WS Packaging Group Makes Strides with IMPACT
WS Packaging's IMPACT™ Business System is grounded in a lean manufacturing mindset that drives all operational decision-making.July 2013 By Sue Busch
Rex Lane recalls that when he first joined label and package converter WS Packaging Group as CEO in 2010, he was known in professional circles as "that guy they hired from outside the industry." And Lane, who brought years of lean business management experience from other manufacturing industries to his current position, is emphatic that the fresh eyes of a newcomer can be the key to effecting far-reaching improvements in operational efficiency.
Lane acknowledges that new perspectives can meet opposition. "There is fear that outside execs will mess things up," he observes. "But lean doesn't have to be a bad four-letter word." Case in point: upon coming in to WS Packaging Group, one of converting's larger players with annual sales of nearly $500 million, Lane quickly saw a need to enhance the sophistication of the company's supply chain, and further, that a focal shift from price competitiveness to shorter runs, quicker lead times, and quicker deliveries could unlock fundamental long-term value for customers.
The notion of strategically teaming business management experts and printing experts to accomplish leaner operations firmly took root when WS Packaging Group—originally formed with the merger of Wisconsin Label Corporation and Superior Label Systems in 2000—was acquired by private equity firm J.W. Childs in 2006. Today, this talent mix consistently characterizes WS Packaging's leadership. "As a management team, our whole is greater than the sum of the parts," says Lane. "It's very exciting to have the shared vision that we do."
Lane estimates he spends half of his time conducting business at WS Packaging Group's Green Bay, Wis., corporate headquarters, and attends staff meetings onsite at WS Packaging manufacturing facilities once a month. Though he may participate in a conference call with a customer to put the final touches on a service agreement, he emphasizes that he does not want to get in the way of printing operations. "We focus on time not spent on making labels," he clarifies. "That's where waste comes in."
With Lane's arrival, operational efficiency initiatives began with a formalized funneling of all aspects of the business through WS Packaging Group's Green Bay headquarters—from new business opportunities to the vetting of potential new technology investments—to ensure appropriate deployment of clients or equipment to one or more of its 22 facilities across the U.S. and Mexico. On a larger scale, Lane led the founding of the company's IMPACT™ Business System (IBS), a "business approach" grounded in a lean manufacturing mindset that drives all operational decision-making—from the supply chain to project workflows to new product development. One notable effect has been improved financial forecasting and modeling through the incorporation of Kanban pull replenishment (a Japanese just-in-time inventory control concept) for raw materials.