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For more information contact:
Kathie Mahoney, MassMEP, kathiem@massmep.org,
Shari Worthington, PR Counsel, Telesian Technology,

Lean Implementation Leads Powder Coating Manufacturing Company to Long Awaited Product Launch & Unexpected Energy Savings

EDITORS: Images available for download; image 1, image 2.

Infrared Catalytic OvenJuly 9, 2012 – Worcester, Massachusetts -- Seven years ago, Bell's Powder Coating began researching ways to expand into new markets. Established in 1998, the company had been focusing on custom powder coating services. They could handle large or small parts - from belt buckles to refrigerators - but competition was intense. They wanted to move into hot new markets, like powder coated medium density fiberboard (MDF). Unfortunately, they found the costs were too high and the return on investment was too long. As the company continued on its current path, it was bombarded from both sides. Bell's was losing work to Lean competitors who could work with smaller lot sizes, while keeping costs down. The effects of offshoring also impacted their business.

"Half a million in lost revenue, combined with another half million in work going offshore, ultimately opened my eyes to the fact that we really had to do something different," said Paul Bellham, co-owner with his wife Nancy. 

The Bellham's realized the competitive environment had changed dramatically. They decided it was time to put Lean principles to work in their organization. The Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) was brought in to train their employees on the basics of Lean and Continuous Improvement.

"We realized we needed to get a handle on costs right away," stated Bellham. "We worked with the MassMEP to develop new procedures that would help us reduce waste and operating costs, and keep inventory manageable. Quick changeover procedures were put in place for painting and other key operations. Within two months, we found we had increased productivity by 7%, reduced costs by $70,000, and were winning business back from China. Then we were able to take a second look at launching the MDF product line."

Paul brought MassMEP back in to help the company analyze the market opportunity and costs.

"Bell's Powder Coating needed to know if the idea was viable before moving forward," said Mike Thompson, MassMEP project manager. "As part of the MassMEP's Next Generation Manufacturer Continuous Improvement program, we looked at the market for powder coating MDF and researched the 'big players.' We were able to evaluate the cost of Bell's investment versus potential revenue and develop a business plan."

Along the way, the team discovered they needed to explore Bell's natural gas consumption and the role it would play in their expansion plans.

Infrared Catalytic Oven

Nancy Belhame, president of Bell's Powder Coating stands with Mass MEP project manager Mike Thompson in front of  the new oven for powder coating on MDF board.

"At about $98,000 per year, our natural gas bill was a huge expense," said Paul Bellham. "So we reached out to New England Gas Company to see if they had incentives for becoming 'green.' Turns out, by installing new equipment like an infrared catalytic oven with updated energy efficiency specs, we could reduce our natural gas use by 40%. The oven alone saved us $27,000 per year. We also added a new paint booth that helped us reclaim 98% of the powder coating through a process that separates the paint from the air."

With these savings and the launch of the MDF product line, Bell's was able to obtain equipment financing from their local bank. In addition, New England Gas Company awarded them a $42,711.50 energy rebate through the MassSave.com program.

The savings were applied to expanding capacity for larger jobs and to launch the MDF coating service.

"We received the financing, ordered the equipment, and when it arrived we began running tests," said Bellham. "We're making samples of the new powder coated
MDF and sending them to potential customers. So far the feedback has been positive; they really like what they see!"

"The only way for American companies to see an increase in business is if they are able to compete in the global market. They have to be willing to adapt to new ideas and change. If you begin the Continuous Improvement process you must commit to it day after day. This is the only way it's going to work. You also have to continue to ask questions and learn about new programs, like the gas rebate. We now have 15 companies interested in our powder coated MDF and that was just through word of mouth and distributing samples. I haven't even begun to advertise yet!" continued Bellham.

About MassMEP
Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership provides services that help manufacturers transform and grow their organizations. From workforce strategies to lean training to supply chain management, MassMEP delivers positive, measurable, and sustainable impact on a company's top and bottom lines. Key programs include Innovation for Growth, Workforce Strategies, and Systemic Continuous Improvement. For more information, visit http://www.massmep.org

For further information contact:
Kathie Mahoney
MassMEP
100 Grove St.
Worcester, MA 01605
Tel: 508-831-7020
E-mail: kathiem@massmep.org
Web: http://www.massmep.org

PR Office:
Shari Worthington, President
Telesian Technology Inc.
49 Midgley Lane
Worcester, MA 01604 USA
+1 508.755.5242, Fax: +1 508.795.1636
Email:

© 2012, MassMEP, Manufacturing Extension Partnership