Like any big life event, there is never a perfect time to make such a big change - you just need to make it happen. Although we meticulously planned, changing circumstances forced us to be scrappy and entrepreneurial at times, and it ended up being a great opportunity for many RPI employees to go beyond the scope of their daily jobs, band together and execute successfully as a team.Chris Ramstad
Director of Operations, RPI Seattle
By Amy Staupe
RPI Seattle recently completed a major upgrade to our manufacturing platform, combining our 2 factories affectionately known as Sea1 (bookmaking) and Sea2 (business products, cards, and stationery) into one consolidated 80,000 square foot location. When additional space became available next door to Sea1, RPI’s operations team seized the opportunity to literally and figuratively break down walls and establish a new, more linear end-to-end production workflow.
Planning for the new factory began in summer 2014 and execution was divided into 4 phases, which successfully completed last month:
- Breaking down walls, opening up space and moving a few work stations into the new location as well as moving support employees into new adjacent office space.
- Small portions of the Sea2 operations began moving to Sea1, as production workflows continued to be streamlined and refined.
- By May, the remainder of the Sea2 operations was moved. New, more efficient equipment was brought in, such as Indigo 7600 and 7800 presses and iGen 150 presses, to replace some older, less productive presses.
- In June, a small team began the diligent task of removing all remaining IT and electrical infrastructure, ventilation, materials and equipment from Sea2.
For RPI, the new consolidated location provides efficiency gains within a reduced overall footprint due to new technology and streamlined layouts. Culturally, we are already experiencing more unity simply by working across the aisle instead of across the freeway.
Our customers can expect continued productivity and capacity improvements. The single facility also boasts improvements in materials handling and logistics. For example, our ability to aggregate orders and ship to store, school or warehouse is better handled with all components of an order being produced in one location.
The results have been promising: even during the course of this intensive move, we experienced the best Spring Yearbook peak season in company history – a huge endorsement of how the improvements had a direct impact on productivity. May 2015 production was a 25% volume increase year-over-year, with record-setting days of book shipments.
All of this bodes well for our upcoming Holiday peak, which we begin planning for this month. In the coming months, operations will focus on cross-training between business products, stationery and bookmaking employees to balance labor during demand peaks while also providing employees with opportunities to develop new skills. We also have plans to add new equipment this summer that will continue to boost RPI’s productivity.
Employees celebrated the official completion of the “1-Seattle” factory last week with a company BBQ. In addition to food and games, employees from all areas of the company – from customer relations to press operators – had the chance to congratulate one another and make real connections with colleagues!