WEB EXCLUSIVE: Crown Equipment VP discusses operational success

As part of Plant Engineering's Mid-Year Report, "Bullish on Manufacturing", Dave Besser, senior vice president at Crown Equipment Corp. talks exclusively online about how the company's integrated manufacturing approach has helped streamline operations.


Photo courtesy: Crown Equipment Corp.Crown Equipment Corp.’s integrated manufacturing approach has helped it streamline its operation. The company works at both lean manufacturing and sustainability. In an exclusive interview with PlantEngineering.com, Dave Besser, senior vice president at Crown Equipment, talks about executing on all of those initiatives.

PE: What are the biggest challenges right now in expanding and improving your manufacturing operations?

Besser: There are currently two big challenges we are facing in regard to expanding and improving our manufacturing operations:

1. Identifying and hiring qualified, properly trained employees

There is a real need for technical machining, welding, and assembly employees. In many cases, we are finding that the hiring pool is not quite qualified to the level we need, which is requiring us to depend more on internal training programs to qualify new hires.

One factor that is helping us meet the challenge is the close relationships Crown Equipment maintains with local schools and educational organizations. One example of this commitment is the recent virtual welding challenge we held for six area high schools. The challenge was conducted on the virtual welding training machine we use to train our employees. Teams were assessed on the accuracy and speed of their performance, as well as the angle closeness and overall quality of their welds. This sort of engagement is an important way for students to see how the skills they are learning in the classroom are applicable in manufacturing settings.

2. Lead times associated with purchasing equipment

To support rapid growth in business, major machining / robotic system capital purchases are extending to greater than 6 months in many cases. Implementation of technically complex equipment which runs a wide variety of components typically takes additional time for full ramp-up capability.

PE: What are the advantages of standardizing and integrating manufacturing processes? Where are the pressure points?

Besser: Crown Equipment designs and manufactures 85% of its lift truck components, including key parts like motors, drive units, and electronic modules. The company is integrated across 16 multi-location manufacturing facilities.

Crown’s integrated manufacturing brings together every aspect of the company’s production process toward the common goal of creating superior material handling products. Putting all aspects of production under the Crown umbrella allows us to develop and continually improve upon standardized manufacturing practices at all of our global facilities. Crown’s integration allows the company the flexibility and creative freedom to be innovative and offer customized solutions in a compressed timeframe, without any negative impact on quality.

Our integrated manufacturing philosophy is something that gives us a competitive advantage. We have an ability to manage quality that most people struggle with, having to deal with a different company, a different culture, a different quality system.

Pressure points impacting manufacturing primary focus on continuing the tradition of Crown’s integrated manufacturing model as the best manufacturing value in the industry. By continuously challenging our wide variety of manufacturing processes to compete on a global basis in terms of cost, quality and delivery, focused attention is given to process innovation, technology, lean methodologies, and employee development.

PE: Talk about your hiring and training efforts. How are you able to recruit and train the workforce you need to continue your growth?

Besser: Hiring through all Crown manufacturing operations uses a consistent process of job opening communications, interviewing, and selection. Crown is typically the employer of choice in the communities where Crown manufacturing facilities are located. Crown’s culture, competitive wages and benefits, career opportunities, and product are major reasons for potential employees to pursue employment.

Training throughout all of our manufacturing processes requires that job “competencies” are achieved in all positions. This training is provided internally and includes all aspects of the operations those employees experience to be successful. These job competencies include specific aspects of assembly, machining, welding, quality, safety, and material handling.

Additionally, Crown Equipment has an established training program for employees. The company’s Demonstrated Performance training program allows participants to develop their skills by following customized lessons and receiving personalized feedback from instructors, and each participant is able to work at his or her own pace to demonstrate ability to perform the skill.

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