General Cable Corp. Moose Jaw Plant, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada
Employees: 39, non-union
Total square footage: 56,000
Primary product: Insulated underground electrical cable
Achievements: Increased revenue by 21.5% in 2004. Decreased costs last year by US$360,000. Has first-pass yield of 99.6%, more than four percentage points above industry average. In-plant defect rate reduction of 72% during the past three years. Production employees and total workforce are 100% self-directed. The plant has operated for more than 17 years and 1.3 million man-hours without a lost-time injury.
Some residents claim not much changes in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, a city of just under 35,000 people on the Canadian prairie, a place where a trip across town takes only about 10 minutes -- even during the punishing winters.
But residents are wrong about the absence of change. In Moose Jaw, at General Cable Corp.'s plant, change is continuous, generally positive and often dramatic. In 2004, operating costs were cut by US$360,000, and revenue rose 21.5% at the facility, which annually turns out about 20 million feet of black-jacketed underground electrical cable, enough to channel from Los Angeles to New York and half way back across the U.S. again. The cable goes to utility-company customers in North America.
All of the plant's 31 production employees participate in self-directed work teams. Most with post-secondary school diplomas or certificates, these employees operate equipment, do preventive maintenance, pursue quality assurance, conduct safety and housekeeping audits, hold kaizen events and take part in the hiring of associates at the 56,000 square-foot plant. Sixteen of the production workers are completely cross-trained and multiskilled, and the other 15 are at various levels in their cross-training programs. At Moose Jaw, a person can go from being a leader to a support technician, equipment operator to maintenance technician, or quality inspector to improvement planner all within a single shift. "We have a basic belief that people want to participate in improvement, [that] they don't want to be pigeon-holed into a job where they have limited boundaries," Funke stresses.
The plant's three production teams, one for each of its three shifts, are supported by technical coordinators for production, quality, maintenance, finance and process improvement. With the exception of the finance person and two office coordinators, these coordinators are all former production workers. All coordinators are cross-trained and multiskilled.
In 2004, performance-improvement projects employing lean techniques cut costs by $61,492; those using lean Six Sigma methods saved $45,767; kaizen blitzes produced $41,955 in savings; and Six Sigma black belt and green belt projects reduced costs by a combined $43,080. Projects based on the use of statistical quality control by machine operators saved $67,151. By setting stretch goals, employing cross-functional teams and following a Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control process, Funke says, the plant has been able to deliver impressive improvements, such as reducing scrap by 57% to a level of 1.6% of the cost of goods sold, the best among the six energy-cable plants within General Cable.
Funke talks repeatedly about the wisdom of sharing metrics with workers and challenging them to find ways to reduce waste and, thus, costs. Sometimes the answer is as simple as reducing rpms and seeing what happens. On Moose Jaw's triple extrusion line that simple step cut scrap in half. "Giving people who are running the machines the information is just paramount," Funke says. "You can set up your cellular structure, you can cross-train your people, you can use lean tools, but if you don't give people information to drive improvement, there's no enthusiasm."
IndustryWeek is now accepting nominations for the 2006 IW Best Plants Program.