Rockford manufacturers learn to become more efficient producers at industry summit

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — “Time is money,” a cliche that rings true in Rockford’s manufacturing industry.

Local businesses learned tactics they can put in use to speed up production and save time at a workshop at the Radisson Hotel and Convention Center, at 200 S Bell School Road, this week.

Professor Rajan Suri, from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, is one of the founding members of the Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) Center.

Years ago, he says he chose Rockford to test his theories on manufacturing efficiency, because of the city’s roots in the industry.

“When I was coming up with the concepts of QRM, Rockford was the place where we did some of the earliest experiments,” Suri said. “One of the things that always kind of baffled me in manufacturing companies was how long it took them to get a product out the door.”

At first, Suri says that he struggled to convince companies to apply his techniques.

What he suggested was the opposite of what many businesses were doing: major shifts in structure, systems and procedures.

Eventually, some big names jumped on board, but Suri says QRM really helps businesses that are low volume, making highly specialized, often custom, products.

“The reason is, the smaller companies can change faster than big companies. A big company like [John] Deere or Harley [Davidson], it’s like trying to turn a battleship around. And a small company, it’s like a speedboat,” he said. “If the top management decides that’s it, we’re going to do it, we see that’s going to be helpful, they can implement the changes much more quickly.”

Big or small, companies face similar struggles. They all want to meet customer demands as quickly as possible.

“So many manufacturers face those challenges every day. The premise of Quick Response Manufacturing is to avoid those types of issues associated with those hot jobs and late deliveries,” said David Adkins, President and CEO of Blackhawk Bank.

While Blackhawk Bank is not a manufacturer, Adkins says many of his customers are.

That’s why the bank feels it’s so important to support workshops like QRM.

“The Rockford economy is based in a huge part on manufacturing and the success of manufacturing. It’s really critical to who we are as a community,” Adkins said.

The workshop was hosted by Women of Today’s Manufacturing, a group which offers scholarships to help students pursuing STEM careers.

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