An introduction to Kaiser Aluminum, a manufacturing company
Scott Lilly is a project manager at Kaiser Aluminum located in Spokane Valley, Washington. Kaiser Aluminum Trentwood is a Washington-based factory that manufactures flat-rolled and engineered aluminum. They’re an independent LLC under the Kaiser Aluminum corporate umbrella, a leading producer of semi-fabricated aluminum products that was founded in 1946.
Lilly works in the IT department within the project management office (PMO) that oversees the IT aspect of manufacturing of engineered aluminum that’s sold to companies including Boeing and Airbus. This aluminum is also used in automotive, packaging, electronics and industrial applications.
“We didn’t have a formal project management environment until my manager hired me to create a PMO,” Lilly said, who joined Kaiser Aluminum in May 2021 but has been managing projects since 2013. “It’s always been on my bucket list to create a PMO,” he said. “The value of formal project management pays for itself quickly.”
Lilly is a long-time ProjectManager user and brought it to his new job
Lilly is no stranger to ProjectManager’s software having used the tool since 2016. At a previous employer, Lilly managed the implementation of a $7 million project that applied the first data fiber in a Washington State road, Highway 155.
“ProjectManager provided critical details via the features and functions to track and report on the complexities of this project,” he said. “The project had to satisfy Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Federal requirements within jurisdictions as well as provide strategic reporting to executive stakeholders.”
An all-in-one solution regardless of project complexity
It was the ease with which ProjectManager handled that complex project that led Lilly to bring the same project management software to Kaiser Aluminum. It had everything they needed to manage their projects including a file management system, collaborative tools and a mobile app to connect with offsite technicians.
“Technicians can actually make task updates right in the field,” Lilly reported. “Getting the project data in faster was a big draw for us. Plus, the security. You can set who has access to the data.” That’s especially important since as a publicly held company, Kaiser Aluminum has to undergo a routine SOX audit (to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002) and show its financials and data are secure.
It’s no surprise that ProjectManager was attractive to Kaiser Aluminum. Prior to using ProjectManager, Kaiser Aluminum worked on a desktop version of Microsoft Project. Upgrading to the cloud version of Microsoft Project was prohibitively expensive. They also used Mavenlink, but it was cumbersome. ProjectManager wasn’t only less expensive, but it provided them with the resource management they needed to allocate tasks to their team and track them across multiple projects, which boosted the effectiveness of the work.
“I showed ProjectManager to my supervisor and he fell head over the tea kettle in love with it,” Lilly quipped. “I invited him to my trial and within two days he said, ‘Get this!,’ showing me all the information he had been tinkering within his trial.”
Multiple project views provide flexibility
Lilly likes the flexibility of ProjectManager’s multiple project views. He can switch over from the kanban to Gantt or to the dashboard and get an overview of his projects. “The integrity of the data transitions to any view you’re in,” he added.
The company started with 16 people only within the IT department using ProjectManager but quickly expanded the footprint at the Trentwood site. Currently, team members at the executive level, advanced engineering, project engineering and manufacturing are all eager to get on board with ProjectManager.
In fact, Kaiser Trentwood hopes to partner with ProjectManager and become a beta tester for new product development and help spread ProjectManager corporate-wide.
“We get paid a bonus for the number of pounds of aluminum we get out the door,” Lilly said. “Everyone wants a production bonus. If we get our projects done, that translates into more aluminum. If I can get two more million pounds at the end of the quarter than the previous month, then the software pays for itself.”
Kaiser Aluminum sees ProjectManager as a long-term partner
Lilly added that his boss wants the Kaiser Trentwood location to become an IT and project management center of excellence. Lilly hopes we can export our successes within the project management industry and the Kaiser Aluminum world, raising the bottom line.
Lilly said there’s no reason to stop using ProjectManager. “It does everything we want it to do and much more,” he said. “We’re really enjoying this. Whenever I demo the product, people are surprised by how much ProjectManager can do.” That’s especially helpful as the company works with offsite contractors who can access important files easily.
“We want to be a long-term partner,” Lilly said. “If we can show that ProjectManager is economical to use, that if you spend a dollar, you get two dollars of value out of it, that’s an easy sell.”