IW Best Plants Profile - 1991

It's easy to miss Owatonna, a small town (population 20,000) that's home to the 1991 Best Plants award-winning Power Team Division of SPX Corporation.

Within five years of its transition from a batch-mode to a just-in-time (JIT) environment, Power Team had a 65 percent increase in throughput.

The transition began in 1985, when SPX bought Owatonna Tool and made a commitment to a new manufacturing strategy. That ushered in divisionalization and the 1987 creation of Power Team to serve various markets with special high-pressure hydraulic tools and work-holding components. "Exceptional growth created the need for a new plant in 1989," says operations manager James Schultz.

The plant was laid out in four small, focused factories. Moreover, employees were led to understand the need for continuous improvement. And Power Team developed a strategy that includes the use of Waste Elimination Teams as well as Customer Satisfaction Teams.

A formal Operator Certification program was started in 1985. To eliminate the need for time-consuming inspections, Power Team certifies its machinists to inspect their own work. Each operator must pass two consecutive error-free audits, and repeat audits are performed.

Power teamwork is a way of life here. The payoff is obvious: In an industry in which typical customer lead time is two weeks, Power Team has an order-to-shipment time of two to five days for its PE series electric power pumps.

Now, Power Team is taking on the challenge of globalization through its units in Europe, Australia, and the Pacific Rim.

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