Rising From The Ashes - A Closer Look
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SECTION: A Closer Look

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Rising From The Ashes

Written By: Mary Sedor

Article Date: 07-03-2006
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

A devastating fire proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for attachment maker Craig Manufacturing.

For some, a devastating fire could spell ruin. But for Craig Manufacturing, an attachment manufacturer based in Hartland, New Brunswick, Canada, a recent fire proved to be an opportunity to streamline operations.

On May 7, 2005, a fire completely destroyed Craig Manufacturing's facility. The company's security system alterted of a high temperature in the building around 8:20 p.m., and the fire department was dispatched. John Craig, president, arrived on the scene and were able to retrieve the company's file server from the building. Around 9:30 p.m., Craig realized the fire showed no signs of stopping. Soon the fire department was able to contain the fire, but they were unable to save the building.

As firefighters quelled the embers of the smoldering attachment business, a few feet away company executives held a meeting to discuss rebuilding. John Craig and his team looked over the charred timbers and remaining pieces of the building's foundation and resolved to analyze everything about the attachment
business from the ground up.

"We met again the next morning at 7 a.m., and it's been nonstop ever since," says John Craig.

A Streamlining Opportunity

The 60-year-old company was started by Woodford Craig, John Craig's father. The business began as a small service station selling gas and performing automotive repairs, and like most other small businesses was constantly evolving.

Woodford Craig decided to return to his background as a machinist and began making machine component parts, which eventually led him to completing larger fabrications for a snow plow company. From there the company grew and began manufacturing heavy equipment attachments.

Today Craig manufactures attachments for loaders, motor graders and excavators - everything from thumbs, forks, grapples and quick couplers to buckets and plows.

With a strong sense of community, concern for staff and a long family history, there was little discussion about whether or not to rebuild - the question was how quickly it could be done.

The team had to start from scratch - the company didn't have a paperclip to its name.

"Everything we had accumulated over the years - all of the production equipment, tools, and every brochure - it was all gone," says John Craig. "The only thing we saved was the file server. We took a look at everything.

"The fire was a devastating experience but it also provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to streamline everything from quotation to production."

The previous 43,000-square-foot facility was one the company had grown into. As more room was needed, it was expanded.

"With the old facility, sometimes efficiency and flow were sacrificed as we added on pieces," says John Craig. "Building the new facility gave us an opportunity to have a clean slate. We used it to plan a facility that would meet existing and future needs."

During the rebuilding process the company embraced the Lean Manufacturing philosophy of waste elimination and continuous improvement. Additions include an integrated computer sales quotation order entry program, 3-D modeling software, efficient material flow and computer workstations on the plant floor.

"Now everything is computer-controlled," says John Craig. "The inventory control system, sales orders and quotations are all computerized, as well as the welding process."

December 5, 2005, the new 71,000-square-foot facility was completed. Seven days later, short-term manufacturing staff moved into the acility. And by December 23, just 229 days after the fire, the company was operational.

The company celebrated its official opening and 60th Anniversary on May 6, 2006, 364 days after the fire.

Dealer Loyalty

According to the company, dealer relationships remained strong throughout the rebuilding process.

"A large number of our equipment dealers have been very supportive," says John Craig. "They've waited patiently and stood by us through the whole process. Customer loyalty, support and patience is something that is sometimes in short supply, but we got our fair share and we're certainly appreciative."

Many of Craig Manufacturing's existing customers are AED members.

"We're an AED member, and we value our relationship with our dealers," says John Craig. "We're always looking for equipment dealers who are in need of a dependable quality supplier of attachments."

Craig Manufacturing prides itself on its customer support and service.

"We make doing business with us fairly easy," says John Craig. "We're customer service oriented. The product arrives onsite and does the job it's been designed to do. We offer a quality product at a competitive price."

Through the rebuilding process, the company has had the opportunity to improve its ability to care for its customers.
"We've learned a lot about the importance of being a good supplier," says John Craig.

 "We just didn't put back the same old business in the same old way. We changed everything in order to be more efficient and better serve our customers."

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