December 15, 1997 Business : your home town on the world wide web

December 15, 1997


Pinnacle makes manufacturing miracles


Imagine that you company lost $1 million last year. The big problem was that you made waterskis all winter but discovered in the spring that styles had changed and your skis wouldn't sell. Would you like to have someone redesign your factory so that it could instantly respond to orders with zero inventory? Pinnacle did the redesign giving what founder Frank Coleman describes as a "pizza parlor concept" to the waterski production. Results were a complete turnaround giving about $1 million profit the next year.
   This miracle is just good industrial engineering mixed with creativity. The Pinnacle Consulting Group has 22 employees working at 18106 - 140th Avenue NE in Woodinville. Their work environment looks nothing like an industrial setting; they are in a casual setting with fireplaces, windows that open and friendly offices.
   A wall showing customer logos and miniature plant layouts chronicles Pinnacle's history. Familiar names such as Starbucks, Microsoft, Nintendo, Panasonic, and Freightliner clearly demonstrate the fame of Pinnacle. Gordon Buck explained that not all of their customers are large, however. They work with any sized firm that needs to improve manufacturing efficiency.
   One interesting challenge is communicating with plant owners who may not be comfortable with English. "By using color we communicate even to international clients" Coleman explained, "It helps them to understand our plans easily."
   Because my work is detecting electronic eavesdropping I was interested in the security aspect of Pinnacle's work. They described concepts that can control even the strong arm robberies that are currently experienced in the semiconductor industry. Understanding work flow gives industrial engineers the ability to structure the environment so that it is simultaneously hostile to bad guys and friendly to everyone else. Most companies would like to have Pinnacle's problems. They include a better than 30% growth rate and the distraction of offers to buy the firm.