Stober Drives, Inc. Gains from AME Consortia Activities

Thursday, August 8, 2013
Joining the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati Chapter, AME Consortium for Business Excellence provided benchmarking and other learning opportunities, according to Lee Thomas (left), plant manager, and Kyle Maddox in industrial engineering at Stober Drives in Maysville, KY.

Listening to fellow members’ ideas, hosting plant tours and learning from improvement activities and best practices in others’ facilities are among the learning opportunities for members of the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati Chapter, AME Consortium for Business Excellence. Lee Thomas, plant manager for Stober Drives in Maysville, KY, and Kyle Maddox in industrial engineering, shared their consortium experiences during a recent interview. Stober Drives manufactures MGS (modular gear systems) gear reducers and Servofit Precision Planetary Gearheads.

Joining the consortium a year and half ago was great timing, Thomas said. “We did benchmarking with companies in the group, to see what else was out there,” he said. “We were planning to remodel and move into a facility. We were able to benchmark with companies in the consortium before making investments here. We got design and layout ideas from other members and brought those back.”

Setup reduction is a key focus for Stober Drives — another timely opportunity for give-and-take among consortium participants. Stober has hosted a SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die) event and its employees attended two SMED events at nearby facilities. “We’ve got machines where we want to reduce our setup time, so we are looking for ways to do that efficiently,” Thomas said. After establishing initial standards for setups, the company aims to slash average setup times by 50 percent.

Maddox said that Stober Drives hosted a job-methods consortium event, sharing ideas with other companies. The company plans to extend its value-stream-mapping and job-methods activities into all areas of the organization, including accounting and customer service.

Building Continuous Improvement Buy-in, Momentum

“The consortium helped with introductory courses on lean and 5S, etc., at automotive and aerospace facilities,” Maddox said. “That allows our employees to get an idea of lean activities in other environments. The more people we send from our facilities to these sessions, the easier it is get everyone involved in lean improvements.” The company has a goal of sending all of its 100 employees to a consortium event.  So far, 32 have participated in SMED, “Lean 101” and other consortium events.

Thomas said that visiting and networking with consortium members contribute to continuous improvement momentum. “We’re on a lean journey, at an adolescent stage,” he said. “A key for us is that wherever you go, you can see where there’s room for improvements in your operation or in other plants. We all learn from each other with a mindset of continuous improvement.”

Editor’s note: To learn more about AME Consortia and how you can share, learn, coach and improve with fellow lean/continuous improvement practitioners in your area, visit

You are invited to participate in informative, engaging consortium special activities during the AME Toronto 2013 Conference. On Tuesday, Oct. 22, consortium global companies will share best practices during 12 special sessions held during networking periods. All conference attendees are welcome to hear the storytelling presentations by practitioners throughout the day. Each presentation will be scored by a panel of lean experts; the three top-rated teams will present again during Lean Consortia Night. Well-known lean practitioners and consortium member companies will provide timely counsel and “lessons learned” during the evening session. Use these experiences and consortium connections as building blocks for discussion with your teams.

Lea Tonkin, president of Lea Tonkin Communications in Woodstock, IL, is the former editor in chief of Target and Target Online.