Empowerment. Commitment. Pride. Walking through Diamond Electric Manufacturing Corp.'s Eleanor, WV, plant, one cannot help but notice the sense of satisfaction the employees take from their work. It begins with the first step through the front door of the plant. Quality awards, a Chrysler engine bearing their product and additional products line the walls and showcases of the ignition coil manufacturer's reception area, but it does not end there. Throughout the plant, various reports, such as scrap and defect rates, are posted where employees, or as Diamond Electric refers to their people, team members, can readily see them. Team members want to know exactly where things stand.
But quality is nothing new to the inaugural Quality Plant of the Year winner. Sarah Stricker, quality control specialist at Diamond Electric, confirms in her acceptance speech at Quality Expo (Rosemont, IL) on April 19, that "quality is at the forefront of our minds at all times." And, for Diamond Electric, it has been for years.
The facility has received the Toyota Delivery and Quality Awards each year since beginning production in 1998. This allowed Diamond Electric their greatest achievement to date-becoming the first U.S. supplier to build an ignition coil for the Lexus SUV engine.
What allows a facility to be at the top of its game, day in and day out, year after year? Its people.
With 111 team members, including 11 in the quality department, it is Diamond Electric's people who have allowed the plant to grow from a 50,000-square-foot facility and 3.4 million in capacity to 110,000-square-foot and 13 million in capacity in less than two years.
But the growth has not been without its own set of challenges. "Besides the additional machines, employees and products having issues requiring attention, another obstacle we've had to overcome is the sharing of equipment across the various product lines," Keith Bills, quality manager, says. Those product lines include ignition coils for DaimlerChrysler, Toyota and Ford engines.
"In the past, most equipment was hard-tooled for one product. Recently we've had to develop changeover systems throughout the plant to address the shared line issues," Bills says. "We also see other issues that normally accompany transplant operations or operations that see rapid growth-communication issues. It became necessary to better communicate changes between departments with weekly meetings as well as shared reporting."
Many of the team members are cross-trained and can run a complete process line from start to finish-winding, assembly, potting and testing. Team members are assigned jobs at the beginning of each shift, Jerry Maxwell, quality assurance specialist, says. Team members may run the same machine all week or may change jobs several times within a week. The ability to operate multiple machines helps alleviate boredom and operator fatigue.
Over the years, Diamond Electric increasingly has moved toward automation to reduce human error. Maxwell says that when he started with the company seven years ago, up to five people might have been working on the same line. Today, a single person is running one, maybe two lines. "If you take the human error out of it, it's more repeatable. It's harder to set up, but it's going to be repeatable for the same defect," Maxwell explains.
Automation has lead to the empowerment of team members. "With the nature of our process [highly automated] and our staff structure that doesn't include line leaders, it is necessary to empower our team members. For example, if a team member had to wait for the team or shift leader to address a machine issue, several suspect parts would have already been processed through the machine," Bills says.
By giving operators the ability to stop the process and notify management of a defect failure mode, defects and scrap are reduced.
Diamond Electric has taken several additional steps to reduce defects and improve product quality. These include daily error-proofing audits and layered process audits. The error-proofing audit verifies that all error-proofing in the plant is operational on a daily basis and is performing in the predetermined manner. Three different levels of plant management conduct the layered audit. It is a detailed audit performed daily on every shift looking for critical areas that could create potential defects and verifies the operator is aware of this potential failure mode.
Operators also are encouraged to participate in Kaizen activities to provide suggestions for reductions in cost, scrap, downtime and process improvements. This could be process, instrumentation, measurement or inspection methods or techniques.
In Diamond Electric's Quality Plant of the Year application, Maxwell wrote that what makes the Eleanor, WV, plant world-class "has been our ability to maintain a 100% delivery rating over the past five years and our supplier quality PPM has averaged less than 1. Also, our internal scrap rate averaged less than 1% this past year."
Again, it's the people at Diamond Electric who make it possible.
"The team members are quality oriented; that's their goal. They don't like defects. If they see too many defects, they want to know why. We've got a good culture from the people around here. We've got good employees. They take pride in the work that they do. It is a reflection of them-their quality workmanship," Maxwell says.
To keep team members motivated to continue delivering such high-quality products, Diamond Electric celebrates their accomplishments. "We give praise and rewards-from pizza parties to customized jackets-for success after any significant event or achievement," Bills says. "However, it is simply the pride of our employees that will not allow us to fail. We strive to communicate the fact that quality is a team effort, much like a chain, the next link is as important as the previous one or the next one. We have attempted to develop a culture in which the next process is considered your customer-you never want to disappoint your customer." Q
DIAMOND ELECTRIC'S CORPORATE philosophy
• Being a technology-driven company, we constantly pursue technological expertise and are committed to offering superb quality and value with timely delivery to satisfy customers.
• We focus on speed and strive to be the industry leader.
• We endeavor to develop new and distinctive products that can serve society as well as the company's prosperity.
• We want our workplace to be a place where friendly competition can spur development and one that allows us all to lead fulfilling lifestyles.
• We strive to make Diamond Electric a company where individual's contribution is valued with appropriate rewards and recognition.
Quality magazine would like to acknowledge the 2005 Quality Plant of the Year Honorees.
Dana Elizabethtown Frame Plant
"Customer satisfaction through continuous improvement" is the quality statement at Dana Corp.'s Elizabethtown, KY, frame plant. The plant manufactures frames for the Ford F-150 pickup, Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition and its quality, production and financial results demonstrate the success of following its quality statement and working together to reach the common goal of satisfying the customer. The facility, and its most important asset, its people, have met and overcome challenges from increased production demands, new generation product requirements to economically tough times and still met its commitment to build and deliver the best product possible on time.
EMC's Franklin, MA, manufacturing facility is different because of its people. Employees at the data storage manufacturing facility take responsibility for every step of the process and find ways to do the job better, faster and at a lower cost. In 2004, the company achieved and sustained a 62% reduction in overall average cycle time without sacrificing product reliability. Last year, EMC-Franklin also expanded its continuous improvement philosophy to include Six Sigma and lean manufacturing. Every step of the production process was reviewed to better identify areas for improvement.
LSI Logic Manufacturing
LSI Logic Manufacturing Services (Gresham, OR) designs, develops, manufactures and markets complex, high-
performance integrated circuits and storage systems. The company is focused on the communications, consumer products, storage components and storage systems markets. At LSI Logic, quality is not a stand-alone product. "Quality is not a separate autonomous function. It is seamlessly integrated into our daily operation and is the foundation on which we build and execute our business objectives. Industry-leading quality levels are never an accident; they always are the result of deliberate intention, effort and intelligent direction," Garry Nash, operations quality director, says.
Peterbilt Motors Co.
Peterbilt's Denton, TX, manufacturing facility is a leader in innovation-technological, operational, logistical and managerial. The company manufactures, distributes and supports premium, custom-built, heavy-duty trucks and tractors. The plant's commitment to providing customers with the high-quality, custom-built trucks and tractors by the most efficient means possible has helped achieve optimal production cycles with minimal storage and inventory requirements; annual Six Sigma savings of millions of dollars; low employee turnover rate; adoption of state-of-the-art machinery; and implementation of sophisticated systems and programs, assisting in everything from product design to quality control.