Eckhart USA

Success with The Center

ECKHART USA: Lean Training Leads To Increased Capacity, Productivity & Sales

This Lean Manufacturing Champion program is helping our leaders learn how to apply and implement Lean thinking to improve our processes. It was fun to watch how our team executed these principles and achieved these results at our Reed City location!
-- Andy Storm, President & CEO

Eckhart ( was founded in 1974 with the goal of solving complex engineering problems for large industrial companies around the world. Its core work for control systems includes autonomous guided vehicles, robotics and flexible automation, 3D printing and additive manufacturing, engineering services and assembly and weld tooling. Eckhart has seven facilities throughout the Midwest, including a plant in Reed City, Mich., that employs 75 individuals.


When COVID-19 hit, Eckhart saw much of its business quickly dry up. One silver lining for the company, however, was the dramatic uptick in e-commerce activity and a contract to produce control panels for conveyor belts for a direct customer of Amazon. The challenge was the customer needed 200 panels a week but, at that time, Eckhart’s capacity was only 50 per month. In order to fulfill the order and maintain business, Eckhart’s Reed City facility recognized an opportunity to implement Lean principles to eliminate waste and improve efficiency.


Image for Eckhart USA

To gain the fundamental skills and knowledge necessary to bring Lean into their facility, Eckhart’s General Manager and Plant Manager both participated in Lean Manufacturing Champion training at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center’s Northern Lower (The Center – NL) office in Traverse City. Eckhart’s goal was to scale up production through workflow and resource planning to get to one of Lean manufacturing’s core principles: one-piece flow. Using the A3 project planning tool, the Eckhart team balanced the production line to increase capacity, assessed the current physical layout and made adjustments to improve workflow and started kitting materials.

The team also focused on eliminating non-value added work by applying 5S workplace organization tools. This helped to further decrease waste and support the shift to one-piece flow, resulting in a significant reduction in production cycle time.


  • Increased production from 50 panels a month to 200 a week (800 month), a 1,500% increase in productivity
  • Reduced cycle time from six hours per control panel to six minutes by applying resources based on takt time rather than on processing time
  • Exceeded annual projected sales by 30%
  • Increased gross margin by 20%