PLANT ENGINEERING honors Top Plant, Product of the Year winners at gala dinner

By Bob Vavra: Editor March 31, 2006
Honorees at the 18thannual PLANT ENGINEERING March 20 in Rosemont, IL got a glimpse at the present and future of manufacturing.

To view winners click here. The awards dinner drew more than 120 award winners in 16 categories to Rosemont, where winners were honored for their outstanding new product launches during 2005. PLANT ENGINEERING readers voted on the outstanding products. The 2005 Grand Award winner was New Standard Institute, which was honored for its Machine Vibration Basics training program. It received the highest vote total from the hundreds of ballots submitted by readers.

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“We are delighted and honored to receive this Grand Award for Product of the Year 2005,” said New Standard president Michael Brown. “I would like to thank the editors and staff at PLANT ENGINEERING Magazine as well as the readers who voted for our product. As everyone here knows, PLANT ENGINEERING magazine is the premier publication. Industrial and facility managers find it to be invaluable, as does anyone that reads the magazine.”

Brown said as workers leave manufacturing, their knowledge is not always being captured, which is a goal of New Standard’s training programs. “There is a crisis of workplace inadequacy in the making. The aging workforce is beginning to be felt in the U.S. and Canada,” Brown said. “With fewer skilled workers in the pipeline it behooves training companies such as ours to attempt to solve the problem. Training programs with an eye toward accuracy and rich content is essential to this effort.”

One company well on its way to understanding that issue is DaimlerChrysler’s Belvidere, IL facility, which was honored as the 2005 Top Plant recipient. The Belvidere facility changed its assembly operations from the Dodge Neon to the Dodge Caliber in just eight weeks, and infused workers with a new management system at the same time. The Caliber has arrived with rave reviews, and the Belvidere facility has added a second shift, with a third on the way.

“It is a real honor for me to be here tonight to represent the 2,600 men and women who work at the Belvidere Assembly plant,” said plant manager Kurt Kavajecz in accepting the Top Plant award. “I really view my role as a supporter of the people who build Chrysler Group vehicles on the plant floor every day.And it is a job that I love.”

Kavajecz said the investment Daimler Chrysler has made in the assembly facility is a direct result of the efforts made by plant workers. “In 2001, when the Chrysler Group was going through some very tough times, we cut production of the well-known but aging Dodge Neon, and we were forced to reduce our workforce from two production shifts to one,” Kavajecz said. “But I have to hand it to our employees. During uncertain times they worked harder than ever, and continued to produce the Neon at quality and productivity levels that were among the highest in the company. And the company took notice.”

Beyond the Caliber, the Belvidere facility will also produce the new Jeep Compass in 2007, and add a third production line later this year, Kavajecz said. “Now, despite all the recent good news, we realize that the competition out there is as strong as ever,” he said. “And we know that we will have to continue to do those things that helped to make us a PLANT ENGINEERING Top Plant award winner.”

Building that culture of success was addressed by Accenture partner Dean Teglia, who provided the dinner’s keynote speech. Discussing a recent Accenture study on the characteristics of high performers in manufacturing, Teglia noted that the planning needed to build a Product of the Year winner or to execute the kind of efficient retooling of an assembly line were key ingredients in being a high performer.

“I think preparation is a key intangible to achieving high performance,” Teglia told the dinner audience. “I think it’s important to prepare with the right vision, perspective of the competition, mindset for identifying opportunities and understanding of how to execute.

“Understanding and managing these factors are key to managing risk and achieving and sustaining high performance,” he added.

The applications for the 2006 Product of the Year awards and the 2006 Top Plant award are now available online at www.plantengineering.com . A full listing of the 2005 Product of the Year recipients click here .

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