IW Best Plants Profile - 1990

In the Worthington plant of Mettler-Toledo, Incorporated, 1,200 weight indicators and 40,000 printed circuit boards (PCBs) are produced each month. Underlying this productivity is an emphasis on self-managed work teams and a pay-for-skills program that encourages cross training.

Payoffs for this 1990 Best Plants award winner include dramatic reductions in the plant's throughput time. In its focused factory PCB area, the manufacturing cycle was reduced from two weeks to three days; for the weight-indicator devices, the cycle time was collapsed from two days to as little as 30 minutes.

The plant schedules its production based on customer demand and uses a pull system and kanban signals to maintain its continuous-flow system. On the weight-indicator side, the process begins with the entry of an order into the computer system, which signals a printer in a work cell to create a delivery label (including bar-coded information on the model type). "The work team," says former plant manager John Lucas, "will then build the unit, attach the delivery label, send it to the shipping dock, and it's gone."

Lucas lauds both the plant's pay-for-skills program and its self-managed work cells. Each cell has eight to 12 members and functions as "a mini-business" within the company.

In addition to learning new job skills, workers can also earn extra money by becoming cell "coordinators." Each cell has five coordinators who tend to the business side of their operation. By 1980, 80 percent of the Worthington workforce had completed training for at least one coordinator task.

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