Crown Equipment Corp. prides itself on being vertically integrated -- so much so that the New Bremen, Ohio-based lift-truck maker views its products as an integral part of the company's manufacturing process.

At Crown's assembly and distribution center in New Bremen, for example, you won't find a chain conveyor system driving the four assembly lines. In fact, you won't find a chain conveyor system.

Instead, Crown employees use the company's pallet trucks -- modified with adjustable platforms -- as workstations within assembly cells.  

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"At the beginning of the day, we know how many trucks we're going to make," explains Dave Beddow, vice president of manufacturing operations, who notes that the average seniority at the plant is 28 years. "We know what the takt time is. So we don't need a conveyor to prod our employees. These guys know what they're doing. They know what they have to do over the course of the day."

At a Crown manufacturing facility in Celina, Ohio -- about 20 miles northwest of New Bremen -- welders uses Crown fork trucks as work platforms that ergonomically position parts for grinding.

"It's very easy to use -- it's just up and down -- and we don't have a lot of fixed moving parts other than the fork itself," explains Ben Knapke, unit manager for the Celina plant, during a recent plant tour. "When you're done, you just take [the part] to the next operation, pick up your next one and bring it [into the grind booth]."