IW Best Plants Profile - 1990

How do you improve the productivity of a manufacturing plant by nearly 100 percent in an eight-year period? "You set tough goals," says Jim Booy, manager of Pella Corporation's Carroll plant.

Pella, a family-owned firm, is well known as the maker of high-quality windows and doors.

The Carroll facility is much smaller than Pella's main plant in Pella, Iowa. It is also much newer and has more up-to-date equipment, including proprietary machinery designed and built by employees.

Booy, who has run the plant since its start-up in 1982, says productivity had a cumulative gain of 96 percent by the time the facility earned its 1990 Best Plants award.

Between 1985 and 1990, the plant increased work-in-process (WIP) inventory turns from 12 to 150 a year by implementing continuous-flow production methods, a feat accomplished by reducing setup times and by end-lining operations.

"End-lining" ties various operations, from parts making to final assembly, end-to-end so the whole plant simulates one big assembly line.

Much of the setup reduction was a result of equipment research and brainstorming.

In 1990, on-time shipments averaged 99.4 percent. In its approach to just-in-time (JIT), the Carroll plant relies not on kanban pull signals but on the ability of workers to think for themselves. Work orders for components were eliminated; instead, each cost center and work cell now gets a copy of the final assembly schedule for a given day.

The Carroll plant has no in-process inspectors. "Everybody is an inspector in our plant," says Booy.

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