Fullerton Tool Company, Inc.

Success with The Center

Precision-Made Tooling Champion Becomes A Champion in Lean

There were too many brick walls, how can we run effectively if we do not optimize and match production flow, reduce lead times, reduce batch sizes and plan for open capacity? We had to examine order frequency and sizes, eliminate a push system, and to communicate these changes to the production floor in order to tear down the brick walls and effectively tackle Work-in-process.
-- Patrick Curry, President-Fullerton Tool

Now in the company’s 74th year, Fullerton Tool Company, Inc. (www.fullertontool.com) employs over 165 people and has annual revenue of approximately $20 - $30 million. Fullerton is recognized as a leader in precision-made tooling that is used in virtually all industries including the medical, aerospace, automotive and mold and die industries. Fullerton’s tools are used wherever there is a difficult machining operation that requires quality tooling with quick on time deliveries. Fullerton Tool continues to invest in new equipment, physical expansion, process improvement, and tool development while examining and planning for the future of cutting tools and manufacturing. In order to effectively plan and grow for the future, Fullerton Tool partnered with the MMTC for operational assistance.


As a result of completing the MMTC Performance Benchmark Survey and the Transformation Planner, Fullerton realized that their excessive Work-in-Process was impacting their cash flow, operating margin, and inventory fill rates. After attending the MMTC LEAN Champion training and working with MMTC’s staff to address the root cause of work-in-process on the shop floor, Fullerton understood that they could not “boil the ocean” and had to focus one particular process that addresses WIP. They realized that they would have to address the process that begins in the material issuing operation through the final machining operation. Their goal was simple, yet complex: Reduce Work-in-Process.


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Fullerton took a snapshot of their current state to benchmark their progress noticing that there were a lot of late work orders; over 150 work orders at the work cell and multiple work orders of over 80 + hours. The 150 work orders equated to over $120,000 in material and over 11 days of work, and the work cells current flow rate was only 14 work orders per day! With the current state and solid quantifications in hand they began to reorganize the work orders in two basic steps: 1) Make sure the right work orders are at the cell, and 2) make sure that the work orders are in the right order. The ultimate goal was to keep work orders with 2 weeks or less of inventory on-hand at the cell. All other work orders would have to be returned to the holding area. Furthermore, they had to change their entire philosophy to a “Dynamic Time –Based” system from a “Static Time-Based” system by looking at the days on hand as opposed to work order due dates.

They also had to make sure the work orders were no longer being pushed to work centers, but had to develop a robust pull philosophy to route work orders to the appropriate work center. They did this in a four tier approach: 1) sub group the flow of orders to reduce set-up times, 2) design size specific work centers, 3) determine how many machines were needed to support each flow, and 4) create a maximum rule (smaller batch sizes) for number of hours a work order was allowed to have allocated. Prior to doing this, it was difficult to see where the bottleneck existed and what the root-cause was; now they can see when they are struggling with a specific size and implement the appropriate corrective actions. Fullerton has realized that in order to keep Work in Process (WIP) down and to transfer the knowledge to the entire production floor they would have to create a custom “days-on-hand” report. This visual management system helped operators to prioritize their jobs, use signals for communication from operation to operation, create minimum and maximum levels for each operation, and determine the appropriate flow rate of each operation to establish an effective pull strategy that eliminates WIP.


  • 50% Reduction in Work in Process
  • Increased Sales by $100,000
  • Reduced Cost by $20,000