The IndustryWeek Best Plants program is an annual celebration of world-class manufacturing and continuous improvement practices within North American companies. All well and good, but when it comes to determining which 10 factories are truly the "best plants," perhaps the most important distinction is their effectiveness.
Just how effective, for instance, are the employees at Cargill Corn Milling-Team Wahpeton? Effective enough that the larger Cargill business unit has pulled many personnel from the North Dakota manufacturing plant and placed them elsewhere to share their expertise among other Cargill locations. Indeed, since 1997 more than 60 workers from Team Wahpeton have been promoted to locations outside of Wahpeton. And in the past year, more than a third of Team Wahpeton employees have spent significant time at other Cargill operations to help with projects, troubleshoot and provide expertise.
At General Cable-Indianapolis Compounds, multifunctional employees are vital to keeping this plant running effectively and efficiently. Indeed, 100% of the hourly production associates with more than a year's experience are cross-trained in all three of the facility's production job classifications. The plant, which produces polymeric compounds, also benefits from a strong corporate manufacturing excellence program that spreads best practices across the entire General Cable enterprise.
Autoliv North America - Tremonton Initiator Facility
Batesville Casket Co. -- Vicksburg Operations
Blue Bird North Georgia
Cargill Corn Milling -- Team Wahpeton
DST Output of California, LLC
General Cable - Indianapolis Compounds
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control at Ocala
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control at Orlando
Medrad Inc., Heilman Center Plant
Rieter Automotive Canadian Carpet
DST Output of California LLC, in El Dorado Hills, Calif., writes in its 2007 IW Best Plants application: "Each step of the production process receives constant scrutiny to combine the latest technology and employee bright ideas to improve speed and quality." This facility, which produces first-class mail products such as statements and invoices for clients, is a two-time IW Best Plants winner. Its earlier honor occurred in 2002.
And at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando -- one of two Lockheed Martin plants whose stories are told in the following pages -- and Autoliv North America-Tremonton Initiator Facility, and others, kaizen events help drive improvements throughout the facilities.
These six plants, as well as the other four that comprise IndustryWeek's 10 Best Plants in 2007, are engaging their employees, deploying new technologies and collaborating with their supply chain partners as they pursue efforts to be the best. They're deploying a wide variety of technologies, while manufacturing a very diverse group of products. And by no stretch of the imagination are their improvement methodologies all patterned on identical models.
So other than their effectiveness, are there other common traits that describe all the IW Best Plants? Yes -- all of them are aligned in an unending pursuit of excellence and an understanding that such a state has not been reached. They're aligned in recognizing that they can't be leaders in their industries without their employees' support. And they're aligned in a mission of successfully tackling the challenges of being a 21st century North American manufacturer.
The metrics tell the tale: Customers of Lockheed Martin's Orlando facility benefit from the plant's on-time delivery rate of 100%. First-pass yield at Cargill's Team Wahpeton is 98.2%. Among the 10 IW Best Plants winners, scrap and rework costs are a median .5% of sales and standard order to shipment leadtime is down a median 41% in the past five years.
Also worth repeating is the mantra of many an IW Best Plants winner, both former and current: Be on the lookout for good ideas everywhere. In these following pages, you can be certain to find many good ideas in your own continuous improvement efforts.
As a final note, the 2007 IW Best Plants stories aren't confined to these magazine pages alone. The online versions contain additional Web-exclusive best practices -- and even a short video. See the Best Plants section for more.
How They Made The Top 10
IndustryWeek began accepting nominations for the 2007 IW Best Plants awards in October 2006. Approximately 165 plants were nominated as leaders in their industries. A panel of IW editors reviewed the completed 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 21 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 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.
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 2007 Best Plants winners. Sign up today.
IndustryWeek is pleased to announce that representatives of the 2007 winners will be presenting their stories at the annual IW Best Plants conference, scheduled for April 1-3, 2008, in Milwaukee. Look for continuing informational updates on the IW Best Plants conference Web site.
IndustryWeek is now accepting nominations for the 2008 IndustryWeek Best Plants competition. Manufacturing facilities in the United States, Canada and Mexico are eligible. To nominate a facility, use the nomination form.