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Lean manufacturing and six sigma management ideologies are not only a major part of Kurt Plechaty’s professional life, they’ve also influenced his decision-making and expectations outside of the office.As an example, when Plechaty goes to the doctor’s office, he’s able to note the operational inefficiency of needing to write redundant information in multiple places on multiple forms. Time lost is opportunity wasted.
“Six Sigma has influenced every aspect of my life, whether it’s coaching my children in softball or going to a restaurant or grocery store,” says Plechaty, general manager of Oshkosh, Wis.-based Marvel Manufacturing Co. Plechaty joined the company in 2004 as director of engineering and later was promoted to production manager in 2006. He assumed his current role as general manager in 2008.
Plechaty’s six sigma and lean background give him a customer-driven management philosophy he carries on to his staff. “I’m driven to meet customer demand and expectations from both a quality and delivery standpoint,” he says. “I challenge people to do their best to think outside of the box to achieve the company’s goals and objectives. ”Plechaty also believes strongly in drawing on the experience and knowledge of his team. “I have more of a team philosophy than an autocratic philosophy,” he adds.
The saw manufacturing company first shifted toward lean manufacturing principles in 2006, when Plechaty served as production manager. He says the transition is one of his proudest professional accomplishments.“It’s a continuous effort, but we’re changing the way we do things here, becoming more responsive to customers, improving our throughput and reducing our inventory,” Plechaty explains. “Marvel is a very established company, and changing the way we do things here is a major task; we’re not done yet, but we’re making great strides toward becoming more dynamic.”
Plechaty believes improvement in the manufacturing industry across the United States is necessary for the nation to retain a manufacturing base. “The United States has a technological advantage, and in order to maintain that, we need to not only drive technology in the product, but efficiency, reliability and customer value, as well,” he says.
Plechaty says the company has developed a solid and loyal customer base as a result of delivering high-quality, durable machines. “Our quality begins with our interface with our customers, continues through engineering, manufacturing, production, final test, shipping and then returns to the customers’ site to ensure customer expectations are fulfilled,” he says. “Our employees are committed to building quality in at every step of the process; they take pride as well as responsibility to ensure our customers realize the Marvel quality that they have come to expect.”
Marvel Manufacturing Co. officially adopted its name in 2004, when three of its current employees purchased the business. They elected to use the Marvel name to ensure brand recognition which began as the name of the first mechanized saw in 1906. Through the years, Marvel’s product offering has expanded to include both vertical and horizontal saws, contour and double column saws, block and plate saws, carbide circular saws and a full compliment of hydraulic ironworkers. The company’s Model 8 band saw – now on its fourth generation of design – was first produced in 1920. The owners – John Petek, Robert Beach and James Jourdan – continue to be involved with the business and are key supporters of the cultural evolution at Marvel.
The company continues to develop new products. “We’ve maintained our commitment to develop technologically superior saws, even during the recession,” Plechaty says.One of the company’s biggest strengths is its self-sufficiency. The company relies on supplier to provide electrical components, raw materials, and some sheet metal, but is otherwise able to control its own destiny by designing and developing products in-house, Plechaty says. “Our products are driven by customer requirements,” he adds. “We define the specifics of those customer requirements and transform them into a piece of metal cutting machinery capable of performing to those expectations.”
Designs developed by Marvel staff are transformed from raw steel or castings into parts that are then assembled and fully tested before shipping. Marvel’s products are used widely in the OEM, structural steel and fabrication markets and distributed worldwide. The company also has the capability to perform contract machining and assembly services in its 50,000-square-foot machine shop in Oshkosh, Wis. “With over 100 years as a leading machine tool manufacturer we have the experience and track record to ensure quality work and quick turn around by using the latest lean practices in assembly and quick change over techniques on machining centers,” the company says.
Plechaty sees the company strengthening its overseas opportunities over the next few years. The company’s efforts have been recognized several times throughout its history. In 2008, Marvel was recognized as the Wisconsin Small Business of the Year in 2008 by the National Small Business Administration.
Plechaty attributes much of the company’s success to a family-oriented culture and Midwestern values. “Everyone here is very close and talks on a daily basis,” he says. “One of our successes is that our people feel as one and identify themselves as part of the Marvel family.”