Although the Chesebrough-Pond's USA Company plant in Jefferson City is 26 years old, it looks spanking new both inside and out. But the newness extends beyond mere appearances. Far more important are improvements on the production floor. The facility's "Quest to be the Best" philosophy of providing defect-free products to customers on time earned it a 1992 Best Plants award.
The most far-reaching move has been to replace traditional function management techniques with process management. Cross-functional, multiskilled, self-directed process teams have replaced managers in each of the plant's four product areas. First-line supervision, which once numbered 13 people, is down to 7. Responsibility for quality control now rests in the hands of hourly associates, who follow the plant's 13-step total quality process.
Upgraded technology also plays a key role. For example, computers flash up-to-the-minute sales data that make possible the scheduling of production on the basis of customer demand rather than sales forecasts. "We used to run a shade for two days on our nail-polish line," recalls former plant manager Joseph Roy. "Now we change 8 to 12 times a day." An interactive, on-line network of computer workstations throughout the plant gives all associates access to scheduling information, and will be installed in suppliers' plants as well.
This computer linkup is just the latest in the plant's program of strengthening partnerships with more than 300 suppliers. Each month, for instance, delegations of associates visit suppliers' plants; supplier employees also visit Jefferson City for four days of TQM training.