In 2005, Wausau, Wisc.-based Kolbe launched its continuous improvement program. Now, ten years later, the door and window maker says a thousand  improvements have taken place, affecting efficiency and allowing Kolbe to handle greater volume without lowering standards, according to a company statement. The program has resulted in 325,000 square feet of floor space being re-purposed for new product lines, eliminating more than 1,000,000 feet of “unnecessary” walking distance while improving safety.

“This program has been essential for Kolbe’s ongoing success and ability to innovate throughout this past decade,” says President Jeff De Lonay. “To remain leaders in our field, we must always be searching for more efficient ways to run our business and build our products, and that is exactly what this program helps us do.”

In order to achieve improvement, groups of Kolbe team members from any department gathered on a bi-weekly basis to solve problems and inefficiencies they recognized.

The focus of these gatherings is three-fold: improved safety, productivity and quality, says Brenda Paterson, who coordinates the program. “Over the past ten years and 1,000 events, we have made great strides in all three categories in our standard work processes in the plant as well as our offices, which continues to give Kolbe a competitive edge in a very competitive market,” she says.

According to the company, 65 percent of Kolbe team members have participated in an improvement event, some even taking part in 25 or more.

Keith Koenig, vice president of manufacturing, says the program “has been essential to our success as a team for the past ten years. It will continue to drive us to produce better-quality products, more efficiently and safely, for years to come.”


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