Grand Traverse Machine Co.

Success with The Center

GRAND TRAVERSE MACHINE: Getting More Out The Door With Lean

It’s been very good for us, and I would do it again. Even though we’ve been here for 50 years, we’re making improvements every day.
-- Mike Alfonso, President-Grand Traverse Machine Co.

Grand Traverse Machine (GT Machine) is a family-owned business that was established in Traverse City in 1966. Starting as a three-person operation, they have grown to be an industry leader in manufacturing precision machined products with a skilled workforce of over 65 employees. Their success is largely attributed to their ability to adjust operations to meet specific customer needs in various industries.


When President Mike Alfonso realized GT Machine was at “a down point in the industry” and in need of change, he took action. First, Mike requested that Joe Batteiger, from the Small Business Development Center, complete a sound financial analysis. Second, he met with the MMTC Regional Office at Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) for help with operational improvements. Mike knew they “needed to find better, quicker, quality ways to get product out the door.” With the process they were using, they were unable to meet customer demand on time with minimal defects. Mike, along with a team of six or seven employees met with Darrell Rogers, Lean Manufacturing trainer, to discuss and brainstorm an action plan to improve the effectiveness of their process.


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Darrell began training the team to implement Lean tools, which involved rearranging processes into cells and working to create one-piece flow. Various machines needed for one process were at opposite ends of the building and were moved into one cell to eliminate travel distance, time, and material handling. This cellular, one-piece flow helped to decrease defects by 12.2 percent and increase the number of products delivered on time. The training also focused on improving communication and visual information flow.

After training, every cell or different process has a visual board with daily metrics, operator names, machining schedules, etc. To keep communication constant and widespread, personnel meet every morning and walk the floor to look at the visual boards which tell them how they are doing daily and over time. The weekly Lean trainings taught the managers to look for little improvements, thus these morning meetings give everyone a chance to see the whole floor and scope out continuous changes. Mike recognized from the visual boards that the small changes improve daily productivity, “you’re always looking for little improvements. The key is you just have to keep it going.”

They’ve also began a Preventative Maintenance Program. “Before, maintenance would check once a month, now an operator checks the oil levels and maintenance checklist weekly. Employees start to take ownership.” GT Machine has further embraced the Lean culture by joining the Lean Learning Consortium where they host and attend Lean tours with other companies.


  • Reduced lead time from 113 to 13.75 days
  • Decreased defects from 13.5% to 1.3%
  • Eliminated 1,410 ft. of product travel distance
  • Increased output from 80 pieces to 350/400 pieces
  • Improved on time delivery from 60% to 85%