A lean manufacturing initiative conducted by LAI International Inc., a leading supplier of precision components and subassemblies for original equipment manufacturers, has reduced the cycle time on a critical aerospace product by 25 percent, according to program leaders.

“This is one of the most successful lean programs that we've recently completed, achieving cycle time reductions of 25 percent and producing projected savings of more than $196,000 annually,” Frank Bailey, plant manager of LAI International's manufacturing facility in Minneapolis, said. “Another project is in progress to reduce non-conformity occurrences on a turbine component with targeted savings of more than $200,000 a year.”

The LAI facility has trained 57 percent of its employees in Six Sigma practices, including technicians, engineers and quality managers certified as Six Sigma black belts. LAI has created seven project teams as a result of lean production initiatives, which focus on eliminating waste from processes. A recently completed lean project reduced data-entry steps and setup times for a production subassembly, producing projected savings of more than $100,000.

Six Sigma removes variation within a process, decreasing opportunities for defects. A Six Sigma process is commonly defined as one with 3.4 defects per million opportunities.

LAI has initiated additional lean efforts at all of its production facilities, including adding visual management tools and implementing audited 5-S programs, a methodology to organize and improve the workplace, Laurie Schneider, process improvement engineer, said. Two kaizen events, planned to reduce waste in narrowly defined portions of processes, are under way.

All five of LAI's fabrication facilities are ISO 9001:2000 and AS9100 certified. The company also offers NADCAP certified non-conventional machining and welding processes. In addition, LAI has best-in-class manufacturing design teams located at each of its production facilities, enabling optimized production throughput and quality.

About LAI International
LAI is an approved supplier for large potential growth manufacturing programs, including projects in green power plant technology, aircraft parts and subassemblies, and defense components. Revenues are forecast to reach $58 million in 2008, with an employment base projected at 350 by the end of the year. LAI continues to execute its strategy of expanding its capabilities by taking on more of its customers' supply chain. LAI's acquisition in 2007 of RTI, Scarborough, Maine, expands its capabilities in manufacturing power generation and rotating equipment. In addition, LAI operates four other manufacturing facilities, dispersed in key manufacturing regions across North America, with locations in Minneapolis; Phoenix; Tucson, Ariz.; and Westminster, Md.

LAI is known for its experience in supply chain management of complex manufacturing processes and its technical expertise in advanced waterjet cutting, drilling and five-axis machining, as well as precision laser processing, including laser cutting, drilling, welding, heat-treating and five-axis machining. The company also offers high-speed CNC machining, electrical discharge machining, including wire, plunge and hole-drilling EDM processing, five-axis grinding, welding, conventional machining and certified gage calibration. Additional capabilities include sheet metal fabrication, tool design and air-flow inspection. LAI was acquired in 2005 by Spell Capital Partners LLC of Minneapolis. Its corporate headquarters are located in Scottsdale. For more information, see www.LAIco.com.