Johnson Controls Reynosa SMT production lines Johnson Controls

2017 IW Best Plants Winner: Customer Mindset Builds Manufacturing Muscle at Johnson Controls

How teams, technology and a robust manufacturing system deliver “speed to react” capability in Reynosa.

Jesus Torres Lerma has been plant manager at Johnson Controls Building Technologies & Solutions in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, for a short time, less than six months. He’s no novice to manufacturing, however, and his previous positions span a range of companies and manufactured goods.

So, when Lerma says he’s been impressed in his early days by the workforce’s rapid “speed to react,” you know he is drawing from a breadth of experience.

It’s not hard to understand why reaction time captured Lerma’s attention. This 2017 IndustryWeek Best Plants Award winner produces a wide variety of building automation products, from field-level controllers and actuators to temperature controls and more. Add to that, complex customer requests, uncertain forecasts coupled with frequent calls for quick turnarounds, production runs that can be as low as 10 pieces, and you have all the ingredients for mediocre response times.

Johnson Controls Building Technologies & Solutions

Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico

Employees: 980, some union

Total Square Footage: 412,000

Primary Product: building automation system components

Start-up Date: 1981

Achievements: 99.2% first-pass quality yield; 77% reduction in scrap and rework costs as a percentage of sales over the past 3 years; manufacturing cycle time reduced by 40% in the past 3 years; plant has achieved zero waste-to-landfill status; productivity has improved by 30% in the past 3 years; certified OHSAS 18001 and ISO 14001

Unless, perhaps, you carry significant stores of finished goods, which this facility does not. Still, its customer on-time delivery is stellar, and it is accomplished with quality yields in excess of 99%. How does that happen?

“JCMS and high-performance teams, that’s how we operate,” says Raul Guevara, operations manager.

JCMS is the Johnson Controls Manufacturing System. The system is built on four foundational concepts (customer focus, ensuring a stable production environment, organizing around customer pull and exercising zero tolerance for waste) and nine principles (total quality and value stream flow are two, for example). It provides a path for capability and performance improvement, as well as an assessment tool to determine a plant’s maturity level within the system.

The Reynosa plant was the first North American Building Technologies & Solutions plant to achieve Level 3 maturity. Leadership team members say they are confident the site will achieve Level 4 (of five levels) by year’s end.

(Read more about the IndustryWeek Best Plants Awards.)

While JCMS is the manufacturing system, the high-performance teams are the people who make the system work. Johnson Controls’ Reynosa plant has 26 HPTs among its plant workforce. “Each team is focused on achieving excellence every day,” noted Johnson Controls in its IW Best Plants entry form.

Walk the production floor and undoubtedly you will cross paths with a high-performance team gathered around its dashboard at the gemba, talking through what went right, what presented a challenge and sharing ideas for solutions. Like JCMS, high performance teams employ a maturity level structure with the aim to build groups’ capabilities. The plant, as well as the corporation, employs robust recognition programs to celebrate teams’ achievements.

Of which there are many. For example, a Reynosa team won a corporate Quest for the Best competition for its efforts to improve the manufacturing process of the T-4000 thermostat, a device that still utilizes the core technology for which Johnson Controls founder Warren S. Johnson received a patent more than 100 years ago.

(Download an application for the 2018 IW Best Plants Awards competition.)

While Johnson Controls’ building automation technologies have advanced significantly since then, a percentage of customers still want the basics. The continuous improvement efforts around the T-4000 thermostat were initiated largely to keep the product’s pricing at a level “where it is still marketable,” explains Moises Vasquez, launch engineering manager.

“It’s customer-driven,” Vasquez says. “Customers still ask for it. Mr. Johnson would be proud.”

Additional drivers of the Reynosa plant’s responsiveness to customers are vertical integration and new technologies. The manufacturing operation’s in-house capabilities include injection molding, surface mount technology, assembly and in-house testing. New production equipment also has given the plant a productivity boost. For example, in one process changeover time has decreased by more than 80%.

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