Issue Jan Feb 16
Made up of more than a dozen entrepreneurial, privately owned companies, the Orscheln Group boasts a wide diversity of products, services and markets. Through all of its operations, Orscheln is committed to devising solutions that help its customers and their end-users succeed.
The Orscheln portfolio includes parts manufacturing for the OEM transportation and off-highway industries, retail farm and home store operations, real estate management and development, and an array of additional diversified interests. Orscheln employs more than 3,000 people around the world and has major investments in more than 12 companies, partnerships and joint ventures; more than 150 retail outlets in the Midwest; and manufacturing operations at home and in Europe, India and China.
“Our advantage is that we are a large, sophisticated job shop, making high-quality products for premier customers that all have stringent requirements,” COO and Director Ted McMillin says. “We have slightly fewer than 1,000 customers and about 24,000 SKUs with a lot of turnaround on the cells that we run. We aren’t a high runner of millions of parts on high-speed lines. Not overly reliant on robotics, we need talented people to help with a variety of changes on any given day.”
Quality and Safety
Among the biggest priorities for Orscheln is the need to meet its clients’ zero-defect requirements. Because its customers include aerospace, military and on-road/off-road trucking companies, providing solutions to achieve zero defects has been a major focus of the company’s capital improvements.
“From a productivity standpoint, kaizen events and projects over the past three years have made the biggest impact,” Missouri Operations Manager Dick Yerington says. “There have been a lot of productivity and sales increases in the last few years, and kaizen events have helped us to improve workflow in a short period of time.”
The company has also started using some 3-D printing capabilities to help with early product development processes. What used to take weeks can now often take hours as Orscheln can produce early mock-ups and demonstration components to test the fit and function of new concepts.
“That helps us to verify CAD modeling features,” McMillin says. “It is not just a product development tool, either. It has expedited manufacturing and engineering, serving as a proving ground for projects we are working on. It is important for us because customers expect fast turnaround. We are a technically rich organization, but service is key as we work to turn things around quickly for our customers.”
Adding electronics to its capabilities is another focal area for Orscheln, enhancing its ability to work with some of the world’s leading agricultural OEMs. There are many emerging nations that need such equipment, and Orscheln’s investments in electronics have helped it to build its business in that area.
“India’s Mahindra is now using our electronic technology on their tractors, and that has opened doors for us to work with other Indian OEMs in need of similar solutions,” McMillin says. “We are seeing similar opportunities arise in the mining equipment sector in other parts of Asia too.”
Other investments have focused on the company’s ability to detect and reduce variability through vision systems and sensors. Within its processes, Orscheln is driving quality oversight to a point where its people don’t have to detect distinctions. Instead, the advance detection systems can ensure accuracy and help the company provide zero-defect solutions.
In addition to developing highly sophisticated, high-quality systems, safety is another key focus for Orscheln. The company has been engaged in an 18-month safety blitz. Bob Orscheln, CEO and president of Orscheln Products LLC, has emphasized to his leadership team that in order to “wow” the customer, the company must operate the safest facilities, ensure a commitment to quality and that remember that service is its greatest product.
“We brought our operations and maintenance teams together and looked at every single machine and work center in order to make changes and evaluate risk levels,” Yerington says. “Since then, we have seen reductions in OSHA-reportable incidents and increased awareness with our people as we’ve invested in making safer plants. At Orscheln, safety is unconditional.”
“The company has also brought in a full-time training staff member who works with our people on safety, quality and procedures,” McMillin adds. “As we evolve, we have to make sure our people are evolving with us.”
Reaching the Market
Having established a presence in many corners of the world, Orscheln has positioned itself to best serve its customer base. Although it doesn’t have entirely redundant capabilities in all of its global locations, the company has created a system that allows it to balance its capabilities and costs.
“We have a good balance as far as things like equipment, capabilities, warehousing and the ability to ship are concerned,” McMillin says. “Between India and the U.S., we have all of Asia, Europe and the Americas covered. Commerce into Russia has been disrupted due to the Ukraine conflict, but that was a small percentage of our sales. We want to make sure our customers are happy, and our operations teams have helped us to ensure we have the right capacity and cost structure to serve them.”
At the same time, Orscheln recognizes that its global footprint is still relatively young. It is also not a large system integrator and can’t be everything to everyone. As its customers look for speed, options and competitive prices, the company has to ensure that it is maintaining its own competitiveness and safe working environments.
“It is important that we have excellent processes and provide great outcomes for customers, but we have to be patient,” McMillin says. “Customers are going through their own evolutions and strategic changes, but we must make sure that we stay committed to our long-term plans so we can keep up with ebbs and flows of the markets we serve and the wider economic picture.”
Fortunately, Orscheln has established a reputation as an innovator and world-class mechanical company. In the last few years, it has evolved to include more electronics capabilities, adapting its systems so they can be manipulated by electronics. Going forward, the company will work hard to ensure that its customers understand all of its capabilities as it works to design, produce and deliver the best solutions possible.
“As we look at different technologies, we have to be able to look ahead and find solutions that can do things faster and with better quality and lower cost,” Yerington says. “We have to figure out ways to make quicker changes and have less variability, and those will be the biggest changes in manufacturing. We are doing well, but it is up to us to keep on top of that process.”