Landis+Gyr: IW Best Plants Profile 2010

Dec. 14, 2010
Smart Decisions: Landis+Gyr pursues high-volume production excellence with a keen focus on developing the best people and processes.

Landis+Gyr Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico

Employees: 667, union

Total Square Footage: 100,000

Primary Products/Market: residential electricity meters

Start-Up Date: 1997

Achievements: 99% finished product first-pass yield for Focus AL meter; 90% reduction in OSHA-recordable injury and illness cases in past three years; 22% manufacturing cycle time reduction on two production lines in past three years

A lot of smart activity occurs at Landis+Gyr's manufacturing operation in Reynosa, Mexico, beginning with the product it makes. Located just over the border from McAllen, Texas, the 100,000-square-foot facility produces electricity meters primarily for residential but also for commercial and industrial use. They largely are "smart" meters that record consumption and communicate the information back to the utility or consumer. Certain versions provide utilities with the ability to remotely disconnect or limit service.

Consuelo Denise Guzman conducts a meter audit, one of multiple quality checks employed at Landis+Gyr.

"Smart" is also how the facility operates. At the top, annual strategic planning drives the plant's goals as well as the action plans required to meet those goals. Formal progress reviews assure that well-laid plans do not go astray or get ignored.

"You give people tools and a vision to make [improvement] happen, and it will happen," says Aubrey Williams, vice president of operations.

Landis+Gyr's manufacturing strategy is to employ lean principles such as one-piece flow and flexible production cells to meet or exceed customers' requirements. Primarily a high-volume tabletop assembly operation, Landis+Gyr's attention to quality is readily apparent in its neat, brightly lit factory where banners suspended from the ceiling share word of new orders. Production lines are dotted with automated poka-yoke (mistake-proofing) processes that prevent product from moving to the next station unless components are correctly positioned. Additionally, quality alert buttons are embedded along the production lines. When they observe potential defects, operators can and do stop a line by pressing one of the buttons, which also draws immediate action from a team of trouble-shooters. The Reynosa operation also has a formal Six Sigma program.

IW's 2010 Best Plants

See the other winners of IW's 2010 Best Plants award and find out how they made the top ten.

Landis+Gyr, which is certified to the ISO 9001:2008 quality management standard, extends its quality concentration beyond its four walls to suppliers. The facility forges strategic partnerships with major suppliers to jointly improve cost, lead time and quality. For example, in 2010 engineers from the facility have been engaged in a Six Sigma project with a supplier, aimed at reducing defects and improving processes related to repair and rework.

Within its four walls, Landis+Gyr smartly recognizes that its pursuit of excellence is driven by a motivated, prepared work force. To that end, the facility provides significant training to assure the plant is populated with personnel who can ably tackle high-volume production demands. In the past four years, the plant has increased shipments by 133%.

Midlevel manager training is one example of Landis+Gyr's work force efforts. Employees who show potential for higher-level positions are nominated to the training by their supervisors. The training spans six months and is taught by senior management, who present lessons in their areas of expertise. Among the lessons taught by Williams is "It's Okay to Be the Boss," which shares lessons from a book by the same name. Approximately 70 employees have completed the training in the past four years.

Ultimately the plant's aim is to be the smart meter integrator of choice. As a result, complacency has no home at Landis+Gyr. The manufacturer remains tightly focused on improving its products, processes and costs.

"We are always moving forward, constantly willing to improve [and] try new things," says Armando Benavides, residential operations manager.

New Roof Coating Yields Cool Cost Savings

Landis+Gyr's 'Go Green' committee meets continuing challenges to reduce energy consumption.

Few manufacturers are more closely acquainted with energy consumption than Landis+Gyr. Its manufacturing facility located in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, annually produces millions of "smart" electricity meters every year -- meters that record consumption data and communicate the information to consumers and utilities.

However, the facility's focus on energy consumption doesn't end with the products it assembles. The plant's "Go Green" committee is challenged continually to identify energy-reduction opportunities within its four walls.

A recently completed project found such an opportunity a little farther afield -- up on the roof, to be more precise.

The project was prompted by the need for additional cooling within the 100,000-square-foot facility. The city of Reynosa typically gets quite warm in the summer; certain pieces of Landis+Gyr's equipment are temperature-sensitive; and the number of employees in the plant has been increasing. These three factors combined meant that extra air conditioning was needed to maintain the temperature within the plant.

Or was it?

Rather than simply resigning itself to purchasing additional air conditioning, Landis+Gyr took action. Its "Go Green" committee explored other options to meet its energy challenge, explains facilities manager Horacio Zavala, and found one in the form of a heat-reflecting coating for the roof.

The story doesn't end there. Landis+Gyr doesn't own the building it occupies, which meant the landlord would have to approve any coating for the roof. Not surprisingly, the landlord initially resisted the idea, concerned that putting a coating on the roof would void the roof warranty, according to Landis+Gyr. Undaunted, the Go Green committee found a coating that met its needs and the landlord's approval.

In May 2010 the coating was applied to the roof. The drop in temperature within the plant was immediate and welcome, say several of the plant's personnel. The coating application spared Landis+Gyr the need to purchase additional air conditioning, which would have been a more expensive solution, says Zavala.

Landis+Gyr's roofing solution also caught the attention of the state-owned utility. As a result of its "green" roof project, the facility was asked to be a keynote speaker at the utility's annual energy-savings forum in Reynosa.

About the Author

Jill Jusko

Bio: Jill Jusko is executive editor for IndustryWeek. She has been writing about manufacturing operations leadership for more than 20 years. Her coverage spotlights companies that are in pursuit of world-class results in quality, productivity, cost and other benchmarks by implementing the latest continuous improvement and lean/Six-Sigma strategies. Jill also coordinates IndustryWeek’s Best Plants Awards Program, which annually salutes the leading manufacturing facilities in North America.

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