Running Like A Charm Injection molding company integrates automated and manual processes. ByPatricia Panchak Delphi Corp. -- Delphi Connection Systems' Precision Molding Center, Cortland, Ohio At a Glance
Web-Exclusive Best PracticesByPatricia Panchak Benchmarking contact: Ken Ellsworth, plant manager, [email protected], 330/373-5643 On Benchmarking Though the Delphi Cortland Precision Molding Center implements an "unconventional" mix of manufacturing best practice strategies, managers follow a fairly conventional system of benchmarking, with one exception: If a best practice doesn't contribute to their goal of becoming the low-cost, highest-quality producer, they won't implement it. For example, though they benchmarked highly automated shipping departments, they opted for a manual system because the cost was too high compared to the pay off. Like most other high-performing plants, however, Delphi benchmarks against a wide variety of other plant operations, including other Delphi plants in the U.S. and Europe, and molding plants that serve industries other than the automotive industry. Much of the benchmarking contributes to change in practices at the plant. "Our most important benchmarking is done when we compare like facilities for quality, machine utilization and down time," plant management notes in their Best Plants application. "We don't focus on any one metric but use the overall comparisons to judge ourselves." This information is then discussed in management review meetings and used to help set plant direction. Other best practices though are adopted nearly wholesale. Says Plant Manager John Stefanko, "A lot of the things we did here we pretty shamelessly copied from other folks." He notes that the automated guided vehicle system is nearly identical to the one at a plant they benchmarked in Germany. Individual, Not Team, Empowerment Rather than implementing empowered work teams like those found in other high-performing plants, Delphi Packard Systems Cortland Molding Plant relies on empowered individuals to drive its continuous improvement efforts. They contend that their process of formal and informal communications between labor and management, and among plant personnel serves the same purpose as self-directed or empowered work teams at other plants. "We do not have a formal team process," says incoming Plant Manager Ken Ellsworth. "But on an informal basis, we have more team spirit than any one I know of." Instead, plant personnel from management through the production operators say there's an involvement by all the employees that derives from efforts to meet the plant's common goal of producing low-cost, high-quality products. It is nurtured by plant management that gets along well with the labor force. Indeed, the group shares stories of times when employees pulled together in spontaneously formed teams to meet unusual demands. Plant Manager John Stefanko tells of the time when the plant was asked to take over production of a polypropylene product from another plant. Traditionally setting up machines would take days, he said. "Our plant started at 8 a.m. and had it running in four hours -- and it involved substantial changes to the machine and set up." Cathy George, senior financial analyst, relates another story about the time another Delphi employee filled in for her to oversee the plant's annual physical inventory. "It went so smoothly it took two hours where at other plants it would take eight, nine, 10 hours of preparation work," she said. "The auditors couldn't believe the level of cooperation and cleanliness of the facility." Plant personnel throughout the organization speak proudly of the fact that employees at other Delphi plants envy their Cortland peers. "This plant is full of 30-year employees and they're here by choice," says Norm Ashley, union sub-chairman. "The last employee that came here had 27 years experience." Consistent communication keeps all plant personnel focused on the common goal. Every morning the plant holds a production meeting that all plant personnel can attend and at which no topic is off-limits. The meeting and its "open forum" have helped the plant "go from fire fighting to long-term problem solving." Also, each week, the plant manager holds a staff meeting of direct reports (including supervisors of manufacturing, engineering, production control, quality, finance and IT) where they discuss divisional issues, plant process changes and the like. Each month every production employee meets with his or her supervisor to review individual performance, including housekeeping, absenteeism, quality metrics, etc. At that time, the employee is informed of product-attribute changes, and the two discuss plant policy changes. Finally each quarter the plant manager meets with all employees to discuss the plant's overall metrics and business conditions. "Everyone understands how the plant works," says Ellsworth. "And everyone just truly cares." Computerized Maintenance Management Preventative maintenance (PM) on production tools is monitored and tracked on a Tool Traveler system that assures that all tools are cleaned and maintenance is completed based on actual production cycles. Each tool is bar-coded. Once a tool has completed its production run, it is returned to the tool area with a "last shot" bag carrying the last four parts molded by the tool. Having parts travel with the tool that made them gives toolmakers the opportunity to look at the part during routine maintenance to determine if the mold is beginning to show wear. Also, the computer network, which stores a file for every tool, keeps track of the number of cycles for which a tool has been used since the last preventative maintenance and prevents the tool from being used past its PM cycle. The scheduling system checks the file before assigning it to a machine to produce parts and will not assign a tool that is beyond its PM cycle. "Our ability to track tool performance and maintenance has enabled us to achieve a 10 RRPPM [reject and returned parts per million] level [in 2002]," asserts plant management in their Best Plants application. "We have also reduced the number of tools pulled each day, from three occurrences per day a year ago to once per day today. [Together] these systems help to maintain high quality, high schedule reliability, and result in a high customer satisfaction level." The PM system also tracks each molding machine based on calendar days, and schedules them for quarterly, semi-annual and annual maintenance. "I want the quality [of the part] to be the same in the last year as it was in the first year," says Stefanko.
- Plant: 160,000 square feet
- Start-up: 1999
- Awarded the 2000 Global Excellence Award, Delphi Packard Electric's most prestigious internal award;
- Awarded the 2002 Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing.