It’s considered a management best practice that every company should conduct an employee survey of its workforce at least once a year, but the UTC Aerospace Systems–Aerostructures plant, based in Foley, Ala., takes an “even better” best practice approach when it comes to its employees. The plant, which manufactures nacelle components for jet engines, conducts six to eight employee surveys per year, as part of its Positive Employee Philosophy.

“Here at UTC Aerostructures we follow what we call the Four Gears—people, ideas, performance and integrity—as our operating principles,” explains Linda Howser, the plant’s human resources manager. “We very much believe in supporting our employees, who in turn believe in supporting our local community.” Those activities include working with such organizations as United Way, Red Cross and the American Heart Association, as well as the local Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Alliance.

In addition, all salaried employees are required to participate in an ethics and compliance education program, and the plant has a local ethical officer to spearhead the coordination of the program.

“You would be hard pressed to find more dedicated, skilled and earnest people to work with,” notes Darrel Wilson, plant manager, on the occasion of the UTC Foley plant being named an IndustryWeek Best Plant winner. The employees all have one thing on their mind, he says, which is “doing the best job they can day in and day out to delight and deliver for our customers.”

Every member of the production workforce uses very detailed standard work to manufacture components to the customer’s requirements and to date the plant has documented more than 30,000 pages of standard work in support of its operations.

At the UTC Foley plant, takt time clocks throughout the facility break down an 8-hour workday (or 25,200 seconds) into four periods of 6,300 seconds each, and then count down in seconds the plant’s cadence towards reaching their production goals. UTC has found that by reducing a second here and a second there from the process, day in and day out, pretty soon they’ll have saved an entire hour.

All workers are encouraged to contribute suggestions and improvements, and work teams are engaged in problem-solving, kaizen events, conducting area environmental, health and safety inspections, and performing quality inspections.

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“One day you think something is part of the standard work process, but the next day you notice there is waste in that process,” Wilson explains. “Having standard work processes is key to where we are today.”

“We run a lot of kaizen events to introduce and reinforce continuous improvement in our employees,” adds Don Chesscher, operations manager at the plant. “You can’t have standard work unless you continually repeat that process.”