Scotsman Ice Systems: IW Best Plants Profile 2006

Scotsman Ice Systems: IW Best Plants Profile 2006

Strong And Stable: For more than a decade, Scotsman Ice Systems has relentlessly and continuously improved its processes, people and products.

Scotsman Ice Systems, Fairfax, S.C.

Employees: 290, non-union

Total square footage: 368,000

Primary products: commercial ice-making units and accessories; luxury consumer ice machines and refrigerators

Start-up: 1980

Achievements: Reduced scrap by 46% since 2000. Improved first-pass yield by 53% since 1999. Improved productivity by 41% since 2001


Scotsman Ice Systems doesn't do one thing well. That's good news given that this Fairfax, S.C.-based ice machine manufacturer's devotion to continual improvement dates back to the late 1980s, when it first began adopting many elements of the Toyota Production System. As a result of its long-time improvement initiatives, Scotsman Ice Systems instead does many things well, which neatly explains its enviable performance measures and its continued push to drive even better results.

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Located in a rural, tiny South Carolina town, Scotsman nonetheless is big time in its use of world-class elements, such as small lot sizes, standardized tooling, mixed model production, poka yoke (also called error-proofing), level-loaded production, and internal and external pull systems. An electronic kanban system is used on 80% of all supplied parts.

With those tools, Scotsman Ice Systems produces more than 300 models of commercial ice machines. Its core operations are sheet metal fabrication, plastic roto molding, assembly and shipping.

The 288,000 square-foot manufacturing facility is rife with processes put in place to reduce waste and increase throughput. For example, Scotsman has deployed a point-of-use methodology for tooling and fixtures that helps support its build-to-customer-orders focus by eliminating subassembly departments. That means bending fixtures are located adjacent to workstations and are positioned on retractable slides that move in and out of a central bending fixture table. When a copper tube is needed, a straight length is removed from a kanban container and formed by an operator.

Scotsman Ice Systems also benefits from stable leadership. Gene Klosterman, who leads the facility as vice president of manufacturing, has held that position for 22 years. Greg Jarvis, assistant plant manager as well as the quality assurance manager, has been at Scotsman for 15 years.

Patrina Frazier is completing a portion of her standard work at a brazing fixture.
And lest you think such long-time service leads to complacency, think again. "Gene is a pusher. He creates a sense of urgency when there isn't any -- in a good way," says Jack Pierson, manager of training and development.

The manufacturer looks both externally and internally for improvement ideas. For example, Scotsman is a proponent of benchmarking against other manufacturers. Plant members have traveled to Kawasaki, Bosch and Toyota, among others, to learn best practices. Six significant benchmarking trips in the past year have focused on material management, level production, visual management, teams and training.

Internally, teamwork, training and employee involvement are paramount. All hourly employees are expected to implement 36 improvement suggestions per year. The accumulation of these small ideas contribute not only to improvements, but also reinforces the facility's continuous improvement culture. And all production employees have the authority to stop the line if quality issues are discovered.

"Our philosophy is we run with teams," says Randall C. Rossi, president, Enodis North American Ice Group (Scotsman is a division of Enodis PLC). "And we believe training helps improve the efficiency and effectiveness of teams."

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Recognition Of A Job Well Done

Rob Poe received an unexpected but much deserved accolade July 14 during Scotsman Ice Systems' third-quarter recognition meeting. Much to his surprise and the delight of fellow employees, Poe received Scotsman's Role Model award, the most prestigious individual award presented by this Fairfax, S.C., manufacturer of ice machines. In front of the entire plant -- and his wife, who was in on the secret -- Poe was honored for setting an example for the other employees with his positive attitude, willingness to help others well beyond the scope of his job duties, and other contributions to the success of the manufacturing operations. Specifically, Scotsman said of Poe: "He has developed excellent technical skills in all of our CNC equipment as well as in personal computers and he willingly shares his knowledge with whoever needs help."

The Role Model award is part of an extremely robust employee recognition system at Scotsman Ice Systems. Indeed, "Recognition is key to success," the facility stated in its IW Best Plants application. "The recognition system objectives are to have a means for recognizing, documenting and publicizing excellence in the workplace to reinforce positive actions."

The system recognizes individuals, teams and departments on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. The program also has three levels of recognition, Scotsman says, "to make it easy to recognize positive actions and at the same time give appropriate recognition to those individuals or teams that excel over longer periods of time."

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Recognition is given for perfect attendance and significant accomplishments in quality and productivity improvement, among other reasons. And because brazing is such an important component to customer satisfaction, as well as a challenging task to do well, employees producing superior metrics in this area are recognized both monetarily and with a plaque. Some 17 employees were recognized for quality brazing during the July recognition meeting.

Also worth noting: A plant recognition team composed of primarily hourly employees maintains the formal recognition system, makes quarterly presentations, confirms nominations and works to improve the program.

And for Poe: As the Role Model award recipient, Poe received a jacket, a plaque outlining the reasons for his recognition and a paid, two-day trip for two to vacation destinations Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach or Gatlinburg.

The Value Of Benchmarking

Scotsman Ice Systems, a 2006 IW Best Plants winner, doesn't pretend to have all of the answers when it comes to manufacturing excellence. For example, the manufacturer's visual systems need improving, says Greg Jarvis, assistant plant manager and quality assurance manager at the Fairfax, S.C.-based maker of ice machines. And the factory is examining the opportunities presented by level production scheduling.

Well aware that other manufacturers have made gains in these and other areas -- Scotsman takes every opportunity to learn from them -- and to share their own experiences in return. Indeed, at Scotsman, benchmarking other manufacturing plants -- both in and out of its industry segment -- is an important tool in Scotsman's continuous improvement efforts. It's not just plant-floor operations Scotsman benchmarks, either. Jarvis says the manufacturer has benchmarked information technology applications by talking to other manufacturers with similar requirements and learning from their successes, failures and implementation challenges. And when Scotsman management decided it was time to engage a consultant to push improvements, they visited another facility to observe a kaizen event led by a consulting firm they had under consideration.

The manufacturer has created a benchmarking booklet that it takes on benchmarking trips. The book includes a list of the questions Scotsman wants to get addressed during a benchmarking trip, as well as spaces to fill in the answers as a benchmarking tour unfolds. A benefit of the book, explains Gene Klosterman, vice president of manufacturing, is that it becomes less likely that someone will forget to ask an important question.

That, of course, presumes you remember to bring the book. Klosterman admits that the book is not used as frequently as it once was, which may be a function of changes Scotsman has made to its benchmarking efforts. Where once the manufacturer may have benchmarked nearly everything in another facility, now its efforts are more targeted, Jarvis says.

How does Scotsman choose which plants to benchmark against? It looks for plants that may have won awards such as the IW Best Plants or the Shingo Prize. It pursues plants it has heard good things about, via word of mouth or in various publications. And it participates in programs such as a continuing education course offered by Clemson University that focused on benchmarking.

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