Innovation in Quality and Manufacturing Management: Lessons from the Frontier
Foxboro's Systems Manufacturing plant in Foxboro, Mass. is the first repeat winner of Industry Week's America's Best Plant award. The plant tests all components and then assembles and ships highly customized Intelligent Automation process-control systems. Through use of Six-Sigma, kaizen, and lean manufacturing techniques, the plant assembles and ships more high-mix-low-volume products with 33% fewer workers, 20% less square-feet, 37% less overhead, and 33% lower labor costs than it did when it won its first Best Plants award in 1992. Suppliers often deliver orders in one day to point-of-use within the plant. They can do their own expediting and enter their own orders. Error-proofing methods have raised first-pass yield to 95.4% compared with 60% five years ago. More than 140 teams work to improve all aspects of the business. The teams include "green belts" who spend 20% of their time on project improvements, and a few "black belts" who spend 100% on such activities.
JLG Industries, Inc. is the world's leading producer of mobile aerial work platforms and a leading manufacturer of telescopic material handlers and telescopic hydraulic excavators. In recent years, JLG's Manufacturing Operations have faced many challenges, including rapid growth, long lead-times, and production inefficiencies. In addressing these challenges, strategic plans were focused on a total company commitment to manufacturing excellence, more rapid delivery of products to customers, and a specific goal of reducing the cumulative manufacturing lead-time of Boom Lift Models from an average of 76 days to just 10 days. Resulting changes that have been introduced in the areas of manufacturing and supplier strategies, technology, facilities, systems, and employee involvement have contributed to dramatic improvements in capacity and productivity, reduction in manufacturing lead-time, and achievement of the "10-Day Goal". In October, 1999, JLG's McConnellsburg, PA boom lift production facility was selected by Industry Week to receive the prestigious "America's Best Plants" Award as one of the 10 Best Plants in North America.
The New York Times recently completed the construction of its College Point plant in Flushing, New York. In designing and building the plant, equal consideration was given to technology, people and information/training. The plant was designed to permit later printing deadlines for time-sensitive news, use of color throughout the newspaper, and increased ability to use customized inserts on weekdays as well as Sundays. The $350 million plan incorporates state-of-the-art technologies, including automated storage and retrieval systems, sophisticated tracking and precise control of palletizing and shipping operations. A cross-functional management team worked with HK Systems, a system integrator, to develop detailed specifications that equipment vendors could use for bidding. Such detailed specifications are not yet common in the newspaper industry. Among other benefits, they led to standardization of components and reduction in the number of vendors. An internal systems group developed two programs for automatically retrieving data for statistical process control and providing managers and workers with an integrated view of production and maintenance.
Visteon Automotive Systems won a contract from Ford Motor Company to produce body electronic modules (security, power steering, lighting, turn signals, etc.) for Lincoln-Mercury, Jaguar, and Windstar models. In 1997-98, John Colarusso led the project to re-integrate 15 robots into two new manufacturing processes. Ford's contract specified completion of the first product-build in twelve months and production ramp-up in eighteen months. The project was successfully completed by re-programming existing robots, working with a mix of niche and full-service vendors, and establishing an innovative team structure that included mechanical, electrical, and controls engineers, as well as maintenance and skilled trades. The team's innovative practices included handling products and parts procurement directly. The discussion also will focus on how the project measured up to the sometimes elusive requirements for flexibility and lean manufacturing.