Insyte Consulting, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) center for Western New York, is helping a Buffalo-area manufacturer build for the future. Boston Valley Terra Cotta, a well-established maker of architectural ceramics, recently completed a $2.6 million expansion and added a dozen jobs to its Orchard Park workforce. With help from Insyte, this growing global company is scaling-up production, increasing efficiency, and ensuring quality.
From its home in the hills south of Buffalo, Boston Valley Terra Cotta traces its roots to a 19th forerunner that made clay pots and bricks. Today, this family-owned business is a niche manufacturer with a global reach. In addition to local projects like the University of Buffalo’s new medical school, Boston Valley Terra Cotta supplies products for buildings in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. In New York State, the firm’s portfolio includes high-rises in New York and renovations at Ithaca’s Cornell University.
Niche Manufacturing for Global Markets
John Krouse, company president and co-owner, isn’t promoting commodity products, however. In an interview with the Buffalo News, Krouse explained how Boston Valley Terra Cotta is positioning itself as the place where an architect can find “a unique, signature product” for a specific design. New construction and renovations can be complex, but they’re not the only challenges that Boston Valley Terra Cotta faces. Thanks to what Krouse calls “large contractual jobs”, demand for the company’s products is growing.
To meet its manufacturing challenges, Boston Valley Terra Cotta partnered with Insyte Consulting, a non-profit management consulting organization that has been the designated MEP Center for Western New York since 1988. According to a recent press release, Insyte has been the top performing MEP center in New York State and the nation since 2013, based on the results of independent, third-party, quarterly client surveys. Moreover, Insyte has generated $1 billion in economic impact since 2011.
Benjamin Rand, president of Insyte Consulting, welcomed the opportunity to work with Boston Valley Terra Cotta. “These guys are world class at whey they do,” Rand told the Buffalo News. “They’re dealing with world-class architects and artists.” As Insyte learned, Boston Valley Terra Cotta wanted to do more increase production capacity. The Orchard Park manufacturer also needed to perform operations as efficiently as possible to maintain quality and meet promised delivery dates.
Solving Manufacturing Challenges
Ultimately, the solution involved minimizing process variability. With help from Insyte, Boston Valley Terra Cotta examined its raw materials sourcing, drying temperatures, and firing cycles. Insyte also recommended a small but significant change to how the company positioned product-laden carts inside of brand-new drying equipment. By turning these carts 90°, air can travel in a parallel manner (instead of a perpendicular one) and better reach the product cores.
By working with Insyte Consulting, Boston Valley Terra Cotta also identified ways to reduce product rejection rates. In turn, reducing the amount of rework reduced the amount of overtime, a cost savings for the ceramics manufacturer. The Buffalo-area company also examined ways to keep production humming in case of equipment downtime. “It’s all about maintaining the quality of the material with the promised delivery dates,” John Krause explained. “That means a lot to us.”