Manufacturing Hall of Fame 2012 Inductee: Lewis Campbell

Dec. 17, 2012
As the CEO of Textron in the 2000s, Lewis Campbell spearheaded one of the most impressive corporate transformations in modern manufacturing history. In 2002, Campbell launched Textron Six Sigma, which has become a fabric of the company’s operations. 

When Lewis Campbell was named CEO of Textron Inc. (IW 500/100) in July 1998, the industrial conglomerate seemed to be on a roll. 

Textron -- whose portfolio of companies includes Bell Helicopter, Cessna Aircraft and E-Z-Go -- was in the midst of a 40-quarter run of year-over-year net-income or earnings-per-share improvement. Beginning in May 1999, when its stock peaked at $98 per share, Textron recorded six consecutive quarters of year-over-year EPS growth of more than 15%. 

"My birthday is in May, and I remember thinking to myself, having been CEO for about a year, 'Gosh, this job is great. It's not going to get any better than this,'" Lewis recalls.

See Also: Manufacturing Hall of Fame: Meet the Class of 2012

Lewis had no idea how right he would be. By late 2001, Textron's stock had dropped to around $30 per share, operating income was deteriorating and it had become clear that Textron's EPS-focused business model -- which was the catalyst for a slew of ill-advised acquisitions -- wasn't working. 

That perfect storm, however, set the stage for one of the most impressive corporate transformations in modern manufacturing history.

Under Campbell's leadership, Textron shed non-core businesses -- most notably its automotive-trim unit in 2001 -- and restructured the company to take advantage of common processes and shared services. Campbell and top managers also decided that return on invested capital -- not earnings per share -- should be the company's key financial metric. 

In 2002, Campbell launched a companywide continuous-improvement program -- Textron Six Sigma -- which, Textron says, "has become part of the very fabric of our company." Today, more than 95% of Textron's global leadership team has attained green-belt certification.

A mechanical engineer by trade, Campbell joined Textron in 1992 as COO after a 24-year career with General Motors Co. (IW 500/4). He retired from Textron in 2009, only to be lured out of retirement in August 2012 by commercial-truck maker Navistar International Corp. (IW 500/86)

"You're going to be amazed at the progress you see at Navistar," Campbell says. "It's a company that I think you'll see turn the corner much more rapidly than most people would guess."

For a full list of the Manufacturing Hall of Fame inductees, click here.

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