Seeking perfect days at Maritime

Hands-on approach with attention to detail

The door side of the business for Maritime Door & Window in Moncton, N.B., is decidedly an interior affair.

Founded in 1972 to serve the interior market, the company’s primary focus lately has been to manufacture energy saving window and door products while providing the very best customer service. “We manufacture doors and windows, exterior steel doors and of course the interior product is the millworking side of the business,” says Maritime production manager Kevin McCrindle.

“We sell trim, so of course all of your casings, baseboards and headers, crown mouldings.” McCrindle has been in the business for 14 years and five with Maritime.

The company has two craftsmen who work full time manufacturing interior doors, representing a large part of Maritime’s business.

“Sometimes the customers who will buy our exterior product will also buy our interior product,” says McCrindle. “So, we have the whole package — kind of a one stop shop for many of our contractors. We have a supply and install department as well.”

Kevin McCrindle

The retail element of Maritime is evident in its showroom. “It is a great tool for the sales team for walk-ins,” says McCrindle. “Homeowners come in — the same ones who watch these TV home shows that are running 24 hours a day. Compared to years passed, the customer comes here very well educated on what they want.”

Suppliers work closely with Maritime to keep the manufacturer up to date on the latest trends. “They are constantly introducing new products and new designs to the market,” says McCrindle, “which we have to be conscious of so we can keep up with the TV shows and the internet, of course.”

The craftsmen in the door manufacturing part of the business do a lot of custom work, but can produce close to 200 doors a week. When customers come in wanting to replace older doors and upgrade some styles for a home renovation, Maritime has to react. “So, we have to match maybe the hinge placement or the bore placement,” says McCrindle. “We do cut downs to match the door openings.”

For multi-unit dwellings such as apartments, the company can mass produce a generic six panel door. “On the multi-unit jobs, it is tricky because you have to schedule those high volumes,” says McCrindle. “You have to work closely with the project manager to make sure we are producing the doors when they need them.”

Juggling high volume periods means having “a lot of balls in the air when it comes to coordination. Not only where we are actually going to physically put that product when its finished before we ship it, but also the shipping coordination that happens as well.”

Sometimes a large contract demands that Maritime personnel go to the job site. “For these bigger projects we factored in the logistics for the bigger delivery. For instance, we did a project here in Moncton this winter where we were actually delivering product to each floor of the building. That takes a lot of coordination as well and a lot of horsepower.”

Maritime craftsmen at work.

Although these arrangements demand a lot of the company, it is part of the customer service and value-added level of detail that it offers. “It is all about the customer experience,” says McCrindle, “so people will come back to us because we offer this service, so I will bring in more people when necessary.”

With customers returning time and again to Maritime, the company feels the service component is a successful strategy in a competitive marketplace.

“In Canada there are a lot of door and window manufacturers,” says McCrindle. “It feels like you could throw a rock and hit the competition.”

McCrindle did work for the competition at one time, he notes. “I was a plant manager at a different facility. I stepped away from the industry for a year and then the owner of this company reached out to me and asked me if I would be interested in coming on board.

“The production supervisor who was here at that time was getting ready to retire. I came back into the industry and started as the purchasing manager because there was an opportunity there, knowing that I would be taking over on the production side.”

Five and a half years later McCrindle has found himself responsible for the operations — manufacturing, purchasing, shipping and receiving, and maintenance. “You wear many hats in a small company.”

Maritime Door & Window has 45 to 60 employees when it is going full blast, with May, June and July typically when the company starts to ramp up production. Lately it has been different, however, with close to a 19 month stretch with no slowdown. “We have been really busy all year — never really had a chance to catch our breath,” says McCrindle. “Some of that has to do with, we feel, the Halifax market and a lack of snow.”

Maritime supplies two large builders in Halifax, N.S., a big part of its business. With the location being 3-1/2 hours away, careful coordination is required. “These are good problems to have,” says McCrindle. Besides Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the company also sells into Quebec and Prince Edward Island.

Critical to expanding the business is Maritime’s commitment to continuous process improvement. “In all of our departments we have really focused on moving waste from the process,” he adds. “It has allowed us to be more efficient, improved our lead times, quality and the bottom line.

“Obviously, there is no end to improving when it comes to lean manufacturing. We had to educate our employees on some of the philosophies and strategies to be able to get them to buy into it.”

McCrindle said he knows from past experience with lean manufacturing that employees can feel that all it means is cutting jobs and reducing hours. “We had to make sure that the employees felt that that wasn’t going to be the case. It wasn’t about that at all. It was about removing the redundancies, the waste, the reworks and those things out of the process so we could work smarter, not harder.

“Improve efficiency and you meet the customer’s needs.”

As a benchmark in its market Maritime, feels it wants customer lead times to be right around three weeks. “Two weeks and you would be a rock star, but three weeks is really where you want to be,” enthuses McCrindle. Anything above that time provides an opportunity steal some opportunities from the company, he explains.

For its lean journey, Maritime brought in help from a consultant and spent a great deal of time identifying where it wanted to improve. Several projects were conducted, including on the production side of the business.

“The idea was that they would train us and be able to sustain the gains,” says McCrindle, “then take on projects on our own.”

The company spent two years refining its workflows so that it now has management boards up in each department. “Every morning and every night we have huddles where we are discussing the challenges, the opportunities, the problems, what we did well and what we need to do better,” says McCrindle. Maritime is gathering data and doing Pareto analysis, a formal problem-solving technique to determine course of action. “Discovering the things that prevented us from having a perfect day.”

With the information that staff gather, the data is the put on a plot for analysis. Sometimes a project that will come out of the analysis because a trend has been identified.

“We will have a meeting and brainstorm and determine what we can do better to eliminate that or reduce this. We have buy in. We talk about it every day.

“People are offering all kinds of ideas on what we can do next to make more improvements.”

Management also recognizes that healthy, contented staff leads to better results. “One thing that we do for the employees is to recognize them with employee appreciation events. We have barbecues regularly with all kinds of games and prizes.”

One example is the company’s safety week. “We want to make sure that people are working safely,” says McCrindle. The Maritime safety committee sponsors a barbeque with games for the employees as part of the safety week. “The focus is to ensure people work safe and focus on each other.”

Spending time on its health and safety culture includes working very closely with Work Safe New Brunswick to reduce muscular skeletal injuries such as strains and sprains. Since the company builds big products that are getting bigger and, with its windows production, the glass is getting heavier, according to McCrindle. “We want to make sure that we work together.” Team lifting and looking out for one another is something that Maritime drives home to staff twice a day at meetings and in safety committee meetings every two weeks.

Retention and recruitment present a challenge to the company as well, as it constantly competes with other businesses in the area for employees. Competition includes a call centre, other manufacturers, the service industry and even a cannabis factory.

“We did an analysis in terms of what we pay for labour and we are competitive.”