Siegel-Robert Automotive Farmington: IW Best Plants Profile 2006

Sept. 15, 2006
Best Of Times In A Tough Industry: Technical expertise and lean are key to one auto supplier's success.

Siegel-Robert Automotive Farmington, Farmington, Mo.

Employees: 625, non-union

Total square footage: 500,000

Primary products: Chrome and acrylic automotive nameplates, interior and exterior trim, and grills

Start-up: 2001

Achievements: ISO/TS-16949 certification in March 2004; 2005 Toyota Service Kaizen Award; 2005 Missouri Environmental Management Partner

It is not the best of times to be an auto supplier. But don't tell that to Siegel-Robert Automotive Farmington. This plant combines technical expertise in chrome plating and injection molding with lean manufacturing principles to profitably make products for a range of automotive OEMs, including Toyota, General Motors, Honda, DaimlerChrysler, Nissan, Ford and motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson.

IW's 2006 Best Plants

See the other winners of IW's 2006 Best Plants award and find out how they made the top ten.With a vision for a lean greenfield plant, Siegel-Robert gutted an old Huffy bicycle operation in Farmington, Mo., in 2001. "We started with a mission to make a facility with people that were well trained and could offer the best product, best price and best service to our customer base," says Greg Barenbrugge, assistant plant manager. The plant steadily improved, at one point merging in work from other facilities -- literally overnight -- while maintaining high quality (just 108-ppm customer rejects) and delivery standards (99.6% on-time delivery in 2005).

The plant produces more than 150,000 parts per day, mostly chrome-plated or acrylic nameplates and emblems. Dozens of injection-molding machines (44-ton to 550-ton presses, 23 for ABS plastics and 12 for acrylics, most supported by six-axis robots) and chemistry-intensive plating processes run as much as 24 hours a day, six days a week. A separate service area handles low-demand products for older-model vehicles. Most products receive adhesive backings and some get decorative finishings before they are packaged, staged and shipped to 150 different locations.

The plant typically carries two to three days' worth of finished-goods inventory or levels based on customer requirements. Despite the plant's high mix -- some 600 SKUs (1,800 counting older models) -- inventories are kept lean via a focus on small batches and quick-changeover techniques. Up to 50 changeovers alone occur daily on molding machines that feed the plating operation.

A Motoman Robot removes molded parts from a 220-ton Cincinnati Milacron electric injection molding machine.Farmington's success relies on keeping machines running and producing high quality. Using Datastream MP2 as its computerized maintenance management system, maintenance data are constantly compiled to establish predictive maintenance schedules and work orders.

A quality-control staff of 28 people also regularly monitors plated-component specifications.

"We verify what the plater is doing every day," says Rich Easley, quality assurance manager. Tests ensure products can handle a range of environments. (One test simulates more than 100 days in the Florida sunshine, heat and humidity.) Each day approximately 340 racks loaded with 120,000 parts move through plating, with a fallout rate of just 3% to 4%.

Siegel-Robert pioneered chrome-plated plastics in the 1960s. The Farmington plant continues the pioneering ways, introducing specialty finishes such as satin and smoked chrome. Technology clearly provides a competitive edge, however; Mike Newkirk, plant manager, emphasizes, "Things that are a struggle in other plants happen pretty smoothly here because of the quality of the workforce."

In September the plant began shipping fully assembled grills for the Acura MDX that combines injected-molded, plated and painted components.

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Leading With Lean

Starting the Siegel-Robert Automotive Farmington plant as a lean greenfield got the facility off on the right foot, but as anyone who's progressed down a lean path knows, sustaining and improving lean can be challenging. The Missouri plant, though, hasn't missed the next step, continuing on a successful lean journey by focusing on practices such as:

  • Value-stream mapping: A value-stream board on the shopfloor identifies the current state of product flow throughout the plant, and starbursts on the board represent improvement opportunities and kaizens. Rob Hardesty, lean manufacturing coordinator, says the plant has identified the top 85% of its revenue-producing value steams. Value-stream managers then identify the subprocesses in those streams that pose the most opportunities for improvement and map those in detail. "We started off with door-to-door [mapping], raw material comes in, finished product goes out. What we're starting to focus on is process mapping," he says. Hardesty adds that the plant also began mapping the value stream and creating standard work instructions for each new product launch.
  • Kaizen improvements: The plant conducted 77 kaizen events in 2005, focusing improvement activities primarily on issues that can reduce costs or reinforce lean. "Anywhere that we can drive cost out of the product and the process, [kaizen] is what we use," says Greg Barenbrugge, assistant plant manager. A kaizen event last year in partnership with Toyota sought to improve delivery times and reduce the amount of shipping waste at the OEM. The result was switching from common carriers to smaller lots sent via overnight services, earning Farmington a Toyota Service Kaizen Award (only five such awards are given each year). Other kaizens in the plant address lean principles, adds Hardesty, such as one to better organize MRO storage and others to improve workplace organization and visual management.
  • Hoshin kanri: Key to improving is having a target. Siegel-Robert Automotive recently began a new hoshin kanri (i.e., policy deployment) strategy to translate companywide goals and objectives down to the plant level and then throughout facilities. "Each manager is responsible for creating their own goals and objectives in support of that [corporate plan]. ... It's focusing on continuous improvement," says Hardesty.
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IndustryWeek is now accepting nominations for the 2007 IW Best Plants Program.
The plant incorporates many other lean-manufacturing tenets such as quick changeovers, process standardization, small lots (where possible), reducing or eliminating "the eight wastes" (correction, overproduction, motion, material movement, waiting, inventory, processing, and talent), and 5S and visual management. The clean, orderly, clearly marked facility is chock full of visual systems that enhance performance as well as help improve safety. (OSHA rates are a fraction of industry standards.) In addition to visual cues, each shift starts with group sessions to understand recent performance and what's occurred in an area, the daily schedule, and potential maintenance activities. A Tradition Of Injection Molding And Plating Expertise

Siegel-Robert has a long history of plating and injection-molding expertise, dating back to its founding by Henry Siegel and Bruce Robert in 1946 and the pioneering of chrome-plated plastics in the 1960s. The Farmington plant -- which makes chrome and acrylic automotive nameplates, trim, and grills -- keeps up that tradition, introducing new chrome finishes (satin and smoked) and finding new ways to optimize molding machines and processes.

Molding machines in Farmington range from 44-ton to 550-ton and include 23 for ABS that feed a chrome-plating operation, 12 machines for acrylics, and other presses in a small-lot service department. The plant has high uptime with molding machines (99%) and high flexibility -- all but one of the machines supplying the plating operation is equipped with quick-change devices, enabling the plant to run a variety of parts on many of the machines.

"We can roll a mold with quick-change plates on it, put it into position, unhook the quick connects, pull the one out, shift over, push the other one in, hook it up, and literally make a mold change in about 10 minutes," says Greg Barenbrugge, assistant plant manager. Four set-up operators and one material-handler maintain all 23 machines per shift in the plating area, and some machines run 24 hours a day, six days a week.

In the plating area molding machines are automatically fed from silos, and materials handlers routinely move through the area taking away hoppers that contain runners (recyclable stems that connect plastic components) and a minimal amount of scrap, dumping hoppers, and returning hoppers. All ABS runners and scrap are reground on-site and go back into production. Even product that has been plated is recycled by an outside operation that separates metals from plastics. Some acrylic runners and scrap also are reground and introduced back into production.

All but two of the plant's molding machines were brought in with the startup of the plant back in 2001, but they were not designed for quick changeovers; many initial changeover times were an hour or more, notes Rob Hardesty, lean manufacturing coordinator. "We're doing about 50 changeovers a day in this department [that supplies plating], and the supervisor wants to do a kaizen event because he wants to get to 80 changeovers a day."

More changeovers allow for lower inventories and processes that get gradually closer to one-piece flow prior to plating (for ABS) and vacuum metalizing (for some acrylics). But plating and metalizing processes pose economy-of-scale barriers (i.e., although Farmington could plate a single component, it's cost effective to plate batches of approximately 500). About every four minutes a rack of injected parts goes into the plater, with each rack containing from 75 to 2,000 pieces. "It's nice to talk about one-piece flow, but [in plating] that doesn't work," says Mike Newkirk, plant manager.

Each day approximately 340 racks move from molding through a variety of metal-based baths in plating: about 120,000 chrome parts per day, quality yield through injection molding of approximately 99%, and fallout rate in plating of just 3% to 4%. Another 30,000 parts go through the acrylic process daily with similar yields.

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