MCFA Gains With Lean Production System

HOUSTON, TX, United States -- Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc (MCFA) has announced major improvements at its Houston manufacturing site, which makes Mitsubishi and Cat forklifts.

For the 18 months ended September 30, the "Mitsubishi Caterpillar Production System" reduced the head count by 18%, increased capacity 36%, pared 35% off production hours per truck and cut warranty costs by 60%. MCFA would not disclose actual figures nor implementation costs.

"As with any idea, the first step is to get acceptance from the people who will use its methodologies," Joseph Hibdon, manufacturing vice president, said. "We are past that stage and well on our way to achieving our targets."

MCFA adopted the operating philosophy early last year, aiming to add customer value and cope with the weak economy. Some MCFA employees helped establish the system, which targets seven potential wastes: over-production, waiting, transport, extra processing, inventory, motion and defect. No outside suppliers were hired.

The principal challenge was gaining confidence the system would bring results and teaching all to use it in daily operations. Executives and managers now routinely record observations and data on business scorecards, and MCFA verifies the results through payroll, quality and budget systems.

By the end of 2004, MCFA intends to fully implement the philosophy for manufacturing, the company said. Implementation for MCFA administration, distribution and strategic sourcing divisions is planned, and the goal is to apply the system to sister operations in Japan and Europe.

The concepts drew on those of Henry Ford and numerous lean systems such as Six Sigma, the theory of constraint, total productive maintenance and total quality management.

MCFA said it sought to transition to a demand-based pull system from a forecast-based push system in planning for market uncertainties.

The joint venture opened in 1992, employs more than 800 in Houston and has 105 Mitsubishi and 97 Caterpillar dealers in more than 600 locations in the USA, Canada and Latin America. - MCFA website -

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