Cross training is usually associated with exercise programs, but at Header Die & Tool, “cross training” is defined as improving the fitness of their staff to respond to customer requests. The company has instituted quick response manufacturing (QRM) practices, to create a cell or nucleus of employees who can operate any piece of equipment in the shop to increase flexibility and response times. The result is a drastic cut in lead times to get completed projects out the door.

In a usual job shop setting, each employee is trained on and becomes an expert at operating a particular type of equipment, such as a CNC lathe, wire EDM or vertical milling machine. When a project enters the door, it might require work completed within various areas of the plant, so it gets passed from one section or group of machines to another during the production cycle.

Implementing cross training within the QRM theory, small collaborative groups of employees or QRM cells are trained to operate multiple machines, to manufacture the dies and get them to the customer as quickly as possible. The collaborative efforts and combined skills of the QRM cell members ensure quality standards remain at the peak of perfection.

Utilizing the QRM cells Header has delivered finished carbide die inserts in a week and a half when standard practices would have taken three to four weeks. Shorter lead times for dies allow the customer to keep fewer parts in inventory on their shelves, to avoid buying too many parts and overall to cut costs.

QRM shouldn’t be confused with just-in-time (JIT) delivery as JIT involves standard parts ordered in quantity, while QRM cells at Header create custom dies.

“Changing the customer mindset has actually been our biggest challenge,” says Lucas Derry, president and owner of Header Die & Tool. “The customers are amazed at the short lead times and end result.”

Header has enhanced the training and skills of their team by providing them with exposure to different types of machines. The company currently has two QRM cells with 11-12 employees cross-trained for this purpose.

Derry brought up another interesting point about his firm. His company has added a number of new employees in the past few years and today approximately a third of the workforce at Header is comprised of Millennials. “We didn’t purposely set out to do this, but realized that having Millennials involved in our QRM cells brings a new dynamic to the team. They’re tech savvy and pick up the CNC side of the business quickly,” he said.

Then we work on teaching them the old school skills that take years to perfect, such as the art form of finishing. It’s energizing to see all levels of experience and all of the departments cooperating and working together.”

Header concentrates its QRM team efforts creating custom dies for the aerospace and automotive industries. Contact Header to find out how to cut lead times for your specialized die needs or Request a Quote now.