With many manufacturers struggling through a slump, there has never been a better time to slash inventories and improve efficiency--in short, to get lean. Adopting the lean production methods pioneered by Japan's just-in-time expert, Shigeo Shingo, can yield dramatic benefits. The six factories that won this year's Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing show what can be achieved.
At its Mountain Home (Ark.) plant, which makes medical gear, on-time delivery hit 99%; lead times fell 84%.
Cut scrap by 40% and upped productivity greatly at its exhaust-systems plant in Grand Rapids.
At its Windsor (Ont.) engine plant, which hasn't missed a scheduled delivery since 1996, quality jumped 32%. And Ford's vehicle-assembly line in Avon Lake, Ohio, cut warranty claims by up to 22%.
Auto seals produced by its Cleveland (Ga.) plant have incurred no warranty costs for three years; productivity is up 27%.
Boosted machine utilization at its Greenfield (Ohio) seat-cushion site to more than 98% and cut scrap to less than 1% of sales.
By Adam Aston
Edited by Otis Port