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LEAN PROGRAM FUELING DRAMATIC GROWTH FOR FREUDENBERG-NOK

 PLYMOUTH, Mich., April 15 /PRNewswire/ -- By adopting the lean manufacturing concepts pioneered by Toyota and heralded by the 1990 book, "The Machine That Changed The World," automotive supplier Freudenberg-NOK is on a dramatic growth track that is doubling the company's annual sales from 1988 to 1993 and will double them again to $1 billion by the year 2000, according to Freudenberg-NOK President and CEO Joseph C. Day.
 Day's remarks came at a Birmingham, Mich., media briefing which also featured lean concept proponent Dr. James J. Womack, principal research scientist for Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Japan Program and co-author of "The Machine That Changed The World."
 "Our initial efforts in applying lean manufacturing concepts during the company's first few years have provided us with significant competitive advantages in cost, quality and service," Day said. "This helped us to nearly double our sales between 1988 and 1992, while North American auto production declined some 20 percent and then began its rebound."
 To complement and expand the lean practices that have been in place since 1985, the company formally launched an aggressive lean systems implementation program called GROWTTH (an acronym for Get Rid of Waste Through Team Harmony) last year throughout its 14 North American facilities.
 This initiative, according to Day, will help the company to grow its annual sales by four to five times the industry average -- reaching $1 billion by the year 2000. And because GROWTTH fosters ongoing, employee-driven efforts to utilize space, people and materials more efficiently, this sales increase should be accommodated without any major additions to the company's manufacturing space or work force, he said.
 According to Day, since the GROWTTH Program's company-wide introduction last year, in various operations Freudenberg-NOK has already:
 -- reduced cycle times by 81 percent
 -- reduced product lead time by 46 percent
 -- reduced inventories of in-process work by 77 percent
 -- improved labor productivity by 48 percent, and
 -- reduced required production space by 44 percent.
 "We expect even greater results, like those we've witnessed at our Cleveland, Ga., Manchester, N.H., and Ligonier, Ind., plants as more employees become actively involved in, and committed to, the continuous improvement process," he said.
 According to Day, the Cleveland, Ga., seal production site -- which has employed lean manufacturing concepts since it opened in 1989 -- is 60 percent higher in productivity than the American average. But, he added, even that operation can benefit from continuous improvement efforts.
 The key, he said, is enlisting and empowering every employee to help eliminate waste every day. Freudenberg-NOK employees are embracing the concept, as they develop new skills and gain new job opportunities resulting from the new business being generated.
 "Today, lean systems are providing a competitive advantage and a foundation for growth for companies like Freudenberg-NOK," Day said. "In 10 years, lean systems will be the ultimate measure of a company's ability to survive."
 Day said the risks in adopting lean systems are many and the cultural adjustments companies must make are complex. For example, he cited the lean process called one-piece flow manufacturing, which seems illogical to traditional Western thinking. But, he added, lean systems are to the 1990s what Deming's quality systems were to the 1980s.
 Freudenberg-NOK operates 14 major facilities in North America and employs about 3,500 in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Established in 1989 as a general partnership between Freudenberg & Company of Germany and NOK Corporation of Japan to serve the North American market, Freudenberg-NOK has rapidly become a leading supplier of precision seals, molded rubber and plastics, vibration control products and automotive rebuild kits.
 -0- 4/15/93
 /CONTACT: Sharon Wenzl of Freudenberg-NOK, 313-451-0020; or Jim Bianchi of Bianchi Public Relations, 313-646-9732, for Freudenberg-NOK/


CO: Freudenberg-NOK ST: Michigan IN: AUT SU:

JG -- DE020 -- 6320 04/15/93 13:56 EDT
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Date:Apr 15, 1993
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