours,” he said.

In the future, McNeer hopes Howse will capture the farm implement lines of the markets.

“We make good implements,” he said. “We just want our share of the market. We’ll look at what the market says and needs and we’ll adapt to meet those needs. We’re going to be able to manufacture more products with the same amount of people we have now so we won’t have to do price increases as often.”

And, McNeer added, anytime the amount of money spent for insurance or time off is decreased, money off the bottom line is decreased, too.

“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” McNeer said of Howse.

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.


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