Lean Manufacturing Training Center November 12th, 2006

Jet engine manufacturer Williams International has teamed with Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College to establish a center at Business Depot Ogden that will train students in lean manufacturing techniques and advanced machining starting next year.

Williams is contributing $25 million worth of equipment to the facility, which is being hailed as the first of its kind in the United States. The company has spent weeks hauling 25 state-of-the-art milling machines from a closed auto parts plant in Michigan into the 53,000-square-foot building, one of the newer structures at the industrial park.

"For a private employer to make an investment like this in all of Northern Utah, and be willing to open their facilities and processes, that is something unique," said Collette Mercier, vice president for instructional services at OWATC. "Everyone involved is partnering for the benefit of the whole community."

Williams is providing the equipment, as well as all related transportation and setup work. In all, the company's contribution to the center is about $30 million.

Several of the company's suppliers have also committed to donate equipment after realizing the potential of the center to become a world-class facility, said Lloyd McCaffrey, director of manufacturing technology for Williams.

"This will provide all of the tools students will be using in the industry," McCaffrey said. "We will use this center as an example to show others how lean manufacturing works, to help people understand the concept."

Lean manufacturing refers to the implementation of procedures that maximize workplace efficiency and productivity. It is based on the concept of "continuous improvement," where employees at all levels are encouraged to come up with ideas to make company operations more "lean."

In return, Williams gains additional manufacturing capacity in a building leased by the college. The facility will have three production lines -- one each for aluminum, alloy and titanium products.

It will produce rough parts for the company's signature jet engines, used in both commercial and military applications. The parts will go to Williams' primary manufacturing facility at Ogden-Hinckley Airport for finishing.

"We get more capacity, and the students get a higher level of education," McCaffrey said. "It's a win-win situation." 

The advanced skills students learn at the center will help them start with higher wages at the entry level, he said.

Crews are now setting up the advanced four-axis milling machines, which weigh about 30 tons each. The center is scheduled to begin operating in early spring next year.

Jeff DeMoss,
Standard-Examiner staff