Within minutes of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Enstrom Helicopter Corporation employees were moving equipment into their newly expanded facility.
“You see the eagerness of the employees,” said Jim Pearson, Manufacturing Supervisor. “They want their area and equipment to look good. They’re really putting their muscles into it.”
Enstrom’s multimillion-dollar expansion project began last May. The ribbon-cutting ceremony on October 17 marked the beginning of the move into the new space. Total occupation of the expanded facility is expected to be complete by December 31.
Departments have been preparing for the increased production capacity that the new space will support. Because about 90% of the helicopter components are manufactured in-house, the plant has been inundated with material. Storage space of material and finished parts has encroached into work areas, making it difficult for employees to move around. “The small shop restricted workflow,” said welder John Komp. “With more room the flow will be better. We will also have space for new equipment and technology.”
The current phase of the expansion benefits the welding, fiberglass, and sheet metal departments. “More room means we can get more people hired and get a lot of work done,” said welding department employee Garrett. Shane added, “We will have better accessibility to tools and fixtures.” Kim in sheet metal said, “The new space gives us more room and a cleaner environment to work in. It’s safer and well lit.”
The new fiberglass area is pressurized to keep out dirt and dust. This replaces a plastic-covered booth, located a mile away. “We just didn’t have the space here before,” said Jim. “We will see a large savings by not having to transport parts and equipment.”
The new space was carefully planned and built specifically for department needs. Brent Fruechte, Senior Industrial Engineer and project manager, met with the lead people in each department to determine space needs. They used a grid and cutouts of equipment footprints made to scale and “played paper dolls” to calculate space needs and work flow configurations. Employees now refer to the written plan to place equipment.
Enstrom’s expansion not only benefits employees but also the community by providing more jobs. “We will be hiring personnel for 10-15 skilled labor positions,” said Lisa Sundelius, manager of Human Resources. According to government statistics, one new manufacturing job creates 1.6 additional jobs in local service businesses. That means Enstrom’s expansion also benefits local service providers such as doctors, landscapers, and hair stylists.
The expansion will also benefit customers. Production processes will become more efficient, resulting in lower costs and shorter lead times. Increasing staff means bringing people in with fresh ideas as well as expanding the current excellent customer support. At Enstrom, expansion is an investment that demonstrates a desire to do what it takes to meet customer needs—and employees are on board.