It's all about automation and operator expertise at AK Steel's Rockport (Ind.) Works, an 8-year-old steel finishing facility that produces flat rolled carbon, stainless and electrical steels with first-pass yields approaching 99%. Down in Fairfax, S.C., Scotsman Ice Systems turns to the Toyota Production System (TPS) for many of its improvement initiatives.
Farther south, General Cable de Latinoamerica, which manufactures telecommunications cable and service wire, has embraced a Lean-Six Sigma philosophy. The factory, located in Tetla, Tlaxcala, Mexico, benefits as well from a strong corporate commitment to manufacturing excellence. And over at Magee Rieter Automotive Systems in Bloomsburg, Pa., cooperative, not contentious, describes the labor/management relationship at this automotive carpet manufacturer. It's a relationship that allows a lean manufacturing philosophy to flourish and excellent performance metrics to follow. The performances of these four North American factories and the six others that comprise this year's 10 IW Best Plants tell a tale of manufacturing excellence. For example, 2006 IW Best Plants winners have reduced their manufacturing cycle times a median 26% over the past three years. Their order-to-shipment lead times have declined a median 24% in that same timeframe. And their on-time delivery approaches 99%.
Batesville Casket Co. -- Batesville Operations
Cordis de Mexico S.A. de C.V.
General Cable de Latinoamerica S.A de C.V.
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control -- Camden Operations
Magee Rieter Automotive Systems
National Gypsum Co.
Schneider Electric, Peru Operations
Scotsman Ice Systems
Siegel-Robert Automotive Farmington
IW Best Plants' specific routes to these achievements may vary, but they still share common themes. For instance, the 2006 IW Best Plants invest in the most appropriate IT and production technologies. They hire the best people and then provide training so they will be even better. Their leadership encourages everyone's best efforts toward a common goal. And they are unrelenting in their focus on continually improving their processes. "Relentless obsession for continuous improvement" is how Chihuahua-based Cordis de Mexico describes its efforts.
More specifically, the 2006 IW Best Plants provided a median 43 annual hours of formal training. That's both on-the-job and classroom training. Fully 80% of them provide rewards for team or individual performance. That includes Scotsman Ice Systems, which recognizes individuals, teams and departments on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. According to Scotsman, "The recognition system objectives are to have a means for recognizing, documenting and publicizing excellence in the workplace to reinforce positive actions."
In the IT arena, most of the IW Best Plants have implemented enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, material requirements planning (MRP) systems, computerized maintenance management systems and advanced planning and scheduling systems. EDI remains a popular tool, as are mobile management and wireless systems.
Lean manufacturing -- appropriately applied -- clearly provides IW Best Plants with a portion of their competitive edge. Fully 90% of them are widely deploying JIT and/or continuous-flow production methods, as well as internal pull systems with kanban signals. Standardized work is a given among the winners. And a majority have adopted cellular manufacturing processes.
Finally, benchmarking is or should be a component of all manufacturers' improvement initiatives. IndustryWeek's Best Plants winners have always embraced good ideas wherever they can find them. You can find them here. The winning profiles deliver many ideas to help you on your own path to manufacturing excellence.
How They Made The Top 10
IndustryWeek began accepting nominations for the 2006 Best Plants awards in October of last year. Nearly 200 plants were nominated as leaders in their industries. A panel of IW editors reviewed the applications, which reported management practices and plant performance in such areas as quality, customer and supplier relations, employee involvement, application of new technologies, productivity, cost reductions, manufacturing flexibility and responsiveness, inventory management, environmental and safety performance, new-product development, and overall market results. Selection of the final winners from the list of 25 finalists was aided by a team of outside experts: Sherrie Ford, principal, Change Partners LLC; Robert Hall of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence; and Kenneth J. McGuire of the Management Excellence Action Coalition. Their evaluations, along with additional information provided by the finalists, were considered in the final stage of judging. The selections did not become final until site visits by IW editors to validate the performance data and management practices reported in the applications.
IndustryWeek is pleased to announce that representatives of the 2006 winners will be presenting their stories at the annual IW Best Plants conference, scheduled for April 24-25, 2007, in Indianapolis. Look for continuing informational updates on the IW Best Plants conference Web site.
IndustryWeek is now accepting nominations for the 2007 IndustryWeek Best Plants competition. Manufacturing facilities in the United States, Canada, and Mexico are eligible. To nominate a facility, use the nomination form.
To read more about this year's 10 winning factories, subscribe to the IW Continuous Improvement newsletter, which features best practices and the lessons learned from the management teams of the 2006 Best Plants winners. Sign up today.