Business feature: Firm helps companies increase productivity

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

A unique state-subsidized consulting firm says it can help local businesses increase the bottom line.

New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership consults with existing small- and medium-sized manufacturing businesses on how to increase productivity and efficiency through a series of educational classes and seminars.

Clovis Industrial Development Corp. business recruiter Gene Hendricks said area manufacturers can benefit from NMMEP programs.

“I think they can be very helpful for small manufacturers,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks said he works closely with the company and said they have a good track record of making manufacturing companies more efficient.

Over the last decade, New Mexico MEP has helped increase and retain sales of around $67 million, and retained approximately 1,200 jobs state-wide in the process, according to a NMMEP press release.

New Mexico MEP Director Ron Burke said the organization’s client list has steadily increased from 70 to 280 in the last five years.

“I know everybody’s having to tighten their purse strings and budgets are being cut. We go in there and try to help them find these ways without having to go spend more money,” said Danny Armijo, New Mexico MEP Regional Director.

Armijo said the firm developed leadership training curriculum for Southwest Cheese.

“It’s not a generic leadership (training), it’s customized to what their people are looking to get, what they’re unhappy with, what they want to get out of leadership training,” he said.

Armijo said Southwest Cheese plant officials asked the firm to conduct a process audit to search for ways to streamline their packaging line.

“We do time studies, as part of that involvement, and to see if in fact there’s a bottleneck within that process,” he said. “Then we’ll identify that bottleneck and put what we call corrective action and getting that bottleneck fixed so they have a nice streamlined process.”

Southwest Cheese officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Sunland Peanuts hired New Mexico MEP to help streamline its operation.

According to Jimmie Shearer, owner of Sunland Peanuts, 90 of his employees are now trained to work more productively.

“Going into it (there were) a lot of pessimistic attitudes,” Shearer said. “Coming out of it — the people that were the most pessimistic going in, were the most optimistic coming out.”

One example of part of the NMMEP’s program — an class exercise called Lean 101, is a simulated manufacturing demonstration in which workers attach lights and other parts to a board in an assembly line-like process.

“The whole purpose of this series of manufacturing (drills),” Shearer said, “was to show that if you are organized, how much more you can produce and how much easier it is on everyone.”

Shearer admitted the first few attempts weren’t successful.

“The first time through, we didn’t produce hardly anything,” Shearer said. “There were two people working like crazy, everybody else was sitting around waiting for the board to come to them so that they could do their part.”

By the end of the exercise, however, organization and communication had allowed everybody to work much more efficiently.

“When everything was organized properly and everybody was communicating properly — productivity was fantastic and nobody seemed like they were hardly working.”

A non-profit organization, NMMEP is subsidized with funds from the New Mexico Economic Development Department and is affiliated with the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Freedom New Mexico staff writer Mickey Winfield contributed to this report.