By Tim Heston, Senior Editor
The JCB facility near Savannah, plainly visi- ble from I- 95, has a lake in front with a small island where a skid steer, a telescopic handler, and other construction machines sit, mysteriously (see Figures 1 and 2). Countless bored children, riding down to Florida with mom and dad,
undoubtedly have asked just how those machines
got out there. (In the middle of the night, the lake
can be drained to reveal a road to the island.)
The plant is in an ideal location for a global enterprise. The Port of Savannah, currently undergoing
an expansion, is a few miles away, as are rail lines
and interstate highways.
Plants in Europe, South America, Asia, and JCB’s
home base in the U.K., in rural Rocester just north
of Birmingham, share the same general layout, from
the lobby to the stairs that lead up to the plant mezzanine to the open office adjacent to the factory
floor, with fabrication in back feeding coating and
assembly toward the front (see Figure 3).
But that open office plan, along with the open
layout on the floor, does promote good communication, which in one sense makes each JCB plant
unique. They all abide by the general principles
of the JCB Production System, which adapts lean
manufacturing to JCB’s products. But that communication has led to some significant changes during
the past five years.
Although the factory itself looks the same as it did
when it opened in 2000—500,000 square feet with
75 percent of that space used for manufacturing—
the part flow has changed dramatically. The result
has been what everyone everywhere in manufacturing wants. The people at JCB’s Savannah plant
now produce more quality products in less time and
with fewer resources.
A Changing Market
In late October 2015 the JCB Savannah plant hosted
a tour organized by the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. During the tour, Tim Witter, vice president of
manufacturing, shed some light on the challenging
conditions in the construction equipment market.
A backhoe sits in the lobby of JCB’s North American
headquarters near Savannah, Ga.
A lake in front of the JCB plant near Savannah has an
island where several machines sit (shown here just behind the fountain). In the middle of the night, the lake
can be drained to reveal a road to the island.
How the construction equipment-maker
designs for lean manufacturing