Lake Shore Cryotronics wants to take its products -- and its employees -- to the next frontier.
The Westerville-based manufacturer of high-tech scientific equipment has teamed with Definity Partners to increase efficiency and train its employees as its executives.
Lake Shore Chief Operating Officer Karen Lint said the company's move to improve coincides with the goal of earning certification in aerospace quality management, a designation government agencies such as NASA, the FAA and the Department of Defense look for when contracting with a company.
For 45 years, the company has developed and marketed equipment designed to measure and regulate the extremely low temperatures used in many scientific experiments and processes.
The field, cryogenics, deals with temperatures 157 degrees centigrade and below.
The products manufactured at Lake Shore's McCorkle Boulevard headquarters are sold around the world and have been used by Nobel Prize winners and in the world-renowned CERN physics research facility in Geneva, Switzerland, said Rob Ellis, Lake Shore vice president of strategic planning.
The company has provided hundreds of its sensors for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, which is set to launch in 2018 to replace the Hubble Space Telescope, Ellis said.
The company employs 140 people in Westerville, and about half are engineers or physicists, Ellis said.
The employees have to continue to be well trained to keep up with the industry, he said.
"We have a lot of really smart people," Ellis said. "We have to try to keep up with the work our customers do."
In working with Definity, the company trained its employees in 6S, a system meant to increase manufacturing efficiency; went to more visual types of scheduling and communication within departments; and adopted a new technique for addressing problems that is aimed at finding core causes of issues rather than punishing employees.
COO Lint said hiring an outside consultant was key to improvement because consultants were able to be present on the manufacturing floor in a way that upper management cannot be.
"What it really was, was having Definity here every day because I can't be on the floor every day," Lint said.
The company also wanted to re-engage its employees so they would provide input on and feel part of the company, Lint said.
"People are much more engaged. They feel their ideas are being listened to, and they're seeing action," Lint said. "We want our employees to like to come to work because if not, the other things don't work."
The value of the changes implemented with Definity were clear as Lake Shore wrapped up the year, said Manufacturing Supervisor Brian Penzone.
The month was abbreviated and the company was facing an aggressive production schedule, Penzone said.
"(Before the changes) I would have said there was no way we can get that done," he said. "Not only did we get everything done on time, we were three days early and got to work on the January schedule."