IW Best Plants Profile - 1998

Dana Corp. Hopkinsville, Ky. By Glenn Hasek Safety awareness may not be the sole reason for the success of Dana Corp.s Hopkinsville, Ky., plant, but it certainly has been a major contributor. On the walls outside plant manager Pat Pilleris office, on signs large enough for every employee to read, hang more than 200 safety suggestions written by employees. A high degree of attention to safety is critical in a plant where heavy machinery and welding are used. Dana Hopkinsville, which employs 540 people in a 267,000-sq-ft facility, manufactures full frames for the Chevy S-10, GMC Sonoma, and Isuzu Hombre pickups; engine cradles for Saturn vehicles; front and rear subframes for the Mercedes All Activity Vehicle; and formed components for Ford frames that are shipped to two other Dana facilities. The plant has produced more than 4 million frame assemblies. For the eight-year-old plant, a part of the Parish Light Vehicle Structures Div. of Toledo, Ohio-based Dana, the process of nearly reaching safety perfection has been a long one. The plant has not always had the kind of safety success it now has. In 1990, the plants first full year of operation, there were 94 accidents. Last year, there were only seven, and this year, as of Aug. 20, there had been only two. "After having a pretty poor start with our safety program, we came to the conclusion that the accidents were really being caused by mental errors," says Pilleri. "We directed all of our attention to the psychological aspects of safety. We decided that safety is really a mind-set. We decided that carelessness is the main reason for accidents." Three safety policies guide the workers (called Team Mates) at the plant: Always stay attentive on our jobs; Always be aware of our surroundings and those of Team Mates; and Never stop thinking about safety. "If you do these three things constantly, you wont have an accident," says Pilleri. As rare as accidents are at the plant, when they do happen the entire facility is shut down. "This, of course, sends a very strong message," says Pilleri. "Everyone is taken off the plant floor. The accident and how the person could have acted differently is explained." When there is a near miss, employees are asked to complete an awareness report and it is communicated plantwide. To further encourage safety awareness, a five-minute safety talk is given to all employees at the beginning of every shift. Supervisors also have a two-hour safety meeting each week. Making safety awareness fun is also the aim of Dana Hopkinsville management. After every 30-day period without an accident, Team Mates are treated to a cookout at which a band consisting of Dana Team Mates plays. Fifty cookouts have been held since the plant opened. A game called safety bingo also is played daily. "Every day there is no accident, a number is drawn," says Harland Sarbacker, manufacturing-services manager. Team Mates can win a television set if they fill their bingo card. Dana Hopkinsvilles goal is to go an entire year without an accident. "We consider our goals to be realistic," says Sarbacker. "We believe we can do it." The Dana plants success can be attributed in large part to its management style that emphasizes training, teamwork, and idea generation. Every Team Mate must go through 72 hours of prehire training, which includes an eight-hour session on team concepts and idea input. Prior to actually running production, all Team Mates complete 300 hours of training. Opportunities for advancement are numerous. Seventy percent of the management team -- 42 of 62 -- has been promoted off the plant floor. Forty-two of 60 support staff at the plant have been certified by Dana University, Dana Corp.s training and management-education facility in Toledo. Seventy-seven percent of the workforce participates in self-directed work teams, and 100% participate in empowered work teams. Dana Hopkinsville Team Mates currently participate in 98 different teams, 65 of which focus on process-management. The most recently created team is a Year 2000 team. "Each team has its own facilitator who is elected," says Pilleri. "In addition, there is a plant staff member who oversees a group of teams." All of the plant teams are cross-functional and are expected to produce results. Each team has to list its achievements on a monthly basis. "One of the teams is an interviewing team comprised of people from different areas of the plant," says Sarbacker. "Theyre trained in the legal aspects of hiring." Decisions not handled by teams include those involving plant policy and firings. "One of the common themes at Dana is teamwork," says Pilleri. "We elected to do it differently than most other plants. We go to our Team Mates and ask them where improvement is needed. Once they come back to us with those ideas, we ask for volunteers. Our safety program goes a long way toward developing teamwork. Everyone watches out for everyone else, especially when we have new Team Mates. All the outside activities we do also are directed at bringing people together." One team-based improvement at the plant involved a 20,000-lb forming die, a machine used to make six variations of rear side rails. Before the changeover team redesigned the process, it took six hours to complete the changeover, which involved removal of a tool from the press. The changeover team reduced the process to 10 minutes by using modular systems with the die in the press, eliminating one of the plants biggest bottlenecks. Using a simple but effective communication program within the plant, Team Mates have been able to drive continuous improvement. Idea boards, where Team Mates can post ideas on yellow index cards, have generated almost 100,000 improvement ideas since the plant opened. Within 24 hours a support staff person responds to the person making the suggestion. "We dont give out any awards or prizes for ideas," says Pilleri. "We feel giving out awards or prizes for big ideas discourages the small ideas. Wed much rather have a lot of people thinking of a lot of small ways to improve the operation. The reward is simple: job security." Unlike a lot of industrial plants, Dana Hopkinsvilles workforce is salaried. "Its a different kind of commitment," says Sarbacker. "Youre responsible for being here all of the time. Youre taking on that responsibility as part of your job. It shows trust. It shows respect. . . . Its a commitment that were making. Its another reinforcement of teamwork." The all-salaried approach has resulted in an absenteeism rate of less than 1%. Attention to quality, whether as a result of teamwork or QS 9000 processes, has paid big dividends for Dana Hopkinsville. Since opening in 1990, the plant has delivered every product on time. Team Mates produced 1.2 million Saturn cradles with zero rejects in 1995-97. Saturn recognized the plant for its quality record by honoring it with its Outstanding Supplier of the Year Award in 1996. In many of its production processes, Dana Hopkinsville consistently has demonstrated continuous improvement. During the last five years it has reduced manufacturing cycle time on its S-Series frames by 23%. Standard order-to-shipment leadtime on that same product has been reduced 67%. Total inventory has been reduced 23% in the last five years, and product-development cycle time has been reduced 40%. According to Jan Turczynski, excellence-in-manufacturing manager, in four years the plant has reduced work-in-process inventory from 20 days to one day. The plant also has achieved a 26.5% improvement in sales per full-time-equivalent employee during the last five years. To support its continuous-improvement efforts, Dana Hopkinsville frequently conducts benchmarking studies and visits. In the last three years, 47 benchmarking studies and 190 competitive analysis studies have been done. "Eighty percent of the people participating in benchmarking trips are off the plant floor," says Pilleri. "That helps develop camaraderie." By benchmarking a weld-testing process at Deere & Co. and Saturn, the plant was able to reduce destructive testing time by 50% and save more than $20,000 per year. It also was able to eliminate a serious safety hazard. "Originally, in order to make sure that spot welds were good, we had to take a hammer and chisel to break the weld," says Pilleri. "Instead of doing that, we now use a high-frequency ultrasound wave to test the weld." Strong partnerships with suppliers also have been key to the plants success. Dana Hopkinsville monitors 10 items upon every delivery. These include quality, part identification, delivery-to-want date, and material condition. The results of the tracking are posted on a large "ring board" in the plant. Supplier performance is reviewed monthly, and each is provided with information on the 10 measurements along with inventory levels, minimum forecasts for 13 weeks, and future trends of production needs. Dana Hopkinsvilles goal is to find companies as close to the plant as possible with a proven track record in quality, service, and cost. In the last three years, the plant has reduced its number of suppliers from 23 to 18. To help communicate with its suppliers and customers, Dana Hopkinsville uses the Internet. The plant electronically monitors rail cars -- its primary shipping resource -- and receives shipping and inventory information from its primary steel supplier on a weekly basis. Team Mates also use the Internet to monitor customers and competitors, search for global suppliers, and investigate new technologies and applications related to their industry. In an operation where welding and electric coating take place, environmental protection is vital. Weld exhaust systems have been improved to reduce particulates and clean the air before it exits the plant. By introducing a process to slow down particulates in the plants exhaust system, the facility has cut filter costs in the smoke collector from $270,568 in 1993 to $13,502 last year. Dana Hopkinsville also has reduced the cost of treating its wastewater. Claude Schneck, facilities engineer, says that while it cost $393 to treat a 7,000-gallon tank of water in 1993, this year costs have dropped to as low as $57 a batch. Dana Corp. recently awarded the plant its Environmental Health & Safety Award for the second year in a row. Through its Dana Cares team, which has the largest number of members of any of the 98 teams, Dana Hopkinsville has made significant contributions to the surrounding community. The team organizes events such as clothing, food, and blood drives, as well as Special Olympics. The team also coordinates such events as the annual company picnic and childrens Christmas party. Team Mates serve as volunteers or on boards for such organizations as the Southern Kentucky Industries Development Council, the Alpha Alternative Pregnancy Care Center, the Mayors Disability Committee, and United Way.


At A Glance
  • 100% on-time delivery to customers.
  • 100% of employees are stockholders.
  • Less than 1% absenteeism.
  • 72 hours of training before hiring.
  • 98 different work teams.
  • 70% of management promoted off plant floor.
  • Workers compensation costs reduced 88% since 1991.
  • Ideas program has generated 99,570 ideas since 1990.
  • Saturn Outstanding Supplier of the Year Award in 1996.
  • 47 benchmarking visits in last three years.
  • First-pass yield of 98.6%.
  • 100% empowered work teams.
  • 100% salaried workforce.
  • Order-to-shipment leadtime reduced 67% in last five years.
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