2008 Plant of the Year

Baldor's Ozark Plant is a model for American manufacturing. Read on to find out how they achieved their success.

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This article was originally published in our sister publication Plant Services.

By Sheila Kennedy, contributing editor

Baldor Electric Co. is a “local company” in a global market. The $1.8 billion producer of industrial electric motors, power transmission products, drives and generators is consistently profitable and growing. The company is a proud American manufacturer, and about 95% of its products are produced in the United States. It’s also a successful exporter, with 17% of production exported to more than 70 countries around the world.

Standing left to right: Tom Potts, plant manager; Don Adkison, materials manager; Matt Hamilton, continuous improvement manager and Bobby Riley, HR manager. Kneeling left to right: Derrick McCartney, maintenance supervisor; Chuck Harkins, production manager and Ben Roe, engineering manager
Standing left to right: Tom Potts, plant manager; Don Adkison, materials manager; Matt Hamilton, continuous improvement manager and Bobby Riley, HR manager. Kneeling left to right: Derrick McCartney, maintenance supervisor; Chuck Harkins, production manager and Ben Roe, engineering manager

“Given the powerful forces of global competition, it takes a strong management team, committed employees and a dedication to quality and innovation for a U.S.-based manufacturer to stay on top,” says John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). “Baldor obviously demonstrates these qualities and to the satisfaction of their customers, which, in the end, determines whether you succeed or fail.”

Baldor’s success is due in no small part to the actions of the maintenance, engineering and facility management personnel in its 25 manufacturing plants and, in this respect, one plant stands out: Baldor's Ozark Plant.

 “Too many companies think all you need to compete and survive is to reduce costs, eliminate waste and be more efficient, but there are other factors involved,” says Mike Collins, president of MPC Management and author of the book “Saving American Manufacturing.” Baldor’s customer focus and holistic drive for value throughout the organization sets them apart from other organizations.

 “Baldor is proof that you can manufacture in American with American workers, export to the rest of the world, get a premium price for a premium product, and compete with any low-cost country in the world — even with a commodity product like electric motors,” he adds.

The Baldor value philosophy

Baldor aims to be the largest and best industrial electric motor manufacturer in the $18 billion global motor market, but not by selling the cheapest motor one can buy. Its strategy is to deliver the highest-value product by improving quality and service, reducing the cost of ownership and shortening the time to deliver products to the customer.

“Our mission is to be the best as perceived by our customers; to be the highest value provider to our customers,” says Randy Waltman, Baldor’s executive vice president of operations.

To achieve this mission, all eyes remain trained on the customer — from the executive office to the plant floor. “Our founders always said, ‘We don’t watch our competitors. We listen to our customers,’” Potts explains.

Raised in the Ozarks

Baldor Ozark Plant’s customer focus and leadership in value-driven processes distinguish it from the competition.
Baldor Ozark Plant’s customer focus and leadership in value-driven processes distinguish it from the competition.

In 1994, a 15-acre tract in a small town in Franklin County, Ark. was selected for a new Baldor motor plant. Ozark’s population of 3,600 welcomed the jobs and economic opportunity the new 60,000-sq.-ft. facility offered.

Today, the Baldor plant in Ozark, Ark., measures 151,800 sq. ft. and is capable of producing 15 hp to 75 hp NEMA premium 210, 250 and 280 electric motors. With 265 employees, it’s the largest employer in Ozark and second largest in Franklin County.

The plant is the market leader in the motors it manufactures and has the shortest lead times in the industry. “Ozark has the highest degree of automation within Baldor Electric Co. and it’s one of the most efficient plants we have today,” says Tom Potts, Baldor Ozark plant manager.

In recent years, the plant has taken a leadership role in transforming its manufacturing, maintenance, training and conservation strategies, making it more efficient, effective and competitive than ever. Its actions serve as a model for any manufacturer seeking to strengthen its competitive position.

About 120,000 units are manufactured annually at the plant, of which 45% are custom designs. “We have more than 10,000 active product designs at Ozark now,” Potts says. The products are sold to OEMs and distributors worldwide in diverse markets such as HVAC, food processing, mining, material handling and energy.

Designed for instant gratification

Wound stators in housings ready to load to assembly. Note the variety and small lot sizes.
Wound stators in housings ready to load to assembly. Note the variety and small lot sizes.

“Ozark was initially laid out with multitask work cells,” says Ryan Waite, Baldor’s director of Lean FlexFlow and former Ozark plant manager. “Within the cells, we marry up machine-dependent processes so that a person’s time is optimized during the cycle time of the machine. In the end, it means that multiple machines are being run by one operator. As we expand, add new capital equipment and undergo product transitions, we always try to maintain the work cells.”

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