Just In Time Manufacturing Is Working Overtime

Lean companies are being stretched thin by surging demand

This should be the best of times for Intermet Corp. With auto sales booming, the Troy (Mich.) auto-parts supplier faces red-hot demand for the iron and aluminum castings it produces for sport-utility vehicles and light trucks. But few of the company's 6,890 employees have time to celebrate. The crush of orders is so huge that Intermet is running 24 hours a day. Lines can't be shut down for needed maintenance. Stressed-out workers are quitting. Meanwhile, escalating production costs--for overtime, repairs, and premium-freight charges--cut third-quarter profits by 20%, to $7.4 million, even as revenue jumped 16%, to $225 million.

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