IW Best Plants 2005 -- Successful By Design

Sept. 11, 2005
IndustryWeek's 2005 best plants excel by intent, not by accident.

In its initial application for IndustryWeek's 2005 Best Plants program, Bowater Inc., Catawba Operations, wrote that "we've been inadvertently preparing for this competition over the last three years . . ."

Not so inadvertent, however, are the steps the South Carolina plant has taken to achieve the kind of excellence that captured the attention of IW's Best Plants judges. For example, when the paper and pulp manufacturer decided to meet tough new environmental regulations by building a new kraft pulping mill that actually exceeded those requirements, it coupled the immense capital expenditure with an extensive employee-training program for the new mill workers that began a full nine months in advance of the project's completion. The advance work and preparation assured a start-up that exceeded even the high expectations of management.

IW's 2005 Best Plants

Boston Scientific Corp., Wayne Operations
Wayne, N.J.

Bowater Inc., Catawba Operations
Catawba, S.C.

dj Orthopedics LLC-Vista Facility
Vista, Calif.

General Cable Corp.-Moose Jaw Plant
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada

The HON Co.-Cedartown Plant
Cedartown, Ga.

National Gypsum Co. Apollo Beach Plant
Gibsonton, Fla.

Solectron Corp.
Columbia, S.C.

Storage Technology (Bermuda) Ltd.
Ponce, Puerto Rico

Thomas & Betts Corp.,
Athens, Tenn., Operations

Athens, Tenn.

TRW OSS Mexican Operations
Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico

At the TRW OSS Mexican Operations in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, the workforce is configuring processes that will allow sequence-building of seatbelts by color. No customers have yet requested this ability, but the plant knows they will, and soon. Plant management says this is but one example of how the Mexican Operations prepares to keep and gain a competitive edge.

The team at Thomas & Betts Corp., Athens, Tenn., Operations, says it has "undertaken to complete a five-year plan of action by 1-1-2006 that will take our facility to the next level of lean implementation." That's following a lean journey that already has resulted in impressive metrics at the plant, which makes electrical outlet and conduit boxes, as well as metal framing accessories and wiring duct. Those impressive metrics include a reduction in the dollar volume of finished goods by 32%, and of raw materials and WIP by 74%, all since 2001.

In Canada, the General Cable Corp. plant in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, reports that "from its inception, the Moose Jaw plant employed a different management philosophy compared to traditional management systems." That included a team concept "to create an interdependent and responsive work force. Associates were hired based on technical competence, self-managing and group dynamic abilities with the expectation of being capable to operate, maintain and improve in their area of responsibility." Among the metrics this maker of electrical cable produces are a first-pass yield of 99.6% and a 76% reduction of its in-plant defect rate over the past three years.

These four 2005 IndustryWeek Best Plants, as well as the other six that comprise this year's 10 IW Best Plants winners, produce different products from one another, operate different machinery, rely on a host of different improvement methods, and face different competitive challenges in their quests to excel at the jobs they do. What they share, however, is a vision of excellence by design, not by accident. They hire the right people and train them appropriately; they focus continually on improvement; they have leadership that encourages input from all employees and employees who take up the challenge; and they look outside their four walls to their upstream and downstream partners in their efforts to be the best.

All of IndustryWeek's Best Plants winners, both present and past, also embrace good ideas wherever they can find them. The stories on the following pages will provide you with many ideas to help you design your own path to success.

How They Made The Top 10

IndustryWeek began accepting nominations for the 2005 Best Plants awards in October of last year. More than 220 plants were nominated as leaders in their industries. A panel of IW editors reviewed the applications, which reported management practices and plant performance in such areas as quality, customer and supplier relations, employee involvement, application of new technologies, productivity, cost reductions, manufacturing flexibility and responsiveness, inventory management, environmental and safety performance, new-product development, and overall market results.

Selection of the final winners from the list of 25 finalists was aided by a team of outside experts: Sherrie Ford, principal, Change Partners LLC; Robert Hall of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence; and John Puckett of Visions of 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.

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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