The Bilco Co. is celebrating the 35th anniversary of its Trumann, Ark.-based manufacturing facility. The world-class facility, which opened its doors in 1979, was established to expand the company’s manufacturing capabilities at a time when business was growing rapidly. Today, a wide range of complex and customized specialty access products for construction projects throughout the world are fabricated in Trumann.
With a clear need to expand its manufacturing capacity in the late seventies, the Bilco management team searched for a centralized U.S. location that could better serve the company’s expanding customer base. Ultimately, the company chose an empty facility in Trumann that was previously occupied by several businesses including a John Deere tractor dealership.
With the recent exit of one company, local and state officials were extremely cooperative and supportive of Bilco. They were instrumental in coordinating the use of the prior company’s already-developed and highly skilled workforce, which helped accelerate the start-up process. Once the new location was secured, Bilco was able to offer overnight shipping to customers in the southeast and southwest regions and reduce overall lead times to many other parts of the country.
The new Trumann facility initially employed just six production workers—welders, assemblers and machine operators—trained to create the company’s standard products while perfecting technique and skill along the way. Thirty-five years later, the now 77,000-square-foot facility has undergone three major expansions, has over 60 employees and currently manufacturers the most complex products that the company offers to the construction market.
“The market was very strong across the country in the mid-1970s and customers in some parts of the country were experiencing higher shipping costs and longer delivery times from our West Haven, Conn. facility,” said Roger Joyce, Bilco’s Vice Chairman & Executive Vice President. “It was a logical move for us to expand our growing operations to the mid-south, as it allowed us to be closer to our customer base, offer quicker turn-around and delivery times and provide better service overall.”
As Bilco’s growth climbed steadily over the years, management decided to adopt Lean manufacturing principles in 2004 to better serve its customers. The core idea behind Lean manufacturing is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste throughout the organization. A Lean organization understands customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously increase this value. The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer through a creation process that has zero waste. Now ten years into the process, both the company and its customers are reaping the rewards of this business philosophy.
“Embracing Lean has allowed us to provide even more value to our customers while minimizing waste and utilizing our resources more efficiently. Lean manufacturing principles have had a significant impact on our business and have transformed the Trumann plant into a world-class facility,” explained Joyce. “Striving for continuous improvement through Lean management has become the standard operating practice throughout The Bilco Company.”