Mackie Design, Inc.
Woodinville, Washington

Systems Design & Integration:

Workplace Sciences, LLC

Longmont, Colorado   -

Pull-Flow Established At Mackie Design

Mackie Design implements a Pull-Flow Production Systems to get "lean" by reducing cycle time and WIP inventory waste.  Workplace Sciences utilizes a Pull-Flow University approach to provide Mackie employees with classroom training along with hands-on installation and support of their first pull-flow assembly cell.   

Along with Microsoft, Boeing, Fluke, Hewlett-Packard, Applied Technologies Laboratories, Quinton Medical Instruments in the Puget Sound area of Washington State there's a company called Mackie Design, a market leader in professional audio equipment.  But Mackie Design is definitely not your average pro audio company or like any other for that matter.  They have so many employees who play in bands that their employee roster looks like a "who's who" directory of the current Seattle-area rock scene.  Mackie Design does not manufacture drum sets, stomp boxes or guitar picks . They specialize in mixers, recording devices, speakers and related professional and industrial audio products.  Greg Mackie, the founder and head "Mackoid", believes that their obligation to their customers extends far beyond the point of sale. And they try to live up to that philosophy in every way possible.   The folks at Mackie Design believe their reason for existence is to make high-quality, high-value pro audio products for their customers. 

Mackie strives for high value and high quality performance in all of its operational areas as well.  However it found that one key part of the manufacturing operations, the product assembly lines, were in need of process reengineering.

The Woodinville, Washington-based company had been producing products from an outdated production philosophy that grouped its manufacturing resources by functional departments.  All circuit board assembly "stuffing" occurred in one area.  Post wave solder assembly in another.  Testing yet in another distant area.  Orders had to be batched and manually moved from area to area — an approach not very well suited to a fast-growing production facility with medium to complex products.  Cycle times were long and work-in-progress inventories were high.  Process quality feedback took days to reach the workstation responsible for the defect.

A new "Mackoid" executive vice president, Wyatt Hyora, moved quickly to address the situation.  He knew that he wanted an pull-flow production system that could keep up with future order volume while cutting significantly the "on the floor" WIP inventory and cycle time.  He wanted a production system that was cellular with all the resources available within the cell to build the product from start to finish.  But most of all, he wanted a manufacturing operation that responded to customer demands in a fast and accurate manner without the need to build excess finished good inventory.

Mackie Design  was on the road to achieve these objectives with the completion in December of 2000 of a new Pull-Flow Production assembly cell at their Woodinville plant.

The Pull-Flow assembly cell integrated all the operations required from the manual insertion of the amplifier circuit board components to the installation of the amplifier into the (active) speaker.  The improvement measures were impressive.  Cycle time went from 1.8 weeks to 1.7 hours; WIP was reduced from 849 pieces to 276.  Quality feedback was improved from approximately two weeks to an almost instant notification of quality problem on the line.  The new production cell also allowed workers to focus on the delicate assembly without the risk of injury from heavy lifting or excessive manual handling.  No production "totes" were allowed in the cell.  All assemblies were processed down the assembly cell "one at a time".

No significant capital investments were required to "re-engineer" the production flow.  The installation and operation went very well and right-on schedule.  Jeff Smith, the Mackie team leader, lead the cross-functional team to a successful implementation.

"Participative Turn-Key" Approach

Design and installation of the new Pull-Flow production cell was a team effort between Mackie Designs and Workplace Sciences of Longmont, Colorado.  Workplace Sciences is a systems designer and integrator of "best-in-class" manufacturing and distribution systems.

To meet the critical objective of a long term sustainable production system, Workplace Sciences utilized their "Participative Turn-Key" approach to the Pull-Flow system development.  Workplace Sciences believes that in order for a new production philosophy to take root within the organization those departments affected by the change must participate in the development and installation of the production system.  Resistance to change is minimized by this approach.  It was decided to implement a Pull-Flow pilot line where the various departments would participate in the design process.

A cross-functional team was started and a Mackie team leader appointed.  The "Pull-Flow University"  assembly cell project would act as the model that would shape the learning framework for those employees responsible for developing and sustaining the next Pull-Flow assembly cells.  Aligning the project with measurable team objectives and reporting the "learned" team member contributions was an important part of demonstrating the value of the consulting engagement.  The project wasn't only about installing a Pull-Flow assembly cell, it was also about training and developing the organization to "adopt" a whole new way of manufacturing.  The "University" assembly cell created a learning environment for team members to share cross-functionally the company vision and cultivated the new manufacturing culture that would propel it to future growth.

Workplace Sciences, the "change agent" and "facilitator" of the project, had to maintain a fine balance between the contributions provided by the Mackie team members and the consultant in the design of the system.  Workplace Sciences made the workforce development the primary priority.  For Workplace Sciences all projects are about organizational transformation and change management.  Workplace Sciences attests that organizational learning followed by timely application has been the best approach to all its successful projects.

Prior to starting the design of the new Pull-Flow assembly cell Workplace Sciences conducted a series of workshops that would provide the foundation for the team members.  The first workshop was an "experiential" course that immersed the learners in a simulated factory.  The first part of the "hands-on" workshop ran a factory with their old batch - push flow production system.  Performance was recorded.  The second part of the workshop ran the simulated factory in a Pull-Flow production manner.  Performances of both systems were then compared demonstrating the "see for yourself" advantages of the new Pull-Flow production system.  Other workshops were provided that discussed the designing and sustaining details for a Pull-Flow production system.                  

“We’ll have the same or more output as now with higher quality control at a fraction of the cost”.  Jeff Smith – Mackie Design, Manufacturing Engineer

“There will less excessive moving and staging, counting and scheduling.  With all the departments part of each assembly line and part of a direct team, we’ll be able to work together more efficiently to solve issues and to make improvements”.  Mac Madden – Mackie Design, VP of Manufacturing

Advantages of the Pull-Flow Production System tm

In operation since December of 2000, the new Pull-Flow production system has already delivered multiple benefits.  Additional cycle time reductions have been reported.  Quality defects due to workmanship are drastically reduced.  Work-in-progress inventory continues to drop.  All of the full tote lifting have been eliminated by the "one assembly piece at a time" material movement.    

After the initial pilot Pull-Flow assembly cell was completed Mackie employees at Woodinville are implementing five new Pull-Flow assembly cells.  

The teamwork and the project approach has paid off.  Mackie continues fulfilling orders at peak performance level that its customers have come to expect from the products themselves.

The Pull-Flow Production System at Mackie

Circuit boards arriving from the Surface Mount Technology line are pulled one at at time into the "hand stuff" operation where miscellaneous components are inserted.  Then the circuit boards are inserted into the wave solder machine.  Once through, the boards are moved again one at a time to the post wave solder operation.  Once post assembly is completed the boards are immediately flowed on demand to the in line test process.  Once passed, the circuit boards are also quickly flowed one at a time to the amplifier assembly line where they are assembled into the mechanical chassis.  In-line testing proves the functionality of the amplifier which then is placed into a predefined container (Kanban called MAN/BAN at Mackie based on the Workplace Sciences Pull-Flow trainings) that is pulled and synchronized with the final assembly of the SRM450 active speaker. Amplifiers are installed into the speakers and it is tested as a complete unit.  At this point, one and a half hours after the process began, the order is ready for shipment to the customer.


Push vs. Pull

Production System


Facts and Figures

Company: Mackie Design, Inc
Location: Woodinville, Washington
Key personnel: Mac Madden, V.P.- Site Manufacturing; Jeff Smith, Production Engineer.
Product handled: mixers, recording devices, speakers and other industrial audio products.

Production System Design, Integration & Project Management: Workplace Sciences, LLC

Pull-Flow and Pull-Flow Production System are trademarks of Workplace Sciences, LLC