Vilsack: 'Lean' factories are the future for Iowa

Monday, December 5, 2005

MASON CITY - Gov. Tom Vilsack met Thursday with workers at a local door frame plant, telling them legislative initiatives to make manufacturing more efficient are essential to keeping Iowa competitive.

"Economic growth in Iowa depends on strategic support of lean manufacturing," Vilsack told workers at Curries.

He said the state has seen a 22 percent increase in the export of manufactured goods.

"We need to take the next step," he said.

Vilsack said part of that step will be to fund programs that focus on creating and funding programs for the Iowa's work force.

"We must stay connected to our universities and community colleges, be sure there are programs offering the necessary training," Vilsack said, surrounded by the clamor of factory production. He watched as a robotic laser sliced a strip of steel.

Jerry Currie, company CEO, said computer programming stations on machinery and clustered work areas are two ways the company has streamlined operations.

Using the Japanese concept for continuous improvement, known as kaizen, the company became more efficient, Currie said.

"It's the only way to be competitive today," Currie said.

The streamlining began at the top and filtered down, company officials said.

Jay Hain, profit center manager, said a five-step program was in important step.

Production lines were revised. Robotics installed for some steps, helping to speed cutting, breaking or bending steel, Hein said.

The state also embraces kaizen concepts, Vilsack said.

"Kaizen is being used to improve our air quality permitting," Vilsack said. "Each step toward efficiency, in manufacturing or government, creates a more competitive stable economy for Iowa."

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