Factivity MES and Carlisle Brake and Friction’s Lean Initiative: Part Two


In our last blog, we wrote about Carlisle Brake and Friction’s lean project. The 101-year-old manufacturing company used a creative and fascinating “lean” approach as the framework for modernizing its production and business processes to increase efficiency and competitiveness. This how the Factivity MES paperless factory and shop floor tracking software became the communication and control backbone in this project.

Simple Changes Bring Big Improvements

No one who has been exposed to Carlisle’s lean project would call the overall project simple—after all, it included shutting down a plant and moving equipment cross country, increasing the size of an existing production facility in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as, the redesign of the factory floor layout and purchase of some new and additional equipment. But once the basics of an efficient process were in place, Carlisle was able to improve performance by making simple changes to established processes.

Simplified Routings and Costing

Before the rearranging of the factory floor assets into lean manufacturing lines, known as value stream lines, Carlisle’s production process was complicated, as could be seen by analyzing the routing files in its ERP system. Each item had its own unique router that might cover operations in five departments. Now, after the value stream rationalization, all operations on a router occur in a single work center, cutting down on move and queue time. Even better, they were able to build every product using a total of just eight routers because they had standardized the process. The company adopted a single overhead rate to simplify product costing even further. Not only does this reduction in quantity of routing data simplify costing and scheduling, it reduces the maintenance burden and helps prevent mistakes due to typos or omissions that could introduce errors into costs.

Connected Customer Orders to Shop Orders

With few exceptions, ERP systems by their nature sever the relationship between customer orders and work orders (jobs) on the shop floor. The rationale for this is to support lot sizes that are supposed to increase efficiency and asset utilization, but this is an old way of looking at production. In today’s agile manufacturing world, the ideal is a lot size of one, or the minimum quantity to satisfy customer needs with the focus on improving the communication, control and simplification of the production process.

The disconnect between customer orders and shop orders was acceptable in the days when factories were measured on utilization of floor equipment without regard to inventory levels, but companies like Carlisle measure themselves on speed of production and customer satisfaction. That means they need to know which order in production correlates to each customer sales order line item.

A simple change to the system ensures that shop orders and customer orders have the same order number. Now, when a customer requests a status update, it’s easy for customer service to investigate Factivity and to know where the sales order line item is located in the production process. Because factory throughput is predictable, they know exactly when the items will be ready for shipment. This simple change has helped improve customer satisfaction.

Factivity’s work in process tracking software provides functionality that enables them to “see” the sales line items as they are produced and print labels for the pallets and containers. This alone eliminated 3 days of lead time.

Always Up-to-Date Documentation

Factivity’s MES shop floor system includes a Documents Module or Paperless Factory that Carlisle uses to ensure that employees always have the latest procedures and specifications to work from.  In many factories, the reliance on paper drawings, routings and procedures results in employees using outdated documents for production, causing increased scrap and rework. This unnecessary cost is eliminated with Factivity.


Carlisle included a single raw material(s) issue into the first operation on its routings in Factivity, so all materials are accounted for in real-time. This prevents over reporting of materials consumed which had resulted in inaccurate costs and erroneous inventory records in the past.

Improved Standards and Scheduling

The team at Carlisle analyzed the routings for each part and then examined the entire production process and broke every process into detailed process steps. These steps might have been as small as “pick up tool.”, but this level of detail enabled them to analyze the process and root out any non-value-added steps, no matter how small. The average process went from 230 steps down to 76 steps using this process, eliminating nearly two-thirds of the total lead time. As a result, their processes are much more standardized and streamlined and enable greater throughput.

More Organized Shop Floor

Carlisle used the Factivity manufacturing process tracking software to provide improvements on older visual card Kanban methodology. Factivity uses its Electronic Kanban which includes a picture of the item to eliminate mix ups. Factivity changes the color of the visual Kanban to increase priorities when parts shortages exist. Factivity tracks every Kanban “replenishment time” to provide management feedback on appropriate size of bins. Factivity also prints pallet and container labels to simplify shipping and improve transaction accuracy.

Carlisle’s Lean Results

Carlisle implemented lean principles in their pure sense. They didn’t get hung up on using Japanese terminology or “the color of the belts” people earned. They looked at the basic tenets of lean as a management philosophy and focused on a few basics:

  • Identify and eliminate waste wherever you find it
  • Build only what you need to satisfy the customer and nothing more
  • Empower employees to do the right thing

Carlisle took steps to ensure that employees knew three vitally important things:

  1. You (employees) Matter
  2. Quality Matters
  3. Metrics Matter

Working With Factivity: A Different Kind of Software Company

As JJ Leet says “Factivity has been a real partner” in this process. You can easily install the software, learn and configure it quickly. You can make a direct call to the team at Factivity, and they will work with you and help you out.” Factivity worked with Carlisle to understand the enhancements they needed and then implemented those software changes in a way that allowed them to incorporate them in the next release of the product. By the same token, Carlisle enjoys the benefit of enhancement requests from other customers.

It’s a different kind of relationship than many software companies offer. Factivity strives to be innovative. Leets says “Factivity is realistic, not idealistic.” That makes them easy to work with.

Last Word on Lean at Carlisle

JJ Leet, project lead at Carlisle, had this to say about his project: “We’re one of several divisions at Carlisle. For them to make that kind of investment is a tremendous show of confidence and shows what companies can do to improve the production process and increase customer service levels. It’s impressive to see that kind of investment in this day and age.

I believe Lean has been a turning point for American manufacturing. Companies that have been able to adopt lean have found that they are highly competitive. This project is a real-life proof point that it is profitable and reasonable to manufacture in America.”

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