WINNER: BEST HOUSEHOLD AND GENERAL PRODUCTS PLANT - Highly Commended - SC Johnson.
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At a time of stock market gyrations, the Frimley plant of US cleaner and household product manufacturer SC Johnson takes comfort in being part of a family-owned private company with a legendary commitment to the long term. But this cuts little ice with tough taskmasters such as Tesco and Sainsbury, or with giant rivals like Procter & Gamble and Unilever, whose financial muscle the factory can only counter with greater manufacturing flexibility in product portfolio management.
This is no small order. The 26,000 sq m site, a strategic European supply unit for air-fresheners and cleaning products, has several hundred stock-keeping units, all of which changed last year. The plant manufactures in batches requiring frequent changeovers, putting a premium on slick planning and sourcing over a product's life cycle. 'This has become a core competency that we can offer the group,' notes operations manager Steve Ridgeon.
Likewise, multiple product variations place tough demands on manufacturing responsiveness, which the plant has worked hard to meet through advances in blending, filling and component-handling. Proof of the pudding is that inventory levels over the past year have fallen by nearly half.
Automation, increasingly customised in-house, is complemented by high-performance work teams. Team-work is indispensable to world-class manufacturing, but Frimley adds a commitment to employee welfare that results in more than the usual emphasis on training, education and working conditions.
Jobs at Frimley are highly coveted, and average annual turnover is just 0.7%. This stability, backed by individual development programmes, makes the teams largely self-managing, conducting their own engineering support, recruitment and appraisal and running their own meetings.
Frimley is proof that not only is there no contradiction between the demands of world-class manu- facturing and those of safety and the environment, the two go together. The safety record feeds into superior morale and confidence, which is ratcheted up still further by the company's environmental achievements.
At Frimley, managers are evaluated against steadily raised environmental targets as well as normal output and quality KPIs. By late 2002, Frimley will have cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60% over 2000. Such efforts are close to the heart of the Johnson family, and they contribute directly and indirectly to cost-savings and the plant's improving throughput measures.
One incentive scheme rewards staff with a 50% share of waste disposal costs reduced below a certain level - a small but telling example of manufacturing virtue rewarded.
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