Ask Kevin Lanford and he will tell you – Dantherm is one of the coolest companies for which to work. On Thursday of last week, he showed why this is true to the OpExChange.
Dantherm Cooling, located in Spartanburg, produces air conditioning enclosures and heat exchangers. They combine high-quality engineering with unique modular technologies to create flexible, energy-efficient cooling solutions for equipment cabinets and enclosure. These are not standard units but are used in reducing heat in critical electronic enclosures such as cell phone towers, DSL hubs, oil and gas rigs, and 911 locators. These robust units are designed to withstand extreme conditions and events such as brush fires, hurricanes, and even shotgun blasts.
An introductory video on Dantherm Cooling and their product is included here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=HconaL1O1-E&feature=emb_logo
OpExChange was welcomed by Kevin Lanford, production manager, and Greg Kaye, President of Dantherm Cooling. The plant visit had a slightly different feel to it than past OpExChange events. To help protect both employees and visitors, Dantherm and OpExChange required face masks for the entirety of the tour and attendance was limited to 20 people.
The Spartanburg plant began a metamorphosis of both manufacturing processes and leadership culture in the past couple of years. Greg Kaye joined the company as President in mid-2018 and realized a change was essential. Although their product is best-in-class in their markets, the manufacturing metrics and customer delivery were lacking. On-time delivery was about 30%. Greg explained that during his first six months with the company were spent doing an “apology tour” – apologizing to customers with a promise to improve service and rebuild relationships.
Greg is an avid proponent of servant leadership and points to David Marquet’s intent-based leadership style as one his key influencers. This style relies on communication and people feeling valued for their work and understanding their role in the bigger picture. Greg told us that “My role is not to dictate how each thing is done; My role is to lead by serving this talented team because they already know how to execute on greatness.”
Kevin was lobbying for a change as well. He knew from his years of lean training that in order to have a successful manufacturing operation, there must be clear and visual communication – on the plant floor. He had already moved the production meeting from the front offices to the shop floor, but he knew that this concept needed to go further.
Kevin mapped out his communications hub idea, and the pair discussed how the Kanban board had become a major part of the everyday life of the company. Greg’s creative juices began to flow, and his marketing experience kicked into gear. “As we discussed what building a communications hub would look like for Dantherm Cooling,” recalls Greg, “I became excited about the prospect, but I wanted a theme that spoke to the heart of Dantherm. Our communications hub needed to be about more than just what we do and how we do it; I wanted it to be about who we are. I ended up working out a theme that utilized some synergy that already existed within the company.”
The result is the Dantherm Cooling Arena. This three-walled structure resides prominently on the production floor. This communication hub has the theme of a hockey arena, inclusive of players, coaches, fans, and even Zambonis. Greg explained that “the outside of the arena is for appreciation and recognition of who does the work and whom they do it for.
The inside of the arena contains what we do and how we do it.” The servant leadership mentality was obvious from the inverted organizational chart on the outside of the Arena. Greg and his leadership team were at the bottom supporting the players at the top.
Kevin’s development of the inside of the arena was a unique application of the “Personal Kanban” methodology developed by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry, authors of Personal Kanban: Mapping Work/Navigating Life. Kevin was introduced to this technique in 2016, at the Lean Enterprise Institute’s annual conference. During a 90-minute breakout session with Jim Benson himself, Kevin’s eyes were opened. “Jim’s take on visualizing work, limiting WIP, and the overall psychology of work fascinated me. I began using this technique in my daily work, I trained others on this technique at a previous employer, and I was even influenced enough to use it at home with my family, which was a real game-changer.”
OpExChange members participated in a thorough plant tour which not only delved into the Arena key metrics and controls but also included a walk-through of their products, inventory control improvements, and technological improvements in testing. Kevin and his team are proud of some key improvements so far – on-time delivery increased to 80%. Employee turnover reduced by 40%. Cycle count accuracy improved by 75%. The team knows this is a journey and there are even greater accomplishments to be realized.
Jack Pritchard, Purchasing and Warehouse Manager, and his “Too Cool” team were an integral part to this team’s success. During the tour, Jack demonstrated how he worked with Kevin to incorporate visual management into real results. Jack humbly pointed to his team as the primary reason for their success. He’s excited about their new ERP system to help boost them to the next level.
As Greg Kaye sums it up, “The Dantherm Arena is a celebration of our team, our customers, our suppliers, our quality, our accountability, and our innovation. It is designed with servant leadership in mind, which exists throughout our organization. Dantherm Cooling is truly cooling from a different perspective.”
After the tour, there were some introductions made between Dantherm and some other OpExChange companies to schedule follow-up benchmarking and learning sessions. OpExChange members were provided with copies of the presentations and reference information.
The OpExChange is a peer-to-peer network of companies in South Carolina dedicated to learning and growing together. Member companies host events at their facilities and share practical examples of industrial automation, lean manufacturing improvements, and leadership development. It is an invaluable resource to member companies that provide access to others who are on similar improvement journeys. If you are interested in joining, contact Mike Demos (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the OpExChange website (www.opexchange.com).