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How Next-Gen Lean Can Save Defense Manufacturers

Impact Washington is working to save family wage jobs through the Defense Manufacturing Pilot Program

Thousands of Washingtonians count on small and medium-size manufacturers for family wage jobs. But many of these companies don’t have the resources they need to withstand defense cuts. Where can these manufacturers get the help they need to diversify and increase productivity so they can survive?

Impact Washington recently participated in the Defense Manufacturing Pilot Program, partnering with Washington Military Alliance, Washington State Department of Commerce, and the Puget Sound Regional Council. We wanted to give a brief summary of the program and the early successes we’ve helped drive.

Finding a Solution

Six manufacturers in Washington State were chosen to test whether the Next Generation Lean program could speed up production, lower costs and free up capacity in their plants so they can survive long-term. The pilot – part of the federal Investing in Manufacturing Communities program led by Puget Sound Regional Council – was funded by the Washington State Department of Commerce’s DOD Office of Economic Adjustment’s Defense Industry Adjustment grant and delivered by Impact Washington.

The Results

The six defense supply chain companies – ranging in size from 45 to 600 employees – found that the Next Generation Lean program helped them diversify and play in the highly competitive global marketplace:

  • Return on Investment: $1 million in savings per year – double the cost of the pilot
  • More Jobs: Higher productivity = more business and 50 more jobs at one company alone
  • Faster: A 105-day process now takes only 13 days at one company, allowing it to process more orders. Another company was able to ramp-up weekly production of a key product by 87%.
  • Increased Revenue: Revenues are up 40% at one company, which is using increased capacity to diversify into new markets.

The Next Gen LEAN program – and the public/private partnership behind it – can help defense manufacturers not only stay in business, but also retain and grow family wage jobs.

The Partners

This is the public/private partnership behind the successful Next Generation Lean pilot and others projects focused on shoring up the supply chain in Washington State:

  • WA State Department of Commerce, administering DOD Office of Economic Adjustment funds
  • Washington Military Alliance, a coalition of military and defense related stakeholders for the three main components of the sector representing industry, community support partnerships, and infrastructure
  • Puget Sound Regional Council, lead on the federal Investing in Manufacturing Community Partnership designation
  • Impact Washington, the Washington state Manufacturing Extension Partnership (in partnership with Factory Concepts and Build To Demand)

The Companies

  • Custom Interface, a woman-owned business in Bingen with 60 employees, primarily supplies the unmanned aerial vehicle industry.
  • Sagetech, a market leader in micro avionics based in White Salmon, employs 55.
  • Morpac Industries, a woman-owned business in Pacific employs 45 people and supplies the electric utility market, US Navy vessels, commercial ships, nuclear plants and water treatment facilities.
  • Jorgensen Forge Corporation, located in Tukwila, supplies the aircraft, aerospace, oil and gas, marine and defense markets.
  • Skills, Inc trains, employs and serves people with disabilities in four plants throughout the Puget Sound area. Over 600 employees supply parts primarily for the aerospace industry.
  • Tri-Tec Manufacturing, with 45 employees in Kent, engineers, designs and manufactures parts for the maritime industry.

Learn more about some of the manufacturing industries we serve, and read up on lean training, supply chain consulting, and our other manufacturing solutions.


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