Prize-winning performance

Letterkenny takes second Shingo Prize in a row

Letterkenny takes second Shingo Prize in a row

November 29, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Wearing blue T-shirts and steel-toed boots, hundreds of workers at Letterkenny Army Depot spent their morning break standing on the same paint-splattered factory floor of Building 350 where they work all day.

They were there to watch as Letterkenny commanders accepted the 2006 Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing.

"You folks in blue should be the ones sitting," Maj. Gen. James H. Pillsbury, commanding general of U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command said to the workers. "This award is for you."

Letterkenny received its second Shingo on Tuesday for the production of Tactical Vehicles - HMMWV (Humvee) Recap.

Col. Robert A. Swenson, commander at Letterkenny Army Depot, said receiving the award this year was sweeter than winning the first Shingo in 2005 because of the road to victory.

"Last December, we were failing," Swenson said. "Every Humvee to come off the line cost more to produce than we were being paid."


Despite Letterkenny's struggle to produce the Humvees in December, Swenson was so confident by February that the workers could turn things around that he applied for the 2006 award.

"Competition is a great thing," Swenson said. "Whether you win or not, you get better."

In six months, Swenson said the 300 workers in the Humvee production program turned around a failing production line.

For the last three months, Letterkenny has produced 27 additional Humvees each month, at no cost, he said.

Pillsbury spoke excitedly of the Humvees which will soon find their way to the sands of war.

"These Humvees are gonna get dirty, they're gonna get sandy, and they're gonna get shot at in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait," Pillsbury said, gesturing to the 27 desert brown Humvees parked for the ceremony. "This war will be won because you gave the soldiers the tool kit."

Pillsbury said Letterkenny's reputation for excellence in manufacturing has reached the soldiers in the field.

"The theater knows the name of Letterkenny," he said.

While Letterkenny was not the only public sector manufacturer to receive the award in 2006, it is the only repeat winner.

Ross E. Robson, executive director of the Shingo Prize at Utah State University, explained that nine Shingo Prizes were awarded on four levels - platinum, gold, silver and bronze - for lean manufacturers in the public sector.

Letterkenny was the Army's only repeat winner of the prize, winning two silver level awards between 2005 and 2006.

Before presenting the award Tuesday, Robson challenged Letterkenny to do better next year.

"I want to see you win at the platinum level," he said.

Swenson accepted Robson's challenge, saying if the depot wins even a gold Shingo, there will be "quite a big party."

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