Landis+Gyr Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico

Employees: 667, union

Total Square Footage: 100,000

Primary Products/Market: residential electricity meters

Start-Up Date: 1997

Achievements: 99% finished product first-pass yield for Focus AL meter; 90% reduction in OSHA-recordable injury and illness cases in past three years; 22% manufacturing cycle time reduction on two production lines in past three years

A lot of smart activity occurs at Landis+Gyr's manufacturing operation in Reynosa, Mexico, beginning with the product it makes. Located just over the border from McAllen, Texas, the 100,000-square-foot facility produces electricity meters primarily for residential but also for commercial and industrial use. They largely are "smart" meters that record consumption and communicate the information back to the utility or consumer. Certain versions provide utilities with the ability to remotely disconnect or limit service.

Consuelo Denise Guzman conducts a meter audit, one of multiple quality checks employed at Landis+Gyr.

"Smart" is also how the facility operates. At the top, annual strategic planning drives the plant's goals as well as the action plans required to meet those goals. Formal progress reviews assure that well-laid plans do not go astray or get ignored.

"You give people tools and a vision to make [improvement] happen, and it will happen," says Aubrey Williams, vice president of operations.

Landis+Gyr's manufacturing strategy is to employ lean principles such as one-piece flow and flexible production cells to meet or exceed customers' requirements. Primarily a high-volume tabletop assembly operation, Landis+Gyr's attention to quality is readily apparent in its neat, brightly lit factory where banners suspended from the ceiling share word of new orders. Production lines are dotted with automated poka-yoke (mistake-proofing) processes that prevent product from moving to the next station unless components are correctly positioned. Additionally, quality alert buttons are embedded along the production lines. When they observe potential defects, operators can and do stop a line by pressing one of the buttons, which also draws immediate action from a team of trouble-shooters. The Reynosa operation also has a formal Six Sigma program.

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Landis+Gyr, which is certified to the ISO 9001:2008 quality management standard, extends its quality concentration beyond its four walls to suppliers. The facility forges strategic partnerships with major suppliers to jointly improve cost, lead time and quality. For example, in 2010 engineers from the facility have been engaged in a Six Sigma project with a supplier, aimed at reducing defects and improving processes related to repair and rework.

Within its four walls, Landis+Gyr smartly recognizes that its pursuit of excellence is driven by a motivated, prepared work force. To that end, the facility provides significant training to assure the plant is populated with personnel who can ably tackle high-volume production demands. In the past four years, the plant has increased shipments by 133%.

Midlevel manager training is one example of Landis+Gyr's work force efforts. Employees who show potential for higher-level positions are nominated to the training by their supervisors. The training spans six months and is taught by senior management, who present lessons in their areas of expertise. Among the lessons taught by Williams is "It's Okay to Be the Boss," which shares lessons from a book by the same name. Approximately 70 employees have completed the training in the past four years.

Ultimately the plant's aim is to be the smart meter integrator of choice. As a result, complacency has no home at Landis+Gyr. The manufacturer remains tightly focused on improving its products, processes and costs.

"We are always moving forward, constantly willing to improve [and] try new things," says Armando Benavides, residential operations manager.