Note: IndustryWeek is hosting the Excellence in Action tour of the E-Z-GO plant on Sept. 25. To register click here.
Our tour of the award-winning manufacturing facility comes as the company prepares for the introduction of several new models.
While E-Z-GO's name implies a certain degree of ease, the reliability and quality of its products stems from a constant effort at improvement and growth.
The Augusta, Ga., facility produces some 100,000 golf cars, commercial utility vehicles and recreation vehicles annually under the E-Z-GO, Cushman and Bad Boy Buggies brands. The state-of-the-art manufacturing facility will be on display for attendees at IndustryWeek's Excellence in Action tour on September 25.
Today, the plant serves as the global headquarters and the manufacturing heart of the company, with a campus of five buildings, nearly 750,000 square feet of space and approximately 800 people.
Currently, the plant has a major new product introduction effort underway as at least five new models have either just entered production or will before the end of the year.
The facility wasn't always the favored destination for new work. In 2002, E-Z-GO's parent, Textron, made it very clear that the division was not well-regarded and couldn't be trusted to fabricate parts for a new product. With the writing on the wall for the plant's future, managers and employees embarked on a high-successful continuous improvement journey that not only allowed it to keep the work it had, but bring in-house fabrication of components that were being outsourced to overseas suppliers.
E-Z-GO's transformation has been so successful that it has won both IndustryWeek's Best Plants award and the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence in 2009.
To help drive the lean manufacturing culture, the company has provided ongoing training to all employees in lean concepts and techniques. Each hourly employee has a continuous improvement goal, usually focused on their workstation or immediate work area. The facility has 27 green belts engaged in a variety of their own projects, as well as contributing to a black belt project. E-Z-GO also has 6 black belts, with two more coming on board in October, who work on larger-scale projects around the facility.
The facility has continued its efforts to bring new work in-house. When the firm acquired the Bad Boy Buggies line in late 2010, it soon set about making changes to a building to allow the buggies to be made there. Some warehousing was moved offsite and a new manufacturing line set up says Brandon Haddock, director of communications, that will "produce higher quality frames at a better cost."
No one doubts that the key to E-Z-GO's success has been the engagement of its employees. Last year for example, says Dwayne Brabham, group leader, continuous improvement, an employee had a suggestion for an operation in the machine shop that had to be shut down for four to five hours each month to clean out metal shavings from the pit underneath. Why not install a magnetic conveyor to continuously remove the shavings, the employee inquired. Plant officials found it would be more cost-effective and made the change.
"We're consistently amazed by the creativity of our employees and their willingness to engage and find new ways to improve our operation," said Haddock. "It has become a huge part of the culture here. Over the years, we have moved from huge kaizen projects where you are pulling multiple people in for a few days or a week to examine a process end-to- end to find ways to drive productivity on an everyday basis, everybody looking for ways large and small to improve our operations."
Factory Driving Sales
Plant officials have referred to their factory as a "sales weapon."
"We have had numerous customers tell us their visit was a critical decision factor in their purchase decision," says Haddock. "They're so impressed by the engagement of our employees, their observations about our facility, its technology and lean operations, it drives their decision."
E-Z-GO's quest for improvement has kept the facility humming and contributed mightily to its financial health. Despite the challenges facing the golf industry, say Haddock, "We had a very good year in 2011 and, knock on wood, to date 2012 has also been a very good year for us."
For more information on the E-Z-GO tour on September 25, click here.