York County – Founded in 1956, Wikoff Color Corporation is a manufacturer of printing inks and coatings for the graphic arts industry. The corporate office, technical center and largest plant are located in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The company has an additional 27 manufacturing locations throughout the US, Canada and Europe. The company has approximately 500 employees, 140 of which are located in the Fort Mill facilities. Wikoff is an employee-owned company.
As a manufacturer of ink, varnishes and coatings, Wikoff primarily services the folding carton, label, flexible packaging, commercial and security coating markets. The company manufactures thousands of individual products and has approximately 5000 active customers.
When introduced to SCMEP, Wikoff had been in business for nearly 50 years. During their first half-century, the company had grown substantially and was well known in the industry for both quality of products and excellent customer service. Ahead of their time, the company had already located small ink manufacturing facilities near their major customers in order to provide quick turnaround service on ink orders. The Fort Mill facility, however, made large batches of ink that were packed-out in smaller containers for shipments to these branch facilities. Batch production, along with the associated high inventories needed to manage demand, were an initial reason for Wikoff’s interest in Lean Manufacturing.
Wikoff originally engaged SCMEP to perform a Competitiveness Review Assessment to review their current state and to clarify a future direction. Once Lean Manufacturing was confirmed as a solid strategic direction for the company, Wikoff lost no time in starting a Lean training initiative. Wikoff’s executive management supported the efforts by designating an internal team, The Center for Continual Improvement (CCI), to learn Lean strategy and tools so Lean could be rolled out across the greater organization.
The first year, CCI members and select individuals from the Fort Mill operation participated in training on Principles of Lean Manufacturing, Value Stream Mapping, Policy Deployment. Lean training provided basic tool knowledge, Value Stream Mapping provided an overall improvement plan for the facility and Policy Deployment provided a management system to keep the improvement initiative going. In addition, team members participated in multiple Kaizen events that were selected and designed to bring immediate impact on the plant floor.
After the initial success in the early years, Wikoff has continued to leverage SCMEP’s expertise to help them prepare to address new challenges in the business. In addition to Lean Manufacturing, SCMEP has provided training in Interpersonal Styles, Six Sigma, and Problem Solving. New members of the Continual Improvement team begin their learning process at SCMEP’s Business Learning Center. SCMEP has also provided technical assistance in the re-layout of Wikoff’s three largest production facilities.
Wikoff credits their sustained Lean and continuous improvement initiatives with being able to remain competitive in a difficult business environment. Initial efforts reduced work-in-process, improved overall productivity and customer response time. In addition, the company was able to avoid building an additional warehouse intended to store more finished goods. Lean tools have been implemented in both production and administrative areas of the Fort Mill operation and in a number of the branch plants.
Over the years, Wikoff has reported $800,000 in cost savings, and retained sales numbers run in the millions. Personnel from the Center of Continual Improvement are often tapped by Wikoff’s customers to come to their operations and do training or to participate in a Lean activity. “Wikoff Color has benefitted immensely from our partnership with SCMEP, while we have developed an extremely capable and talented CCI team internally, it is very helpful to be able to draw upon the SCMEP for additional expertise and guidance to keep our improvement initiatives moving forward” said Geoff Peters, Wikoff’s President & CEO. “As an employee-owned company, we believe that our emphasis on Lean Manufacturing and our partnership with the SCMEP are perfectly aligned with our company culture and values,” Peters added.
Wikoff is a South Carolina success story when it comes to Lean – a philosophy that is here to stay. It has not been a short-term, flavor of the month journey but a long-term plan which continues to develop and evolve. Lean has infiltrated how the company is managed, provided the framework for ongoing improvement activities and fits well with the employee-ownership culture at Wikoff. Wikoff views the company’s relations with SCMEP as a long-term partnership that continues to provide benefits.