IndustryWeek's 21st annual salute to the best plants in North America illustrates one undeniable fact: Excellence in North American manufacturing continues to thrive.

From Mexico to Canada and representing five different U.S. states, the 10 manufacturing facilities that comprise the 2010 class of IndustryWeek's Best Plants winners demonstrate the rewards that accrue to manufacturers who strive for perfection and never relax their efforts to improve.

Their paths to operational excellence are varied. Newark, N.Y.'s IEC Electronics Corp., for example, recognized that it needed to evolve to survive, scrapping an old business model and embracing a new one developed in response to changing market dynamics. As a result it is succeeding in an industry that has moved largely overseas. Batesville Casket Co.'s Vicksburg, Miss., operations, on the other hand, continues to pursue the processes that earned it a 2007 IW Best Plants award. It hasn't stopped there, however. Optimizing is an often-heard word around the plant these days as the facility focuses on getting more and better yields from the lumber that comprises its primary raw material.

These are but two examples from 10 IndustryWeek Best Plants winners that are succeeding in a manufacturing environment that continues to challenge even the strong. These facilities are increasing their competitiveness by addressing challenges on all fronts and recognizing that operational excellence is a team game. Smart leaders willing to listen and learn; an engaged work force desiring to help their workplace improve; and supplier and customer participation -- all contribute to driving excellence within a plant and beyond. Contributing as well is a focus on employee training and the prudent introduction of production and information technologies to help the work force do their jobs more quickly, more safely and with greater precision.

The annual IndustryWeek Best Plants competition evaluates manufacturing facilities in multiple categories, recognizing that operational excellence is not delivering good quality at the expense of on-time delivery. Neither is it meeting productivity goals at the expense of worker safety, or by working harder but not smarter. It is a comprehensive focus on excellence in all areas, with an unstoppable focus on improvements that will further increase competitiveness and enhance customer satisfaction.

The following pages contain the stories of IndustryWeek's 2010 Best Plants winners. Be prepared to gain new insights and ideas to improve your own manufacturing operations. Indeed, IW's Best Plants winners from today and yesterday are not strangers to gaining good ideas from other manufacturers both within and outside of their own industries. You can also read more about the 2010 winners online at www.industryweek.com. The online versions contain additional Web-exclusive best practices.

How They Made the Top 10

IndustryWeek began accepting application requests for the 2010 Best Plants awards late last year. A panel of IW editors reviewed the completed applications, which reported management practices and plant performance in such areas as quality, customer and supplier relations, employee involvement, productivity, cost containment, manufacturing flexibility and responsiveness, inventory management, environmental and safety performance, and market results.

Selection of the winners from a list of 20 finalists was aided by a team of outside experts: Sherrie Ford, principal, Change Partners LLC; Robert Hall, a founding member of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence; Kenneth J. McGuire of the Management Excellence Action Coalition; and Larry Fast, president of Pathways to Manufacturing Excellence. Their evaluations, along with additional information provided by the finalists, were considered in the final stage of judging. The selections did not become final until site visits by IW editors to validate the performance data and management practices reported in the applications.

2010 IW Best Plants Winners

American Axle & Manufacturing-Three Rivers Manufacturing Facility
Three Rivers, Mich.

Avery Dennison Office Products de Mexico S. de R.L. de C.V.
Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Batesville Casket Co.-Vicksburg Operations
Vicksburg, Miss.

Bunge Oakville
Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Carrier Charlotte Chiller Operations
Charlotte, N.C.

General Cable Franklin Plant
Franklin, Mass.

IEC Electronics Corp.
Newark, N.Y.

Landis+Gyr
Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico

Raytheon Integrated Air Defense Center
Andover, Mass.

Snap-on Power Tools
Murphy, N.C.