Power Curbers receives statewide continuous improvement award

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 2, 2024

SALISBURY — Power Curbers Companies was honored with the 2024 Continuous Improvement Award by the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership for its commitment to enhancing manufacturing processes and driving organizational excellence. Based in Salisbury and family-owned since 1953, Power Curbers specializes in making concrete slipform machines used for curb and gutter, sidewalks, barrier walls, ditches, paving and various special applications.

The company’s journey toward continuous improvement began with a deep look into their existing processes and identifying areas of improvement. Company leaders knew their employees played a crucial role in this journey, so they provided extensive training in lean principles like 6S, Kaizen and Value Stream Mapping. Those efforts created a workplace environment where everyone actively looks for process improvements.

“Twenty-two years ago, we embarked on our lean journey due to frustrations with our quality and efficiency,” President of Power Curbers Stephen Bullock said. “Recognizing the need for improvement, we sought outside help and visited other companies that were successfully implementing lean practices. After observing and learning from their experiences, we began adopting these principles, starting with our manufacturing processes. Over time, we extended these practices to other business areas, including lean accounting, striving to apply lean principles comprehensively throughout our organization,”

However, making that shift wasn’t easy. It required strong leadership to guide the way and build a team that was open to embracing change.

“It took concerted efforts throughout the first year to embed this mindset across the organization and gain genuine buy-in,” Bullock said. “The objective was clear: embracing continuous improvement wouldn’t jeopardize job security but enhance our collective success.”

By implementing lean tools and practices, Power Curbers significantly improved productivity, safety and efficiency. For example, organizing and standardizing workspaces reduced accidents and increased productivity. It also held targeted events to solve specific problems, which led to quicker deliveries and increased sales.

In the past, Power Curbers often found itself rushing to fix mistakes or meet deadlines. But with lean principles in place, operations became smoother and more organized. It improved inventory management and workspace organization, improving efficiency and cost savings.

“Our inventory management underwent a significant overhaul,” Bullock said. “We realized the cost implications of excess inventory sitting idle on shelves and devised a coherent system to optimize inventory levels. Looking back, the transformation is remarkable. What was once a cluttered workspace with scattered parts is now organized with designated areas and shadow boards for easy access to tools and materials. This shift has improved efficiency and reflects our commitment to continuous improvement and operational excellence.”

To ensure these improvements lasted, Power Curbers standardized their processes and implemented visual management systems. They also continued to find ways to improve, such as adopting just-in-time delivery for parts to streamline production and improve cash flow.

“The just-in-time approach allows us to streamline our production process, from receiving raw materials to shipping the finished product, ensuring optimal cash flow,” Bullock said. “By adopting single-piece flow instead of batch processing, we avoid the accumulation of excess inventory and minimize the time between production and payment. This shift has greatly improved our cash flow and overall operational efficiency, contributing significantly to our success.”

The Continuous Improvement Award recognizes organizations that exemplify continuous improvement methodologies to drive organizational behaviors aligned with a detailed action plan and timeline. Power Curbers’ dedication to implementing lean practices, fostering employee engagement and achieving tangible operational improvements exemplifies its commitment to excellence. It sets a benchmark for continuous improvement in the manufacturing industry.

In response to the award, Bullock expressed gratitude and pride in their team’s hard work. He sees it as validation of their commitment to getting better every day and an inspiration to continue striving for excellence.

“We are thrilled to receive the 2024 Continuous Improvement Leadership Award,” Bullock said. “The news was a fantastic surprise, and we couldn’t be more excited. We gratefully accept this prestigious honor for all our dedicated associates and sincerely appreciate the recognition. It reaffirms our commitment to continuous improvement and inspires us to push further towards excellence in everything we do.”