Carrier - Carlyle Compressor Facility, Stone Mountain, Ga.
Employees: 254, non-union
Total Square Footage: 293,000
Primary Product/market: Compressors for commercial/industrial heating and cooling applications, new and remanufactured
Achievements: 55% reduction in scrap/rework costs as a percentage of sales in past three years; 58% reduction in raw materials inventory in past three years; average machine availability rate is 99.5%
See the other winners of IW's 2009 Best Plants award and find out how they made the top ten.
In some respects, Carrier - Carlyle Compressor Facility has a bit of a dual personality. On the one hand, the Stone Mountain, Ga., plant manufactures new compressors for commercial and industrial heating and cooling applications. Assembly, performance testing and painting are among the production processes of this business. On the other hand, the Carlyle plant also remanufactures compressors. Here the facility continually is challenged by incoming material that has faced a wealth of different field conditions. Production processes in remanufacturing include disassembly and reassembly, as well as machining and other operations as needed in the upgrading and requalification of component parts.
Despite the unique challenges presented by each business, the mission of the plant remains singular: "The Carlyle Stone Mountain facility will perform in a manner that exceeds all expectations, allowing us to be the compressor plant that our customers demand."
The plant meets those demands by maintaining an intense focus -- on its customers, on continuous improvement, and on driving improvements by means of an engaged workforce. Providing that focus is ACE, or Achieving Competitive Excellence. ACE is the standard operating system for United Technologies Corp., of which Carrier is a subsidiary. "[ACE] drives our questions; it drives continuous improvement," explains plant manager Matthew Walker.
The structure ACE provides is visually apparent throughout the facility. At the plant level there is the Carlyle Compressor "thermostat," a 3-foot-by 4-foot metric indicator that communicates what the factory performance is at any given time and where attention is needed. The thermostat, located at the employee entrance, outlines plant goals across a range of metrics as well as monthly performance against those goals. Each cell also has its own thermostat. The cell-level metrics support the overall plant-level metrics and are tracked by each work group.
Ultimately it's people driving performance improvements who make goals attainable. Employees pursue everyday improvement efforts using such tools as total productive maintenance and 5S. In addition, the Carlyle facility has held some 62 continuous improvement events since 2007, involving 163 employees. These improvement events include kaizen and 3P (Production Preparation Process) events. 3P events are "like kaizen on steroids," describes John Purcell, Achieving Competitive Excellence manager.
Working on a U-shaped assembly line, operator Vu Nguyen installs a screw set into a Thunderbolt compressor.
A 3P event now under way involves introducing a new method to dehydrate compressors on one of the production lines. The new method will improve cycle times and reduce WIP because the compressors no longer will need to be processed in batches. Key to Carlyle's kaizen and 3P events is the development of a process mandate, which outlines the scope of the effort and tasks that must be completed before an event is scheduled. "We have found that well-executed pre-planning drives improved results of the events," Carrier states. The process mandate also outlines the objective of the event as well as measures of its success.
Such attention is paying off. For example, in the past three years the plant has experienced a nearly 76% reduction in customer reject rates and a 54.5% reduction in OSHA-recordable injury and illness cases.
Supply Chain Successes
No plant excels alone. Carrier looks up and down the value chain for opportunities to improve.
Like many manufacturers, a majority of Carrier - Carlyle Compressor Facility's product costs are consumed by material costs, versus overhead and labor costs. Where some manufacturers might consider such costs outside their control, this plant has a different perspective. "We believe this is an advantage as our purchasing model built partnerships and alliances with key suppliers who are experts in the commodity and can deliver to our expectations," the facility states in its IW Best Plants questionnaire.
The Carlyle plant has recognized and addressed this potential dilemma with a simple, yet elegant solution: a dual quality and sourcing role. John W. Throne is sourcing and quality manager at the Carlyle Stone Mountain plant. He has three teams working with him, each consisting of a buyer and a supplier quality engineer.
"We realized we had to get costs down," Throne says, "but needed to do it the right way."
Other supply-chain initiatives include the establishment of continuous-improvement teams with a number of the Stone Mountain plant's top suppliers. These teams focus on improvements related to quality, delivery and cost reduction.