Manufacturing Mentor Visits Silver Beehive Studio

Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Maine Small Business Development Center, Production facility assistance, Wayne Messer AVCOG -

Manufacturing Mentor Visits Silver Beehive Studio

Through the Maine Small Business Development Center, we were connected with Wayne Messer. Wayne, an engineer by trade, is a consultant who works for the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership whose mission is to help manufacturing businesses become more efficient and cost-effective in their production practices.  He works with manufacturers and all sizes of companies, the Silver Beehive Studio being one of the smaller ones. He was excited to visit our studio because it is not very often that he gets to consult with a company that is in the very early stages of building a production facility. He said, "It is great to be able to help start-ups, with my input,  they get to start manufacturing the right way". 

We want to start with a logical, well-planned foundation for our processes and layout to make growth as painless as possible.  

Our basic question for Wayne was, “We have this 24’ x 28’ space, how can we set it up so that we can make high-quality handcrafted jewelry, expand easily, and avoid some common mistakes new manufacturers often make?” 

Wayne was wonderful, he patiently listened as we took him through the entire process we follow from the creative side of idea development, multiple drafts and focus groups, to master model making, mold making, wax injection, treeing, investment, casting, clipping, sanding, tumbling, buffing, polishing, patina, QC and shipping. He asked great questions and then he got to work.  He set up his easel and chart paper and began writing down each step of the process on chart paper and posted them on the wall. This allowed us to break the process down to clear and concrete steps that a worker would follow and created a common language of the process. 

Next, using chart paper and sticky notes, he created a floor plan of the production space and started to place notes on the floor plan for each station of the production process.  We would place them on the paper, talk about the process and rearrange it to better fit the task and the person doing it. It was so helpful to hear him talk about how other companies structure their processes, and how it might apply to our situation including common mistakes.

I have been thinking that the lost-wax production method for jewelry was mostly unique and that our situation would not have much in common with other manufacturers.  Wayne showed us that although we have unique steps, the basic process of raw materials in one end, finished product out the other end is common to all manufacturing. He helped us think of things in a different way, from a manufacturing engineer POV, which was both interesting and helpful. 

One process we completely changed as a result of his visit was how we number and store the production molds for our rings.  In the jewelry world, we think in terms of ‘collections’ so our molds are stacked in containers by collection. Speaking from personal experience with other manufacturers, Wayne recommended that we file all molds numerically (not by separate collections) and that we store the molds in a single layer on their side so that a worker can easily pull and then replace a mold without having to lift up the stack and squeeze it back into place.  This simple suggestion will pay off big time in the long run when we will be casting multiple collections.  

A  giant thanks to Wayne for his expertise and interest in the Silver Beehive Studio.  We will definitely invite him back once our orders and production increases. 

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