Warner Electric, part of Altra Industrial Motion, has just completed the development of a modern 96,000 square-foot plant near Columbia City, IN.
The world-class facility allowed Warner Electric to consolidate production activities from three different manufacturing
and warehouse locations in the Midwest and allows for
future production expansion.
But perhaps more importantly, this consolidation gave
Warner Electric the opportunity to develop a state-of-the-art
operation driven by lean operational principles using the
same operational excellence techniques deployed byAltra
manufacturing facilities across the globe.
Warner Electric is a global leader in the power transmission products industry w ith manufacturing facilities in North
America, Europe and Asia. The new Columbia City plant
will manufacture a variety of electromagnetic clutches and
brakes, including PTO clutches and brakes for use on consumer and commercial lawn tractors, agriculture equipment
and diesel engines.
Kaizen Sensei Helps Guide Plant Layout
The new plant provided an opportunity for a “clean sheet”
facility layout. Several kaizen events were held during the
summer of 2013 to establish the optimal equipment layout
and material flow. The goal was to eliminate the wastes in
movement, wait times and inventory throughout the entire
production process. “We employed the services of a Toyota
Production System sensei to assist us with this major under-
taking,” says Ebling. “Teams of up to 15 members each were
formed, representing all levels of employees, from produc-
tion associates, material handlers and engineers to corporate
Each team began by mapping the current production pro-
cesses of all products within two value streams. Cardboard
cutouts of machines and equipment were used to experiment
with plant layout variations. Each proposed variation was
evaluated using lean techniques and measures including:
• Enhanced safety and ergonomics.
• Optimized workflow.
• Minimized travel.
• Reduced inventory.
• Minimized footprint.
• Local point-of-use inventory storage.
“We also had a separate team evaluate raw material, finished
goods inventory and material flow,” says Stan Owens, Warner
Electric’s General Manager. “The team developed a logical
plan for our stock locations and shipping area. They also spec-
ified a material delivery system employing unique material
handling equipment and dedicated associates using standard
work for the delivery of components and removal of finished
goods from the assembly cells to maximize efficiency.”
All these planning activities were directly aligned with
Altra’s “Operational Excellence” and “Total Associate In-
volvement” initiatives that focus improvement efforts on the
critical processes that provide value to customers. Customer
satisfaction ultimately translates to long-term, profitable
growth for the company.
Improved Productivity Right from the Start
Optimized productivity begins immediately when raw materials are delivered to the plant receiving dock. All material
receipts are initiated by an order to the supplier triggered by
a kanban card from an empty container. Receiving and quality personnel, along with material handlers, all own and drive
the process. Receipt transactions are executed within Altra’s
business system (SAP), but all physical locations, quantities,
containers, etc. are shown on the kanban card with enough
information for anyone to fully execute the process.
Lean accounting techniques require inventory be at the
lowest possible level. This is achieved through a very responsive supply chain that provides smaller, more frequent
deliveries tracked electronically with minimal intervention
and only one internal transaction. “Although we still have
Optimized For Efficiency
Warner Electric incorporates kaizen and lean manufacturing princi-
ples into the design of a new, state-of-the-art facility.