Next Stop, The Top

Twenty-five facilities vie to become the 10 winners in the ninth annual Best Plants competition.

If there is one constant about the manufacturing facilities that vie to become one of Americas Best Plants, its that they defy tidy categorization. Beyond adhering to a few specific qualifications established by IndustryWeek, Best Plants finalists have proven again and again that age, size, geographic location, and the products manufactured have very little bearing on a facilitys capability to achieve great performances -- or to compete successfully in this annual awards program. And IndustryWeeks 1998 finalists are no exception. Selected in the spring by the Best Plants program panel of judges, this eclectic group began their trek to the top from a field of 170 nominees. Their numbers will be further winnowed down to 10 with the announcement of the ninth annual roster of Americas Best Plants in the Oct. 19 issue of IW. But first, some data on the 25 finalists. In terms of employee numbers, Eaton Corp.s Forge Div.-South Bend (Ind.) is the smallest plant with 120 workers. At the other extreme, some 11,000 employees work at Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems in Ft. Worth, a facility dedicated to the production of military aircraft. Fifty-six years separate the start-up of the oldest plant (Navistar International Transportation Corp. in Indianapolis began production in 1938) and the youngest (Planters Peanuts in Suffolk, Va., and Timken Co.s Asheboro Plant in Randleman, N.C., both opened in 1994). In terms of geography, two finalists are located outside the continental U.S., one to the north in Tillsonburg, Ont., and the other to the southeast in Cayey, P.R. Within the 50 states, Texas and Illinois boast the greatest number of finalists (each has three), while a total of 14 states each produced at least one Best Plants finalist. The products manufactured are equally diverse. The food-and-beverage industry is represented twice, by the previously mentioned Planters Peanuts plant and by Quaker Oats Co. in Danville, Ill. This sector had no representatives among last years finalists. Manufacturers of automotive products appear with the most frequency among 1998s finalists, producing items such as transmission parts, vehicle structures, engine bearings, diesel engines, automotive exhaust systems, seat assemblies, and steering linkages. A sampling of other products: remanufactured railcars; medical supplies; microwave devices; and wireless, switching, and networking communication products. Despite the diverse nature of the 1998 finalists, they obviously share common characteristics of enviable performance metrics and the successful implementation of best practices that lead to such performances. For example, Best Plants finalists:

  • Achieved a median finished-product first-pass yield of 98.6% (and an average of 97.2%).
  • Showed significant evidence of improved competitiveness. Their median five-year productivity increase (based on total annual sales per employee) was 44% and the average was 54.8%.
  • Embraced employee empowerment. Sixteen of the 1998 finalists reported that 100% of their production employees participate in empowered natural work teams.
  • Achieved a median on-time delivery rate of 98.6% among the 16 plants that deliver to a customer request date. Of the nine facilities that deliver to a promised delivery date, the median on-time delivery rate was 98.2%.
Two of the plants are Borg-Warner Automotive facilities. Three facilities cite Dana Corp. as their parent organization: Spicer Heavy Systems Assembly Div., Lugoff, S.C.; Parish Light Vehicle Structures Div., Hopkinsville, Ky.; and Spicer Clark-Hurth Off-Highway Components Div., Plymouth, Minn. In alphabetical order, the 1998 Americas Best Plants finalists: Allegiance Healthcare Corp., Convertors El Paso Plant, El Paso, Tex.; surgical gowns and drapes; 612 employees. Baxter Healthcare Corp., Mountain Home, Ark.; disposable medical products; 1,583 employees. Borg-Warner Automotive, Bellwood, Ill.; friction plates, one-way clutches; 900 employees. Borg-Warner Automotive, Automatic Transmission Systems Corp., Frankfort, Ill.; transmission parts; 434 employees. Dana Corp., Parish Light Vehicle Structures Div., Hopkinsville, Ky.; truck and car structures; 530 employees. Dana Corp., Spicer Clark-Hurth Off-Highway Components Div., Plymouth, Minn.; axles and gears; 320 employees. Dana Corp. Parish Light Vehicle Structure Division, Lugoff, S.C.; truck chassis; 188 employees. Eaton Corp., Forge Div.-South Bend, South Bend, Ind.; steel forgings for transmission gears; 120 employees. EFTC Corp., Denver; electronics; 370 employees. Federal-Mogul Powertrain Operations, Blacksburg Plant, Blacksburg, Va.; engine bearings; 624 employees. Harris Corp., Farinon Div., San Antonio; microwave devices and components; 360 employees. Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems, Ft. Worth; military aircraft; 11,000 employees. Lucent Technologies Inc., Columbus; communications products; 3,500 employees. Navistar International Transportation Corp., Indianapolis; diesel engines, camshafts; 1,600 employees. Nypro Puerto Rico Inc., Cayey, P.R.; custom plastics; 550 employees. Planters Peanuts, Suffolk, Va.; snacks; 350 employees. PPG Industries Inc., Delaware, Ohio; resins and coatings; 600 employees. Solectron Corp., Milpitas, Calif.; electronics; 6,500 employees. Stryker Osteonics, Allendale, N.J.; orthopedic implants; 583 employees. Tenneco Automotive, Aberdeen, Miss.; automotive exhaust systems; 246 employees. Quaker Oats Co., Danville, Ill.; cereal and snacks; 552 employees. Timken Co., Asheboro Plant, Randleman, N.C.; tapered roller bearings; 166 employees. Trim Masters Inc., Nicholasville, Ky.; auto seat assemblies; 259 employees. TRW Canada Ltd. Linkage & Suspension Div., Tillsonburg, Ont.; auto control arms, ball joints, steering linkage; 440 employees. TTX Co.-Hamburg Div., North Augusta, S.C.; remanufactured railcars; 512 employees.
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