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The Big Picture: Leadership Insights from the IW Best Plants -- DJO Aims to Never Stop Getting Better

The Big Picture: Leadership Insights from the IW Best Plants -- DJO Aims to Never Stop Getting Better

Benchmarking helps DJO improve customer service while maintaining a competitive advantage over its competition.

Why is benchmarking important? Not nearly enough companies even in today's competitive market spend enough time on it. How do you know if you are keeping up or being left behind? At DJO (formerly dj Orthopedics), benchmarking is part of the way we go about achieving our company mission and objectives in our operations around the world.

Since achieving an IW Best Plants award for our Mexico facility in 2004 and our Vista operation in 2005, we have continued to use benchmarking extensively. We frequently enter benchmarking award competitions in manufacturing, product development, human resources, quality and other areas to see not only how we stack up against the industry, but also to learn new ideas, best practices and more.

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Since earning the Best Plants awards, sustaining our lean journey and continuing to move forward with the development of the DJO way -- our culture of continuous improvement -- has been a key focus. In fact, this process has been largely based on learning from other companies and our own experience. The practical experience of what business tools actually work best is one of the foundations of the DJO way, and has allowed us to grow significantly since 2005.

In 2006, DJO acquired its largest competitor and integrated the acquired business into our lean model. Several other businesses were acquired in 2006 and 2007 and underwent the lean transformation as well. During the integrations, the goals of the DJO way are always pursued:

  1. Improve the customer experience
  2. Improve quality
  3. Reduce lead time
  4. Reduce total costs

2009 IW Best Plants Conference

Click here for more information about the IW 2009 Best Plants Conference.

Effectively transforming to a lean culture was of particular importance during the merger of DJO and ReAble Therapeutics in late 2007. The newly combined company created the world's largest orthopedic rehabilitation firm with 5,000 employees, 18 major sites and nearly $1 billion in annual revenues. Much of the heritage ReAble organization was new to lean concepts, creating a great opportunity to utilize continuous improvement. Through the rollout of the DJO way, employing kaizen events and continuous improvement projects, the company was able to increase revenues while keeping costs nearly flat during 2008. The savings achieved were of particular importance during the commodities increases that year. The various teams' lean efforts more than offset the increases in metals and oil-related products.

For example, in 2008, the global DJO organization completed 148 formal kaizen events or "blitzes" to achieve the following results:

  • Lead time reduced by 59%
  • Productivity improved by 43%
  • Space needed reduced by 30%
  • Inventory reduced by 32%
  • Changeover times reduced by 42%

In a challenging economy, results like these and continuing to drive for improvement are critical for success. And at DJO, we know that we need to keep measuring, keep benchmarking and keep striving to get better everyday.

This year three of our "new" DJO plants will be applying for the IW Best Plants award to start the formal benchmarking and award process. Whether they win is not as important as the learning achieved during the process. Luke Faulstick, our company's chief operating officer, says, "Winning awards is great, but the real reason we benchmark is to help us continually make our businesses and factories better so we can improve the service to our customers and maintain a competitive advantage over our competition."

There's a great sense of accomplishment that comes with achieving the Best Plants recognition, no matter how long it takes to realize it. Lean, like life, is a journey and you're never really finished. It's just like we state in our company's motto: "Never stop getting better!"

Jerry M. Wright, P.E., is vice president, Lean and Enterprise Excellence, with DJO Inc., a maker of a broad range of orthopedic rehabilitation products. DJO's Vista, Calif., facility was an IW Best Plants winner in 2005, and the DJO facility in Tijuana, Mexico, was an IW Best Plants winner in 2004.

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