Aspiring Top Shop Already Has Plenty to Offer

Applied Engineering is actively working toward becoming a “Top Shop” in MMS’ annual benchmarking program. If its approach to tool management is any indication, the company is well on its way.


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Tom Bohnet (left), company president, and his son Brad Bohnet (right), project manager, say their new approach to tool management helps reduce scrap and rework by eliminating process variation.


The fact that an article about Applied Engineering’s approach to tool management will appear in our upcoming “Top Shops” issue is pure serendipity. Although I’d initially targeted that issue because of convenience and scheduling concerns, it soon became apparent that the article would complement coverage of the benchmarking program on a couple of levels.

For one, it demonstrates the importance of robust data in decision making—and that’s a key part of what Top Shops is all about. The idea behind the benchmarking program is to compare key performance indicators with industry leaders and make changes accordingly. Similarly, Applied Engineering’s approach to revamping the tool crib involved collecting and analyzing years of performance data on each individual cutting tool to see where improvements might be made. The result, in both cases, is better processes that deliver better outcomes.

A more direct tie-in relates to another critical part of the message behind Top Shops: goal-setting. Brad Bohnet, project manager at Applied Engineering, says the company is actively working to become one of next year’s Top Shops after failing to make the cut last year. To that end, it has taken the results and best practices from the Top Shops survey results and turned them into specific objectives. These include finalizing a 6S program, conducting more customer tours, and increasing book-to-quote ratio, sales dollars per employee, and R&D investment. The company has been using a project board to track both its progress and the obstacles it runs into along the way, and Mr. Bohnet says it hopes to be ready to apply for Top Shops again in 2014. 

Judging from what I saw during my recent tour of Applied Engineering, I would be surprised if the company didn’t make next year’s list. The company’s tool management strategy is just one example of a general approach to business that mirrors Top Shop’s emphasis on adopting an evidence-based approach to setting and pursuing improvement goals.