These days, while tales of U.S. manufacturing's woes are well documented, less so are its stories of excellence. The 2008 IndustryWeek Best Plants winners provide some of those stories, and they do so in myriad ways.
At Greatbatch in Alden, N.Y., there is a strong focus on lean manufacturing, including the creation of standard work. The standard work is not simply for production associates, however, as it also extends to the leadership team. For example, among the standard work for J. Michael Druding, operations director-Alden, is a weekly report card to a customer addressing shipments for the week. On Tuesdays, he attends the weekly engineering meeting.
Travel south and you come upon Nordson Corp.'s Swainsboro Assembly facility in Georgia. Among the toughest tasks in any improvement initiative is maintaining the gains. First an IW Best Plants finalist in 2007 and now a winner in 2008, Nordson has demonstrated a level of consistent excellence that is difficult to achieve. Cross-training helps spread the knowledge among this workforce of 67.
Head up to New England and drop in on General Cable Corp.'s Manchester, N.H., plant. This facility, which makes electronics and communications wire, operates from a historic building that makes certain continuous improvement measures a challenge. A challenge, maybe, but not an insurmountable obstacle by any stretch. Indeed, among its accomplishments the plant has reduced its manufacturing cycle time by 60% in the past three years.
And at DST Output East in Connecticut and Lockheed Martin MS2 Tactical Systems -- Clearwater Operations, located in Florida, the judicious introduction and integration of leading-edge technologies are making their presence felt.
These five plants, as well as the additional five that comprise IndustryWeek's 10 Best Plants in 2008, each have their own story to tell on their journey to world-class manufacturing. The products they make are different, the manufacturing processes they employ vary, and the demands of their customers present each with a different challenge.
What they all recognize, however, is that their pursuits of excellence continue. Not one would ever say, "We're as good as we can get" or "There's nothing more we can learn." Nor would they overlook the immense contributions their employees, their suppliers and their customers make to their own success.
And their success is significant: Among the 2008 IW Best Plants winners, the median finished-product first-pass yield is 98.6%. In the past three years, those same facilities have reduced their scrap and rework costs by a median 33.9%. And their on-time delivery? Again, it's nearly as good as it gets at a median 99%.
What the 2008 IW Best Plants winners also recognize is that good ideas come from everywhere -- from every industry sector, from both process and discrete manufacturers, from plants of every size, and even from outside of manufacturing. As IndustryWeek notes every year -- and it bears repeating -- in these following pages, you can be certain to find many good ideas to assist your own improvement efforts.
IW's 2008 Best Plants
Baxter Mexico S.A. de C.V.
Jiutepec, Morelos, Mexico
San German, Puerto Rico
DST Output East LLC
South Windsor, Conn.
General Cable -- Manchester Plant
Nordson Corp. --
Swainsboro Assembly Facility
Thermo Fisher Scientific LLC
UT Electronic Controls (UTEC), a unit of Carrier Corp.
To read more about this year's 10 winning factories, subscribe to the IW Continuous Improvement newsletter, which features best practices and the lessons learned from the management teams of the 2008 Best Plants winners. Sign up today.
IndustryWeek is pleased to announce that representatives of the 2008 winners will be presenting their stories at the annual IW Best Plants conference, scheduled for April 27-29, 2009, in Nashville. Look for continuing informational updates on the IW Best Plants conference Web site.
IndustryWeek is now accepting application requests for the 2009 IndustryWeek Best Plants competition. Manufacturing facilities in the United States, Canada and Mexico are eligible. To request an application, either for your facility or another, use the online form on the IW Best Plants competition site.