Timken conceived the Faircrest Steel Plant (FSP) amidst bleak forecasts for the U.S. steel industry in the early 1980s. The $450 million facility opened its doors in 1985.

Timken outfitted the 1994 Best Plants award winner with the latest and greatest toys of steel-making, including a 160-ton, ultra-high-powered, electric-arc furnace.

High-tech aficionados would appreciate Faircrest's Hierarchical Computer Control System (HCCS). The first fully integrated computer network in the steel business, the HCCS operates on both the plant and process level, managing information flow and also directing specific equipment.

Complementing the Timken technology is the culture of FSP. A special contract with union affiliates has allowed management to define its workforce in terms of teams: hourly workers and staff are all considered associates.

Faircrest's management team engineered a three-tier strategy to fit Timken's vision of ""accelerated continuous improvement.""

The first principle is to run the mill faster.

The second strategic element, which amplifies the speed principle, involves running the mill longer. An early-relief system, coupled with a total productive maintenance program, has reduced downtime from 600 hours to 175 hours per year.

Finally, the entire plant is managed as a team. This is true not only for employees, but suppliers and customers as well. Across the street stands ""Supplier City,"" a 10-acre complex currently housing six suppliers, with more to be added. Electronic data interchange enables deliveries within 15 minutes of placing an order.

Faircrest's output is nearly four times that of the U.S. or Japanese average (in worker-hours per ton).