JLG applauds workers' productivity

September 28, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - In 1991 it took JLG workers up to 120 days to assemble an aerial work platform, the mainstay of the company's production line.

On Friday, grateful managers thanked their workers for shrinking the assembly time to 10 days.

JLG managers put up a giant tent on company grounds, production workers were given barbecued chicken and ribs, listened to live music, were able to ogle a dozen NASCAR and other racing cars brought in for their enjoyment and given company T-shirts.

"Our employees helped to make this happen," said E. Loy Garber, director of communications. "They told us how to improve manufacturing and engineering processes through their teamwork. It was a lot of good common sense applied to the manufacturing process to save us time," he said.

JLG managers introduced continuous flow manufacturing, designed to cut production time, in 1991. Supervisors and workers teamed up on the project. Employee ideas were embraced by management.


The goal was reached this month, Garber said.

Jay Sutherland, coordinator for the continuous flow project, said the company decided to start tracking production time in 1991. "The first thing we checked was the physical flow and we ended up realigning whole departments," he said.

One of the first things to go was a huge warehouse where parts were stored, sometimes for months in advance of when they were to be used. The storage time was cut to within a day of use for most parts, he said.

"It took a lot of small, daily improvements and a few big improvements," said Paul Nero, an industrial engineer.

"We got it down to 9.9 days now," said Cindy Strait, an administrative assistant. "This is a big change and the employees were the reason it happened."

"They weren't afraid to try," said Greg Walter, another employee. "There were a lot of suggestions."

JLG laid off more than 700 production workers in the spring of 1997. The layoffs were blamed on a glut in the lift market, company officials said at the time. Today the company is back to its full work force of about 2,800 employees, Garber said.

That includes about 1,900 in the main plant in McConnellsburg where boom lifts are made and nearly 800 in the company plants in Bedford, Pa., where scissor lifts are assembled, he said.

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