Milton Manufacturing

Success with The Center

MILTON MANUFACTURING: Finding the Root Cause of Problems With Metrics

The insight gained by the management team in our monthly review of metrics has allowed us to see where we need to add to our team and revise our processes. Data is neutral – and the data gleaned from metrics allows for dispassionate assessment of our actual performance. Over time, we’ve grown into a better understanding of the difference between simply measuring activity, and knowing how to use that data to drive Key Performance Indicators.
-- Laura Orthwein, Vice President

Milton Manufacturing ( provides metal and fabric solutions for the defense, automotive, aerospace, heavy truck, rail, agriculture and energy industries. Founded in 1946, Milton provides clients with comprehensive solutions from prototyping, conceptual design and product development to metal fabrication, machining and industrial sewing. Now a woman-owned business, Milton employs just under 200 people at their Detroit location.


Milton recognized they were experiencing production issues in several areas but struggled to locate where they were coming from. Their biggest concern was related to on-time delivery. Since delivery deadlines were consistently being missed, outside processing was rushed to expedite delivery. This rushed processing caused more errors, which led to displeased customers and rework. Milton was unable identify where their issues originated, making it difficult to make any improvements in operations.

In addition to production issues, as the company’s processes had grown in complexity, tracking performance had not. They knew they needed to hire, but without data they didn’t know which departments and which roles were priority.


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To gain additional visibility into their operations, Milton approached the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center) for metrics mentoring. Through four days of in-depth discussion and analysis, The Center worked with Milton’s management team to develop corporate-level metrics.

To improve on-time delivery, the team used Smartsheet software to break down and allocate time for each production step. With a specific amount of time now allotted for each step, the management team was able to better keep track of where bottlenecks in production originated and make changes where appropriate. This use of metrics allowed Milton to achieve a high level of operational transparency, enabling them to identify and eliminate root causes of problems in production. Additionally, the team worked to develop metrics for each department in order to keep track of company-wide performance.


  • Engineering: Milton’s engineering department began tracking and reporting on Requests for Engineering Action (RFEA) submitted every month and were subsequently able to drill down and create process improvements to address many of the root causes leading to RFEAs. Following this, Milton achieved a 30% reduction in RFEAs submitted in the last two quarters of 2018 compared to the first two quarters.
  • Quality: Milton was aware that they were often late to complete their Quality process for new parts, which added delays to overall production time and delivery, but they hadn’t been tracking specific causes. Within the first year of tracking metrics, it became clear that the primary root cause for late product approval and delivery was that Milton was not consistently receiving required certifications from vendors. To combat this, Milton worked to improve their processes for requesting and receiving certifications from vendors. This had major impacts on the speed of their Quality process, as they went from being late more than 70% of the time to a new average of 30%.
  • Operations: Once Milton began tracking scrap rates by department/process, they were able to better forecast scrap costs as well as reduce cost of scrap overall by identifying and targeting sources of scrap. By reviewing where in production scrap was being generated, Milton then worked to correct production challenges through additional training, improved work instruction, better tooling or other interventions. These improvements helped Milton to reduce scrap costs by almost 70% between June and December of 2018.