Practices Make Perfect An infusion of new manufacturing techniques, plus a new product and new management bring new life -- and profit -- to a once-struggling plant. ByWilliam H. Miller Kautex -- A Textron Co., Lavonia, Ga. At a Glance
Web-Exclusive Best PracticesByWilliam H. Miller Benchmarking contact: Brad Overstreet, operations manager, [email protected], 706/356-3215 'STRIVE' Workshops Of all the initiatives Kautex -- A Textron Co., Lavonia Operations has taken to increase employee involvement, none is more important than its STRIVE (for Six Sigma Teams Realizing Improvements Virtually Everywhere) program launched last December. In its main feature, hourly and salaried employees alike annually spend at least 40 hours attending workshops to absorb the basic principles of lean manufacturing. Included is what the plant calls a "deep dive" into its "8 Wastes" (correction, overproduction, motion, material movement, waiting, inventory, processing and talent) and its pervasive visual-factory management system. Participants also, according to the plant, learn "how to best calculate takt time based on customer demand and, in turn, how to properly collect and interpret time-motion data, document standardized work and achieve labor balance within their own work cells." The intensive, multiday workshops are led twice monthly by operations vice president Brian Hatter and the plant's two black belts. STRIVE also is becoming an umbrella for all plant activities. Two cross-functional kaizen events for example, were conducted this year under the STRIVE banner to solve problems leading up to next April's startup of a new fuel-tank production line for Honda Motor Co. Moreover, signs and posters throughout the plant, as well as written communications, carry the STRIVE logo. 'Compass' Recognition Program The program is called "Compass," explains operations vice president Brian Hatter, because "it's aimed at pointing us in the right direction." Unveiled last year, it is Kautex--A Textron Co., Lavonia Operations' main tool for recognizing employees who have "achieved something out of the norm" in helping the plant exceed goals in production, safety and scrap. Employees themselves govern the program through the plant's activities committee, whose 14 volunteer members represent each shift and department. The panel sets the program's rules, under which employees receive rewards in the form of tokens that can be used to purchase gifts -- ranging from clothing, restaurant meals and prepaid gasoline cards to DVD players and television sets from local businesses. The more tokens an employee is awarded, the bigger the gift. (The most popular gift so far: gift certificates from the local Wal-Mart.) Employees can be nominated by peers for recognition, but also receive tokens for signing up for STRIVE workshops and other volunteer plant programs. The 'Swap-Shop' Program When the Kautex-A Textron Co., Lavonia Operations was floundering three years ago, one of its biggest morale problems, say veteran employees, was the perceived line separating management and production personnel. To help overcome that, the plant last year launched a "swap-shop" program. Under it, on a particular day each year every salaried worker spends an hour on the production line (with an hourly employee hovering close by to make sure quality doesn't suffer). In turn, hourly employees can volunteer to spend four hours shadowing an office worker. So far, more than 100 have participated. The exchange has given office personnel "a better understanding of the products and processes on the production line," reports operations manager Brad Overstreet. And hourly employees get a feel for the work of the paper pushers in the front of the building.
- Plant: 163,400 square feet
- Start-up: 1994
- TS 16949 automotive industry quality certification;
- Textron Inc. Continuous Improvement Award for Health and Safety Performance, 2002;
- DaimlerChrysler Gold Award for 2002;
- cut customer rejects 99% over three years;
- reduced scrap and rework costs 47% over three years;
- slashed raw material inventory 86% over three years.