From the Depths of Despair Comes Passion for a Complete Lean Transformation: The ATC Story

Presented By:

Steve Brenneman & Duane Yoder

Session Abstract:

We began our journey in 2009 after I lost one of my 2 manufacturing companies during the downturn of 2008. ATC trailers had gone from 26m in Revenue to 10 m projected in 2009 and we didn’t know where the bottom was. We went from 170 employees down to 65. We had negative equity and were in a workout position with our bank. We were on COD with over 50% of our vendors. After losing my other company in 2008, I began reading Lean Thinking and saw a way that I could create an operationally excellent company from one that was almost completely based on Tribal Knowledge.

At the end of 2009 we noticed an uptick in sales but still had no trailer projects that were ready to build. We began our lean journey in the office to speed up the process of taking an order and getting it ready for the production team.  Along side some of the changes that we made we began some production changes as well. By the end of 2011 we had built a supermarket with 2 bin kanban to deliver materials to the line. We improved inventory turns from 5x to 12x. We had gotten off of COD with all of our vendors, and we had begun improving the way that information made it to the line to relieve some of the reliance on tribal knowledge.

In 2012 we made the switch from a piece rate system to hourly with profit sharing. We also created value stream teams starting with sales thru engineering and purchasing and out to the floor. We had gotten our monthly accounting statement down to a 1 day close.

Today we do weekly P&Ls by value stream before 5:00 PM every Monday. Our inventory turns are above 18x. We have drastically improved our order throughput time and have built a quoting configuration system for our dealers to extract quality information from customers and begin the building process during the quoting phase.

Recently we have begun implementing a complete Lean Management System within several value streams and even in our sales department complete with standard work and leader standard work.

Overall we have grown by 20% per year since 2009 and have seen financial metrics improve dramatically. We have set the goal of becoming a complete lean enterprise within the next 10 years.

Learning Objectives:

“In this session you will learn…”

  • Why lean tools are important at first
  • Why lean tools don’t make a company lean
  • How Company leaders can lead a lean transformation
  • How far can you take Lean Accounting and what are the benefits to the organization

About the Facilitator:

Steve Brenneman,  grew up in a Mennonite family in Dowagiac, Michigan. Attended Eastern Mennonite College in Harrisonburg, Virginia where I met my wife Victoria from Ohio. We moved back to my home area and within 4 years I was working in material purchasing for a cargo trailer company in Elkhart County, Indiana. Within 3 years I started my own trailer company focusing on aluminum framed trailers instead of steel framed. Changed the workforce to an Amish/Mennonite one and began building high quality custom trailers in the early 2000s. Bought a small components manufacturer and grew the business to 40 m in sales by 2008 and then lost the business in the downturn. Returned to my trailer company and began our lean journey in earnest.

I continue to lead our lean transformation and do some consulting and public speaking to further the call for companies to truly embrace a lean transformation.