As part of its approach to lean manufacturing, the 2011Assembly Plant of the Yearactively engages in benchmarking exercises with several local manufacturers.

Assembly Plant of the Yearactively engages in benchmarking exercises. In fact, Philips Respironics, New Kensington, PA, recently created a consortium with three other manufacturers in the Pittsburgh area: Medrad Inc., Mine Safety Appliance Co. and Parker Hannifin Corp.

At one of its monthly continuous improvement steering committee (the same group that takes Gemba walks) meetings, attendees were struggling on an issue. Eric Kulikowski, senior director of North American operations, posed the question, “What would other manufacturing companies do?”

“This prompted our leadership team to look for contacts at three other local manufacturing companies,” says Stefanie Lozito, continuous improvement leader. “We asked each of those contacts if they would be interested in meeting to share successes and struggles on relevant manufacturing issues.

“We were met with a lot of enthusiasm, created a charter, signed non-disclosure agreements and held our first meeting in September 2010,” adds Lozito. “We continue to meet once a quarter to share ideas and learn everything we can from each other.”

Several ideas have been implemented at the New Kensington plant because of the consortium. For instance, “[we’ve made] improvements to our sales and operations planning process based on the best practices from one of the other companies,” Lozito points out. “We’ve also opened up some of our common manufacturing training, such as configuration management and solder training, to include attendees from other companies.”