Systematic Plant Layout Helps TradePort USA Trade-Up to Rapid Growth

Growth Manufacturers Case Study
by Karen Myhaver, Sales Account Coordinator

During the past ten years, TradePort USA has assisted retailers, manufacturers, and distributors with asset recovery, refurbishing, reverse logistics, warranty work, end-of-life products, customer returns, inventory liquidation, and test and repair of consumer electronics. Additionally, they operate a successful Internet marketing and resale consumer electronics business from their newly expanded headquarters and warehouse in Somersworth, NH, where they employ twelve people.

TradePort USA plans to open satellite locations across the country to accept returns and enhance product distribution as their business booms. They expect to double their business by 2014. The ISO 9001:2008 certified organization has made quality a priority by creating their own standard for the merchandise that they re-sell. Environmentally conscious trade-in and recycling programs are also important to this company. Such rapid growth brings concerns about finding ways to meet increasing customer demand while adhering to strict quality standards.

Increased Customer Demand Causes Chaos
Early last year, Sam Biddle, TradePort USA's VP, and his colleagues David Lahme, President, and Dave Marino, Director, knew that they were outgrowing their space. Increased customer demand that led to an influx in product supply was beginning to cause chaos. Biddle knew that there are right and wrong ways to approach a project of this magnitude and discussed his concerns with their business consultant and strategist Catherine Blake. She advised TradePort USA contact the New Hampshire Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NH MEP) for assistance in achieving their objective -- to become more efficient and improve throughput while providing optimal customer satisfaction during periods of rapid growth.

Subsequently, Christopher Tsakiris, Project Manager from NH MEP began working with the company to help them identify and eliminate waste in their processes, understand and streamline their workflow, and implement changes to allow for optimum throughput. By working with TradePort USA teams on basic Lean manufacturing concepts, Value Stream Mapping, Kaizen Improvement activities, and Systemic Plant Layout, they mapped and analyzed the company's work flow to identify wastes and then made improvements during Kaizen activities. The company cleaned and organized, got rid of clutter, and simplified processes in preparation for their expansion. They wanted to make sure to relocate only necessary materials and equipment to their expanded space so that the new layout would be optimal for throughput.

The work came about because as TradePort USA brought in more suppliers, they needed to expand their infrastructure to handle the additional business. They also needed to "clean up their house" and utilized 5s Kaizen exercises to achieve this.

"Christopher came in and helped with the Value Stream Mapping and Kaizens in our existing space," stated Biddle. "From the knowledge and data we gathered through those events, it was obvious that we could not achieve our future state objectives unless we made the decision to expand."

The cleaning, planning, and discovery that was done prior to the expansion helped insure that they would not follow the same paths they had during the previous seven years, but would expand using the correct processes and layout. The layout project increased floor space in their historic mill building and allowed them to incorporate efficiencies. This will lower their costs and their carbon footprint, such as the new energy efficient lighting. A state-of-the-art telephone system will increase the effectiveness of the company's technical support, and the addition of a reception area accommodates product pick up for local customers.

The warehouse work has been the largest undertaking and will make it possible for TradePort USA to move product to customers all over the country, much more easily. Included in the new construction was the development of standardized workstations for technicians and designated space for future hires.

Systematic Plant Layout Process
TradePort's goal in the expansion was to find a faster, more efficient way to deliver product to their increasing customer base. The Systematic Plant Layout Process aided their project by helping to develop a detailed floor plan for the warehouse re-design. The plan reduced wasted travel of people and materials, located tools and supplies at work stations, and allowed for workforce expansion as the company grows.

The removal of a non-load bearing wall enabled much of the shop floor expansion and allowed the addition of much needed professional office space for the management team. This also gives a more professional feel for visiting suppliers and customers.

Standardization was introduced within each product area, from calibrating the height of work benches to providing optimum reach for repair work to customized tool kits and point-of-use storage. Many one-of-a-kind built-ins were incorporated into the plans to helped augment information and material flow through the work cells.

"The Systematic Plant Layout Project was eye opening." says Biddle. "We now have 40% more space and the process helped us set it up properly for maximum results. Christopher did an accelerated version of the plant layout with us because we are such a small company. It took four days to get it done and we ended up with a blueprint right down to the square foot. We completed the planning on Friday and the contractors started on Monday…this is how ready we were."

"The company's renovations were complete and their inventory system implemented in August," says Tsakiris. "Now they are ready to run at peak throughput. Throughout the entire process, no disruption of business activities was experienced. Of course, you can always find more things to tweak. Through the Principals of Lean Training, work flow analysis, and Kaizen events, we provided a better way for TradePort USA to deliver more products to their customers faster!"

TradePort USA's results included:

  • 40% increase in space.
  • Capacity to test audio visual product increased 50% and televisions 100%.
  • Ability to increase workforce by 50% with ample space for everyone.
  • New inventory system for virtual management of inventory at supplier locations.
  • Triple the storage area to accommodate new vendors and more merchandise.
  • Professional office areas for the principals.
  • Reduced waste and increased productivity.
  • Improved flow of product.

"We had no baseline measurements when we began this work with NH MEP," admits Biddle. "We just knew that as we kept growing there were more and more things impeding our throughput and productivity. Now we have future states to work toward from our value stream mapping events and have plans to do additional value streams as well."

About TradePort:
For a decade, TradePort has offered an outsourcing service for asset recovery, third-party logistics, and reverse logistics for consumer electronics. Our New England warehouse and headquarters offers reverse logistics, consumer electronics test and repair, manufacturer warranty negotiation, Internet marketing and resale.

We have established our own quality standard for preparing merchandise for resale called TradePort's Product Evaluation Process (PEP). Our expertise lies in consumer electronics asset recovery, reverse logistics, merchandising and marketing. Our trade-in and recycle program delivers value to your customers by providing sustainable options while being environmentally responsible. TradePort is ISO 9001 : 2008 certified. For more information visit: www.tradeportusa.com

Media Contact:
Allyson Kimball, Director of Marketing & Communication
22 Canal Street, Suite 125
Somersworth, NH 03878 603-692-2900


Contact us today to learn how TradePort can help your business.