Thompson Fabricating Incorporated
Steel Fabricators For the Waste Industry

GETTING LEAN AT TFI

                In April 2017 with the help of our local Industrial Resource Center (IRC) we started our journey into Lean Manufacturing, focusing on building a Lean Culture.  Initially when I thought of Lean Manufacturing my thought process was to do more with less employees by pushing them to go faster in their daily routine. Sounds simple Right? Not so much.

The program sponsored by the IRC introduced us to a process called 2 Second Lean, the book written by Paul Akers ( 2 Second Lean, How to Grow People and build a Lean Culture),  is based on the thought process of Eliminating Waste through Continuous Improvement.

At first I found the process a little confusing but as I continued to read and watch videos (which both I highly recommend) the process started to become clearer to me. Instead of telling employees how to do their job faster, we challenged/coached them to find ways to do their job faster (Leaner). Who better to eliminate the waste from the process than the individual doing that particular job? Worst case if it does not work you have only lost 2 seconds.  Sound Simple Right? Well as I am finding out, it is not.

While engaging in the process we embarked on challenging our employees to learn and  find the 8 wastes in their job process one at a time. The 8 wastes are Defects, Over Production, Waiting, Non-Utilized Talent, Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Extra Processing. I recently attended one of the monthly meetings held by the IRC along with our VP of Production and Shop Foreman. The meeting was held at a facility that has been implementing 2 Second Lean for several years.  Also attending were several manufacturing organizations in our area doing the same thing,  along with another dozen or so companies like ours wanting to implement the 2 Second Lean within their organizations.

One of the First steps in the 2 second lean process was to attend a Drum Beat meeting.  At this meeting the organization meets with their employee’s at the start of every shift, this is done daily.  This gives an opportunity for each employee to share with the group their own 2 Second Lean, and also lets the company provide information about what is happen within the organization. There is no true drum meeting formula to follow you have to find what fits for your organization and get everyone on board.

After some thought on what works for us we created an agenda for our own Drum Beat meetings. Focusing on a short 10 – 20 minute meeting once a week. The agenda includes:  reviewing numbers in regards to containers built, sold, and shipped in the previous week. We then discuss total containers on order and agree on a Goal for production for the coming week. We focus each meeting on four main topics to review openly in the form of a question & answer.

Challenges: We ask what challenges they may have faced in their job the previous week.  (This gives them an avenue to vent a little and keep management in the loop)

Mistakes:  We ask what mistakes they have made or may have seen being made.

Safety issues: We ask about any safety issues noticed either good or bad?

2 Second Leans: We ask what they thought and/or implemented in their own routine the previous week.

In our 1st two meetings we did not see the feedback from our employees that we expected. By the third and fourth meetings we had a good amount of feedback but during our fifth meeting we regressed a little receiving less feedback than the previous two meetings. As we progress through the process and as more employees get on board with what we are trying to do we will improve ourselves and our jobs through the 2 second lean!

I am exciting about our Lean Journey and I will be sure to blog again about it, I also encourage all to take a look at the following website to learn more of how Lean Thinking can help you in both your professional and personal life.

http://paulakers.net/

SPRING IS HERE!!!

Spring has arrived well according to the calendar anyway, and hopefully that means the snow shovels can finally be stored away until next year, but some folks in the Northeast may want to keep their’ s handy sorry. Here in Wheatland we experienced a very mild winter, but we are still looking forward to warmer temperatures, which are forecasted for nearly 70 degree by this weekend and we are ready for it.

With the warmer temps all types of outdoor projects seem to start taking place, such as lawn cleanup and fertilizing, landscaping. Home improvement projects such as decks, siding and roofing, and let’s not forget the much dreaded annual SPRING CLEANING rituals of the house and garage.  

When all of these projects start happening we start to see an increase in demand for the products we manufacture here at TFI. Some of our customers have taken the steps in advance to place orders for late March and early April delivery. While other plan their timing for May and June.

With our newly restructured employee training program as outlined in the Jan. 17th blog we feel we are ready to handle the increased work load, lead times will extend as we proceed through April but we will continue to provide the same quality and service as always.

Happy Spring to all and good luck with the remainder of our NCAA bracket or what’s left of it. 

COMPLACENT…. NOT US!!!!!!

     We recently are coming off our most productive year ever in the 23 year existence of the company. We believe that providing a quality product along with outstanding customer service were the key factors that drove our success in 2016. Not wanting to be complacent in 2017 we are looking into ways to get better. Moving forward we are developing plans internally and externally to gather info for improvement. Management is currently working together to restructure the training program for our welders. We are hoping this will have a twofold affect. First, a well-trained welder will allow us to produce higher quality containers more efficiently, and secondly to perfect our employee’s skills in different areas of the container building process.  We are hoping to gain external information through surveys which will be distributed to new first time customers after delivery has occurred. This will allow us to stay in touch with customers to gain valuable feedback on the entire container purchasing process, although still in construction phase we are working out final bugs to hopefully help us achieve our goals and should be up and running soon. 2017 has been great so far and we are really excited to see the new plans in motion to gather the results and work our way to another record year!

ANNUAL SHOP MAINTENANCE!

MAINTENANCE, AS EVERYONE KNOWS, IS ONLY 1 OF THE MANY CHALLENGES FACING BUSINESS OPERATIONS TODAY.

SOME OF YOU MAY BE AWARE AND OTHER’S MAY NOT BE, BUT ON AN ANNUAL BASIS TFI PLANS A 2 WEEK SHOP MAINTENANCE TO CLEAN OUR SHOP AND ADDRESS ANY MAJOR MAINTENACNE ISSUE’S

WE DO THIS SO THAT WE MAY CONTINUE TO OPERATE EFFEINCLY AND SAFELY DURING THE BUSIEST TIMES OF THE YEAR.  

THIS YEAR DURING THE PERIOD OF OCT. 31 – NOV. 11.   WILL WE NOT BE MANUFACTURING ANY CONTAINERS, SO THAT WE MAY TIDY UP.

BUT THERE IS STILL TIME IF YOU ARE NEEDING CONTAINERS BEFORE OCT. 31.  

PLEASE CALL TODAY THE ORDER BOOKS ARE FILLING UP FAST.

AND IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE SECTION 179 DEDUCTION, http://www.section179.org/

TFI WILL BE BACK UP IN OPERATION ON NOV. 14. WITH PLENTY OF TIME BEFORE THE END OF 2016, TO DELIVERY YOUR CONTAINERS.

 We apologize for the inconvenience but this downtime will help us serve you better in the future.

TFI GOING GREEN & WHAT IT MEANS…

              Recycling is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to become an eco-friendly business but is often overlooked. In the last few months we at TFI have been trying to find ways to become a more eco-friendly business. Ultimately initiating a recycling program, run throughout the company.

Our first step taken towards this goal was installing recycling cans around the office/shop area. We’ve also taken the time to educate staff & employees on what materials are to be recycled and which are not.

Being even more proactive we are cutting back on paper consumption by going digital with our blue prints for shop employees. We had our IT company research and option us heavy duty tablets for our fabricators.  The Tablets we chose are produced by Mobile Demand (xTablet T1500.) with a Windows 10 operating system. These Tablets are connected to an internal server so that they can see the blueprints digitally where they’re saved. This allows us to save on printing paper seeing as a standard print typically has anywhere from 5-12 pages, and 3-5 sets of prints are sent out to the shop just for a single container order. As you could imagine this eventually adds up to hundreds of prints sitting out there for the fabricators to go through, some often getting thrown away and re-printed. These tablets are also set up with software called Drawboard PDF, this software allows the fabricators to make hand written notes on their digital PDF copy of the print and if a change has to be made to a print, the fabricators will save their versions of the print for the Engineer to see/update. This will save the company money on purchasing paper, ink/toner and cut back on how much paper we use dramatically.

 

More importantly now than ever recycling and/or going digital can have a great impacts on the wellbeing of the earth for future generations and your business bottom line moving forward. Take a second to think what you could do to make your company more eco-friendly so everyone can have a greener future.

FLAT ROLLED STEEL PRICE

Since my last blog regarding steel prices in Dec. we have seen the market continually rise over the 1st qtr. of 2016 as expected.

Now as we pear into the future we see scrap price rising $ 40 - $ 55 a ton in the early parts of April. The mills order books are filling up rather quickly and Hot Rolled Prices out of the mill are expected to be around $ 520 ton for May & even some mills are not opening their books for spot orders  for May and June yet due to not knowing what they will be paying for scrap in May & June.

With the effect of a few US mills, either temporarily or permanently idling operations is leading to supply issues, and the lengthening lead times from other mills are fueling the fire and creating a sense of urgency from buyers.

Forecast are showing prices remaining stable through the 2nd qtr. of 2016, and even possibly the 3rd. qtr. but as we have seen in the past things can change quickly and unexpectedly in the steel market, buyers need to stay on top of these changes or they could be leaving monies on the table.

SPRING FEVER!

                 Spring is just weeks away thanks to our friend Punxsutawney Phil. This means that the yearly spring rush will be upon us before we know it! Last year Thompson Fab experience record sales and anticipates having another comparable year, as we are currently ahead of where we were at this time last year. What this means to you the customer is as we get closer and closer to the weather change and orders are taken lead time for containers gets extended. If new containers are in the budget for 2016 take measures and stay ahead of the game and plan orders accordingly so that you can take on the jobs of early spring and summer with a full fleet of containers!

                Another key issue to consider now is the cost of steel. As we all know steel pricing over the past several months has plummeted to lows not seen since 2008/09. We have information from several mills that this will not last and that mills are calling for increases on sheet steel and structural immediately.

                Buying now makes more sense than ever and is a win/win situation as you will stay ahead of the lag and save money doing so. So when your calls for spring and summer jobs start rolling in you will be ready and have extra cash in your pocket.

STEEL PRICES INCREASING

As stated I stated in  the Sept. 2 blog Steel Pricing Futures, I haven’t seen steel prices this low since 2009, but as of Wed. Dec. 9, 2015 two domestic mills made prices moves on flat rolled products.

NLMK was 1st to announce that spot prices out of their mills will increase by $40.00 per ton effective immediately, but will not impact contract order.

AK Steel announced through a press release on Wednesday that Minimum base prices for new order of Hot Rolled Coil will be $420 per ton, and since sources have stated that AK Steel was no participating in the sub- $400 market the increase could be considered minimal at $20.00 a ton.

I believe these prices will stick and that we will continue to see the steel market prices increase over the 1st quarter of 2016.


HOW MUCH ARE YOUR 30 YD. CONTAINERS?

After spending 17 years selling Containers in the waste industry the most commonly asked question from potential customer s that price shop is, HOW MUCH  ARE YOUR 30 YD. CONTAINERS?

 

Over the years I learned that most of these calls where based on 1 of 2 things

1) being the individual calling already had a price from their current supplier and wanted to double check that they were being given a fair price

Or

2) that they were not happy with their current containers or supplier and where looking elsewhere to fill their needs.  But before they started the process all over again they want to make sure that they’re getting connected with an affordable supplier.

 

Either way as a salesman, I would always attempt to take the time to ask several questions to gather information about them and how they intend to use the containers, prior to shouting out a price.

Realistically 30 yd. containers can range in price from $ 3,200.00 to $ 4,400.00 (current market steel prices being the driving factor)

 If you just dropped a number on a customer they would either get really interested or just politely say thank you & I will let you know and that would be the end of the call.

So I learned early to engage and ask questions before shouting out a price, some people would take the time to answer your questions and discuss the uses of their containers and then some would say just a price for a standard 30 yd.  But as referred to in the Check your spec. blog posted 4/30/15 standard can mean so many things.

Following are the questions that I would typically ask a prospect that you may find helpful as you shop for containers.

What style container do you prefer (Rectangular or Bath Tub Style)

Is your hoist Cable or Hooklift setup?

What model hoist do you use to pull your containers?

Are you looking for Light Duty, Standard Duty or Heavy Duty container?

What material do you mainly haul in your containers?

What issues are you having with your current container?

Then I would explain certain options and features that may be of benefit to them.

Once these questions are answered, pin pointing an accurate price for a 30 yd. can be done a lot easier taking away the shock factor and it will also give the end user a containers that will fit their particular needs.

With so much information available to consumers today it is very easy to get caught up in looking at just the price, but I believe that you get what you pay for and by doing your homework and asking and answer questions you can usually come up with a vendor/product that is not only affordable but will also perform well for your situation and provide you with years of service.

 

The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.

Benjamin Franklin

STEEL PRICING FUTURE

As a manufacturer of Rolloff Containers our container prices are primarily driven by Hot Rolled Steel prices.

 

There are a variety of things that attribute to current steel prices, such as demand, import, trade cases, contract negotiations, weather, furnace closing or shut downs, scrap prices and union strikes. It is hard to predict how, if or even when any of these items will affect prices but there are a wide range of publications and analyzes that can be very helpful in forecasting futures.

 

Ferrous Scrap for September is forecast to move sideways (remain the same as Aug.) or drop $ 20.00 a ton.

 

We try to keep ahead of market fluctuations in order to stabilize container prices, by partnering with our supplier’s to lock down material based on current order totals and forecast of future orders and try to secure our steel at the lowest prices possible.

 

Steel prices for Hot Rolled steel are at lows that haven’t been seen since early 2009.  Forecast for the future are looking to trend upwards slightly thru the 1st qtr. of 2016.

 

So this means we will working very closely with our suppliers to stay ahead of market changes and order volumes and it may also be a good time for anyone that purchases or uses equipment made of steel to look at repairing or even replacing aging equipment while steel prices are down.