Emerson Electric streamlines operation

Thursday, November 15, 2001

Jobs to be cut elsewhere

By Jim Obert

Business Today

KENNETT -- Nearly 40 state and local dignitaries were recently entertained at an Appreciation Day at Emerson Electric Motors. The event was to show gratitude for their support in fostering the plant's ability to implement the Lean Manufacturing concept.

According to Ron Randen, plant manager, "We started our Lean journey about 12 months ago, we're about one-third of the way to our destination of becoming a world-class plant."

As the dignitaries toured the plant, evidence of change was visible. Newly designed work areas have been recently painted and improved lighting installed.

New assembly lines are being made shorter and more efficient.

Barbara Burgess, a 25-year employee, told the local newspaper, "We can't compete with Mexican labor, so we have to find other ways of being competitive like Lean Manufacturing.

Emerson Electric Co. is cutting 4,000 jobs, or 10 percent of its salaried work force, and will close about 20 of its 350 plants worldwide because of a decrease in customer demand and a downturn in the economy aggravated by September's terrorist attacks.

But an upside of this news could be a plus for the Emerson manufacturing facility in Kennett.

Officials at the Emerson plant have been told that it could receive some more assembly lines, which would result in the hiring of more employees.

About 70 percent of Emerson's national cuts have already occurred, said Emerson spokesman Mark Polzin. No timetable was specified on when the rest of the cuts would be made.

Polzin said the company is focusing on restructuring in the areas of electronics and telecommunications.

As for changes that have already been put into place at the Kennett plant, when the plant opened the final assembly line was 90 feet long, now it's 30 feet long. Being closer means better communication and fewer quality problems.

Randen told the group that from the start of the Lean Manufacturing concept, plant employees have been involved. Twelve workers were selected to help in the transition and were given specific training in fundamentals of Lean Manufacturing to help the plant navigate the way to a world-class manufacturing facility.

The Emerson plant in Kennett opened in July 1959 with 68 hourly and 11 salaried employees in a 106,000-square-foot facility. Currently, there are 500 hourly and 43 salaried employees in a 283,000-square-foot facility.

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