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2011 IW Best Plants Winners: The Best Never Rest

Jan. 10, 2012
IndustryWeek's 2011 Best Plants winners pursue operational excellence with a determination that is both endless and relentless.

Each year, North American manufacturing facilities are pressured anew. They are pressured to do more with less; to provide better service, faster; to rein in costs but increase quality -- and to do it in the face of increasing competition and less-certain economic conditions. Some manufacturing facilities rise to the challenge; others do not.

IndustryWeek is proud to announce the 2011 class of IW Best Plants winners, 10 manufacturing plants that have risen to meet the challenge. Their weapon of choice: operational excellence.

The differences among the facilities are profound. Carrier Collierville, for example, manufactures air conditioners and heat pumps in large volumes, with a workforce that exceeds 1,000 employees and a manufacturing space greater than 800,000 square feet. At the opposite extreme, L.B. Foster Co., Allegheny Rail Products and its team of 19 in Pueblo, Colo., build insulated rail joints for the railroad industry in 50,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

Two plants are in Texas, the second-largest state in the Union. One sits in tiny Rhode Island. Six other states and Mexico play host to the seven additional members of the class of 2011.

2012 IW Best Plants

The 2012 IndustryWeek's Best
Plants competition is now open.
Download your application today.

That said, it is their similarities that define the 2011 IndustryWeek's Best Plants winners. They are united in their pursuit of operational excellence. They know that creating a culture of continuous improvement is as important as the tools of continuous improvement. They are united in recognizing that seemingly good ideas sometimes fail, and the response should be to learn from the effort and grow, not cast blame.

They are united in the questions they ask themselves: How can we deliver more value to our customer? How can we work better with our suppliers to drive down costs for both of us, yet improve quality? What do I as plant manager need to do to be a better leader? Where are we falling short in engaging the entire workforce in a singular pursuit of excellence? What do we do about it?

IndustryWeek's Best Plants winners don't ask those questions, and others, just once. They ask them routinely; they determine the answers, and they take action. And then they ask again.

Below are the stories of the 2011 IW Best Plants winners. Their stories will educate, inspire and hopefully spur you to actions of your own in pursuit of operational excellence.

2011 Best Plants Winners

Carrier Collierville
Collierville, Tenn.

Ethicon Inc.
Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico

General Cable Corp. Lawrenceburg Plant
Lawrenceburg, Ky.

General Cable Corp. Lincoln Rhode Island
Lincoln, R.I.

Klein Steel Service
Rochester, N.Y.

L.B. Foster Co., Allegheny Rail Products
Pueblo, Colo.

Life Technologies
Austin, Texas.

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Lufkin Operations
Lufkin, Texas

Swagelok Company Main Plant
Solon, Ohio

Toyota Industrial Equipment Mfg. Inc.
Columbus, Ind.

How They Made the Top 10

IndustryWeek began accepting application requests for the 2011 Best Plants awards early last year. A panel of IW editors reviewed the completed applications, which reported management practices and plant performance in such areas as quality, customer and supplier relations, employee involvement, productivity, cost containment, manufacturing flexibility and responsiveness, inventory management, environmental and safety performance, and market results. Selection of the winners from a list of finalists was aided by a team of outside experts: Robert Hall, a founding member of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence; Kenneth J. McGuire of the Management Excellence Action Coalition; and Larry Fast, president of Pathways to Manufacturing Excellence. Their evaluations, along with additional information provided by the finalists, were considered in the final stage of judging. The selections did not become final until site visits by IW editors to validate the performance data and management practices reported in the applications.

Continuous Improvement E-Newsletter

To read more about 2011's 10 winning factories, subscribe to our free Continuous Improvement newsletter, which features best practices from the 2011 Best Plants winners. Sign up online at

Meet the Winners in Indianapolis

Representatives of the 2011 winners will present their stories at the annual IW Best Plants conference, scheduled for April 23-25, 2012, in Indianapolis. Look for continuing updates on the IW Best Plants conference website.

Applications for 2012 Competition

IndustryWeek is accepting application information requests for the 2012 IndustryWeek Best Plants competition. Manufacturing facilities in the United States, Canada, and Mexico are eligible. To request an application, fill out the online form on the IW Best Plants competition site

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