Success with The Center

TentCraft: True Lean Manufacturing Champions


TentCraft (www.tentcraft.com) is a manufacturer of custom tents, structures and signage designed to help brands stand out from the crowd. From pop-up and framed tents to event domes, the company serves some of the nation’s biggest marketing agencies and most recognizable brands from its headquarters in Traverse City, Mich. With a staff of approximately 80, the veteran-owned company is proud of its American craftsmanship and ability to fully manage projects from concept to completion, including design and in-house production.


Between 2017 and 2021, TentCraft experienced a disproportionate amount of material write-offs of its aluminum extrusion compared to other raw materials used in production. This meant the right amount of material was not always on the production floor at the time of customer work order processing. As a long-time practitioner of Lean manufacturing, the company turned to a Lean Manufacturing Champion course offered by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center’s (The Center) northern Michigan office to examine the physical and financial losses associated with this material and devise preventative solutions.


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Several root cause analysis tools – including a fishbone diagram and value-stream mapping – were utilized. Multiple areas of concern were identified, including lack of consistency in material storage location and an over-complicated system that deterred operators from properly transferring material. Also, analysis highlighted processes that were flawed or not being followed, including inventory transfer, no standard check and balance upon material receipt and discrepancies in cutting calculations. Among the many improvements made based on this data, the company simplified its inventory locations for the material and established a standard work “red tag” process to reconcile quality issues to improve inventory accuracy.


  • From project start to end, cycle count accuracy of primary extrusions improved by 4%.
  • Resolved 93% of the quality issues in the “quality hold area” by implementing a red tag process. These results are sustaining, and the area remains manageable.