Lockheed Martin's Pike County Operations sprawls across more than 3,800 acres in Troy, Ala. It is a rural location, heavily wooded, even bucolic. The rustic surroundings largely belie the high-tech activity under way in multiple buildings spread across the site. 

Lockheed Martin's Pike County Operations is part of the company's Missiles and Fire Control business, and here a workforce of more than 300 assemble and test advanced missile systems, including the Javelin anti-tank missile and JASSM or joint air-to-surface standoff missile. Multiple tools and processes, in place to reduce electrostatic discharge and keep foreign matter from entering assembly areas, tell a tale of the sensitive technologies that comprise these weapons systems. 

Lockheed Martin manufacturing plant informationThe site, which began operations in 1994 with an air-to-ground missile system (AGMS) that it continues to build, was named an IndustryWeek's Best Plants winner in 1997. Today, like then, Lockheed Martin says the success of its Pike County Operations is due in large part to an engaged workforce. "People make it happen here," says David Anderson, site director. 

Even more, engaged teams make it happen. Fully 100% of the workforce participates in empowered or self-directed work teams, many as contributors on PMTs, or Performance Management Teams. PMTs develop performance goals in collaboration with leadership, and then are challenged to achieve and exceed those goals. Progress toward the goals, in cost and quality, for example, is reviewed on a regular, frequent basis, both weekly and monthly. 

"What gets measured gets accomplished," says Mark Hayes, site quality and mission success manager.

And what gets accomplished gets rewarded. Strong reward and recognition programs propel team thinking and provide an incentive to improve continuously. Recognition may be small but significant -- of the verbal "thank you" variety, gift cards or a pat on the back. Team performance also delivers team rewards, such as the catered lunch served in December to the Javelin program team for stellar performance during the year. A sitewide Team of the Year program also provides competition among high-performing Pike County PMTs, with a recognition banquet held to honor the winners. 

The emphasis by Lockheed Martin's Pike County Operations on engagement, teams and measurement has translated to performance excellence. Site metrics include 100% on-time delivery with zero customer rejects. They include 99% first-pass yield and a 43% reduction in energy consumption per unit of production over the past three years. 

The emphasis also has contributed to a continuing flow of improvement ideas, such as a new safety feature for forklifts that will sound an alarm if an operator attempts to dismount without engaging the parking brake. A benchmarking trip to Hyundai's assembly plant in Alabama provided impetus for the improvement. Another example: Standardized kitting trays for AGMS hardware were introduced to replace an inefficient process in which operators had to pull fasteners from a bag. The new trays provide operators with a better visual presentation of components and reduce the potential for foreign object debris to be introduced into the process, says Wenona Sublett, site Lean Six Sigma manager. 

The Pike County Operations' stellar performances have been achieved even as production and workforce numbers have ramped up. In the past three years, the number of production workers at this site has grown by more than 59%, while the production rate has climbed some 189% since 2009.

For more on the 2012 Best Plants winners' amazing achievements, click here.