Although the mainstream media doesn’t talk about it too much, many U.S. assembly plants stack up admirably against their counterparts in China, India, Mexico and other overseas locations. Companies that come to mind include Batesville Casket Co., Eaton Corp., IBM Corp., Lear Corp., Paccar Inc./Kenworth Truck Co., Square D/Schneider Electric, and Xerox Corp. Each of those seven manufacturers operates a state-of-the-art facility that has received the Assembly Plant of the Year Award since it was inaugurated in 2004.
Recently, I was thinking about what makes each of these plants both unique and similar. Although the facilities operate in totally different industries and are located in different parts of the United States-Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Tennessee and Washington-they share several things in common.
While touring the assembly lines and meeting scores of talented engineers and hard-working operators who make them successful, I’ve witnessed several reoccurring trends over the last seven years:
- Each plant has applied new technology to stay on the leading edge.
- Each plant floor is equipped with a wide variety of tools to maximize productivity and address ergonomic issues, such as paperless work instructions, radio frequency identification (RFID) systems, robots, vision systems and DC electric tools.
- Each facility has harnessed the power of lean manufacturing to create value, focus on customer needs, reduce human error, boost quality, empower assemblers and minimize waste.
Do you know an assembly plant that meets this criteria? Perhaps it can follow in the footsteps of the previous recipients of the Assembly Plant of the Year award. If so, be sure to nominate that facility for the 2011 Assembly Plant of the Year award sponsored by ASSEMBLY Magazine and The Boston Consulting Group Inc. The no-entry-fee competition is open to any U.S. manufacturer, whether it’s a small plant engaged primarily in manual assembly or a big plant that’s fully automated.
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