Mahr Federal chief focuses on operational excellence to make a difference.

In 1999, Mahr Corp. joined with Federal Products Co. to form Mahr Federal Inc. The wide product offerings and sound engineering foundation of both companies has been key in taking the company forward in the six years since the merger.

Quality magazine visited the Providence, RI, headquarters of Mahr Federal and spoke with new President and CEO Tony Picone. He has been with the company since 2001, joining as COO and CFO and moving to the top spot in November 2004. Picone's specialty is improving a company through its operations-making a company more efficient and able to deliver high-quality products on time.

Quality Magazine: It's been more than 5 years since the merger between Mahr and Federal. What has each company brought to the partnership?

Tony Picone: We now have a breadth of products and a worldwide organization to offer. Federal was known for having the products needed for mid-level metrology needs. Mahr had products that were suited more for the lower end and the higher end.

QM: How are you differentiating Mahr Federal from other competitors?

TP: Our number-one focus is operational excellence. We want to ensure the shortest possible lead time on [a customer's] product, while getting the durable products he's come to expect. We have reduced our reject rate-that means any complaint-from 2% in 2002 to 0.4% in 2004. Our goal for 2005 is 0.25%. During 1992 we had an availability of 200 to 300 products that could be shipped with one-day's notice. Today we have 1,500 products that can be shipped in one day. We have also improved our on-time delivery, and should be at 98% shortly. You have to hit a delivery date when you give one. These improvements came about as a result of improvement in our operations.

QM: What are some of the trends occurring in measurement needs?

TP: We see a trend toward putting the measurement tools in the hands of the machine operator. Manufacturers want to measure the quality of parts on the shop floor and want to keep measurement near production. This means measurement tools need to be rugged, which has always been our strategy.

QM: What will putting measurement in the hands of the machine operator require?

TP: There will be a need for a more highly skilled machine operator who not only can make parts but measure them as well. The skill is already there, for the most part, but they need the tools-rugged tools.

QM: What about measurement needs in the laboratory?

TP: More complex parts are being made and labs want to make more complicated measurements. Every industry is pushing to the highest possible standards and then buying what their budget allows.

QM: How will this affect new measurement technology the manufacturer will see?

TP: You have to move carefully when introducing new products. The quality sector moves slowly to adopt new products and technologies. We see some products that we made in the 1960s and 1970s still come in for service because they are still being used. Some improvements in equipment will come through new software.

QM: How so?

TP: We are moving gages to even better levels mechanically, but software is moving gage technology at an even faster rate than mechanics alone. Now, you make the best possible equipment you can, but then use software to achieve additional accuracy, so that the gage improves itself through software compensation.

QM: Many manufacturers, especially OEMs, have pushed responsibility for quality off to suppliers. What affect have you seen because of this trend?

TP: It places the demand on the supplier to have the same equipment as the OEM so that there are no disputes over measurement. This is happening not only between manufacturers and suppliers but also from the manufacturer to its sister facility in another location that may be feeding parts to the primary plant.

QM: What is Mahr Federal's strategy for continuing to meet the demands of measurement today and in the future?

TP: To have an understanding of the markets to which we offer solutions and an understanding of customer needs in order to provide the appropriate solutions.