TBM helps Carlisle Companies Inc. implement a Lean Management System that links strategic objectives and continuous improvement activities to achieve clear business results across 75 global locations, and growing. 

Like most U.S. manufacturers, Carlisle Companies Inc. had been using various lean and Six Sigma tools to make operational improvements for decades. But even though Carlisle was keeping up with competitors in its three primary sectors and consistently outperforming the S&P 500 index, something was missing. That something was clear to CEO David Roberts when he first started visiting the plants.

“When I walked into a factory, I would have no idea how they measured productivity,” he recalls. “Every plant measured it differently. It was obvious that we needed a consistent operating method for all of our factories.”

But consistently measuring productivity was just the start. There were, Roberts believed, significant opportunities to perform better, much better in fact. “Frankly, I was tired of hearing about lower-cost manufacturing in China. I was convinced that if we did the right things in the organization, we could compete with China.”

After rolling out the Carlisle Operating System (COS) almost four years ago, the company has started to realize many of those opportunities. COS initiatives have generated more than $70 million in cost savings and reduced the company’s manufacturing and warehousing footprint by nearly two million square feet. Like most U.S. companies, Carlisle saw revenues fall during the recession. But unlike most others, the company’s net income increased that year, in part because of its COS initiatives.

“Because of the productivity improvements that we’ve implemented, we’ve even brought work out of our China plants and back into the United States. We’re cost competitive with the Chinese, particularly with the cost of wages in China going up,” Roberts reports.

Such results, company leaders are convinced, are only the beginning. Rolling out COS across five major business units—which operate fairly independent—and 75 manufacturing locations worldwide has been no small feat. What ties everything together at Carlisle, as this case study reviews, is strong leadership engagement; a clear alignment between improvement priorities and five-year business goals; and a uniform, clearly communicated operating system that continues to expand as Carlisle’s needs evolve.

Challenge: Carlisle’s CEO wanted to accelerate value creation by aggressively growing sales, improving operating margins, growing internationally, reducing working capital, and improving return on invested capital.

An overview of the Carlisle Operating System doesn’t start with the elements of the system itself. It starts with Carlisle’s strategic vision. Each business unit has its own roadmap with specific targets that, when achieved, will roll up to the corporate objectives. Those targets are fixed and don’t change from year to year (If you would like to read the Q&A with Carlisle CEO, David Roberts, download the case study PDF.)

How each unit will achieve its objectives is determined during the “strategic deployment” process, which establishes annual improvement priorities (AIPs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) at every level of the business. Also known as policy deployment, hoshin kanri or hoshin planning, strategic deployment is an execution tool that aligns business improvement activity with a company’s near- and longerterm objectives and strategy. Monthly management team reviews of performance metrics, linked to their objectives, maintain focus and prompt fast corrective action when any area falls behind.

“In the beginning, each of our businesses had six, seven or eight AIPs. Now each business has three or four,” says Mike Voigt, Vice President of COS. “You have to be able to resource them right. You’re better off working on the business and executing three AIPs really well.”

Today, well over half of Carlisle’s workforce has received COS training, mostly in the context of kaizen events. To date, the company has conducted 1,500 week-long and point kaizen improvement events. It continues to run roughly one each month at all of its facilities, and sometimes at supplier sites as well.

Solution: With an immediate focus on improving operating margins and reducing working capital, TBM Consulting Group helped Carlisle create and roll out the Carlisle Operating System (COS) across all of its global businesses.

To sustain its progress Carlisle audits COS-related performance improvement using a three-level assessment process (bronze, silver and gold). As part of planning and review meetings, Voigt and the site managers review the current state of kaizen events for the previous six months.

During the initial rollout of COS, TBM helped the company adapt the MDI principles to Carlisle’s requirements. The program includes SQDC boards (for safety, quality, delivery and cost) that display performance in each work area and for the whole site and sustainment of 5S. The metrics displayed on the boards align with the overall business and corporate goals.

Because it requires a change in management thought processes and behavior, it takes time to implement such a program. In the beginning, managers didn’t really know what they were supposed to be doing on the walks. One of the unique aspects of the Carlisle MDI program is the three maturity levels. Each level represents a higher level of sophistication. After a particular practice has been fully adopted, Carlisle managers know what they need to do next to be even more effective.

“I remember after they’d been doing the walks for several weeks in one of the facilities, some of the supervisors called me over,” Voigt recalls. “They said, ‘This is the best thing we’ve ever done. For years we’ve been living with incorrect order information, defective parts from upstream processes, and other problems. The Operations management staff are noting it and making somebody responsible for doing something about it.’ Right there, in a nutshell, is the power of MDI.”

Results: EBIT up 11%, working capital as a percentage of sales down from 30.4% to 21.9%. $70 million in cost savings, a 2 million reduction in floor space, and other improvements in financial performance were attributed to the Carlisle Operating System (COS).

As noted above, strategy deployment, common metrics, MDI, ongoing assessments and many other elements of the Carlisle Operating System are designed to help Carlisle’s plants sustain the progress that they make and continue improving. Many of them have been applying lean manufacturing in various forms for years, to varying degrees of success. Support from the CEO, division presidents and the board is what sets the current effort apart, according to Voigt. Any management personnel who didn’t really support COS when it launched have moved on.

As the corporate representative for COS, Voigt’s job is to provide communication, resources and support where and when they are needed. It’s a role that can’t be accomplished from company headquarters. He traveled 49 weeks last year, sharing knowledge and finding “nuggets”—or best practices—that he could bring back to the group.

In addition to non-stop efforts to improve operational excellence in all areas — and bring new acquisitions up-to-speed through assessments, strategy deployment and go-forward plans — Carlisle is working on sales, inventory and operations planning (SIOP) with suppliers and customers. Much of that work centers on the flow of information.

“When you have 75 sites worldwide that you need to move forward where people are already very busy,” Voigt says, “You have to be very strategic about what programs you put out there. They have to be focused and simple bullet points that translate easily. We’re doing the same thing now with TPM, Total Productive Maintenance, that we did with MDI.”