Mounted roller bearings to the world

In this Plant Profile, Baldor's North Carolina plant uses lean principles as a path to growth.

By J. Stanton McGroarty, CMfgE, CMRP, senior technical editor

Baldor Electric’s Dodge plant in Marion, North Carolina, produces mounted roller bearings that are shipped worldwide due to the plant’s world-class cost and quality profile. A line of precision taper roller bearings, formerly manufactured in India, was recently insourced to the Marion facility.

The Baldor plant’s growth plan includes building expansion, additional capital equipment to increase capacity and insource large housing machining, and new products to support international markets. Growth plans are focused on Marion, due to its world-class competitive position.

Top-line growth and competitive cost structures allow Baldor to compete in global markets.

The plant was constructed in 1996 to expand the manufacturing capacity for Baldor’s Dodge mounted roller bearing business. This product was transferred from the Rogersville, Tennessee, facility. The Marion plant is responsible for bringing more than 130 new jobs to McDowell and surrounding counties. A new Marion plant expansion, announced in November 2012, is expected to create 41 additional jobs in the plant.

ABB, Baldor’s parent company, has invested $17 million to expand the Marion plant and its roller bearing machine capacity to support a projected 47% unit sales growth over the next four years. The investment includes a 96,000 sq ft building expansion to accommodate five additional manufacturing cells. In addition to insourcing large bore machining capabilities and new product offerings, part of the growth strategy is to leverage ABB’s international sales infrastructure to grow the roller bearing business globally.

Success at Baldor owes more to hard work than to any magic formula.The Marion plant’s maintenance staff has improved machinery uptime to 98%. It also utilizes lean flexflow principles to deliver quality products to a variety of customers and industries rapidly. Lean flexflow manufacturing cells combine traditional office function and shop floor manufacturing into one cohesive unit. Each cell is focused on flexflow lean manufacturing integrated with Six Sigma quality with a focus on safety. This manufacturing strategy eliminates waste, eliminates variability, reduces downtime, and offers customers shorter delivery cycle times. These principles, combined with targeted automation, innovative tooling solutions, reliable equipment, and highly flexible employees, allow the plant to operate with best-in-class quality and cost levels. This framework also allows the international growth volume to be competitively manufactured in the United States.

Success at Baldor owes more to hard work than to any magic formula. “The attitude and enthusiasm of our workforce is unmatched,” says Mark Earley, plant manager. “They have a keen understanding of value as defined by our customers, and everybody within our facility takes ownership of their respective value-adding responsibilities. Our team focuses on the details, from quality assurance, to asset management, all the way through things like our wellness program. We occasionally use the application process for awards like the NAME Award to benchmark our progress, but we are careful to measure our performance against ourselves. We must continually reset our baseline.”

In 2008, the Marion plant received the North American Maintenance Excellence (NAME) Award, presented by the Foundation for Industrial Maintenance Excellence. The award is a comprehensive assessment of a maintenance organization’s processes and performance against a world-class standard. Awards are presented to plants on the basis of the maintenance department’s ability to provide capacity assurance for operational excellence in the areas of organization, work process, and materials management.

“We invest in significant training to develop skill diversity in our maintenance technicians. This is one of the few manufacturing facilities I’ve seen where every maintenance technician possesses proficient mechanical and electronic skills. There is no specialization. This flexibility not only reduces our mean time to repair, it also lowers our overall maintenance cost. As an example, through training we have reduced our dependency on outside contractors by 95% over the past several years,” adds Earley.

“Because we have reduced unplanned downtime, our team can be very diligent about seeking root cause detail for every unplanned maintenance occurrence,” reports Randy Rampey, manufacturing services manager. “These investigations routinely identify corrective actions that are captured in specific machine strategy revisions.”

J. Stanton McGroarty, CMfgE, CMRP, is senior technical editor of Plant Services. He was formerly consulting manager for Strategic Asset Management International (SAMI), where he focused on project management and training for manufacturing, maintenance and reliability engineering. He has more than 30 years of manufacturing and maintenance experience in the automotive, defense, consumer products and process manufacturing industries. He holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the Detroit Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in management from Central Michigan University. He can be reached at smcgroarty@putman.net or check out his .

Noteworthy manufacturing performance starts with innovative products that not only provide industry-driven solutions for our customers, but are also designed for cost competitive manufacturing,” adds Earley. “Beyond that I would recommend utilizing a structured business team approach to drive the business. We have realized immeasurable benefit from creating a functional team from marketing, product engineering, supply chain, and manufacturing that is responsible for new product development, operational excellence, and cost reduction.”

Earley also suggests that a significant amount of engineering resources be allocated to providing robust processes that are repeatable. “This often requires that traditional machine tool investments are supplemented by other tooling solutions that will provide repeatable processes and quick setup, but, by far, the key to success is building a culture of continuous improvement,” he explains.

“We think it’s short-sighted and limiting to consider manufacturing our internal customer,” adds Rampey. “Instead, we truly partner with manufacturing to service our common external customers. This approach results in more effective planned maintenance scheduling, and spare parts inventory management. One thing that facilitates this partnership is that 78% of our maintenance team members were previously production machinists in our facility. They understand how the processes should flow. So we like to think we are supporting and maintaining processes versus just individual equipment within those processes.”

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