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International eyes on Arkadelphia's Carrier plant.

'Absolutely Unbelievable' Among the Descriptions for $100 Million Facility

CARRIER CORP.'S $100 MILLION state-of-the-art manufacturing facility near Arkadelphia is drawing worldwide attention.

The plant, dedicated less than three months ago, already has attracted the interest of The Wall Street Journal and NBC-TV.

The Wall Street Journal sent a reporter to Arkadelphia for two days in November to write an article on the plant. NBC showed footage of the facility on its evening news and on the "Today" show in conjunction with reports on Bill Clinton's run for the presidency.

Even the Japanese Air Conditioning Refrigeration News has published an article on the facility.

"It is absolutely unbelievable," Del Boyette, director of the industry division at the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission, says of the plant. "It is one of the nicest manufacturing facilities I have ever been in anywhere."

In 1989, Carrier acquired the vacant Fafnir Bearing Co. plant in the Clark County Industrial Park south of Gum Springs, between Arkadelphia and Gurdon on U.S. 67. It invested almost $100 million to improve the plant, research and engineer the scroll design and purchase the latest computer driven, automated machines.

"They gutted the |Fafnir~ plant," says Jim Dane, executive director of the Clark County Industrial Council. "There was a lot of open space and they cut it into partitions. There was a 30-foot ceiling they dropped about 12 feet because they have air conditioning and climate control."

"It's a very sophisticated operation. It's a neat, clean place. It's like a hospital."

Expansion Planned

The 342,000-SF plant manufactures Carrier's Millennium scroll compressor for use in Carrier, Bryant, Day & Night and Payne residential air conditioning systems. Carrier expects to produce 750,000 of the compressors in 1994.

The plant has 250 employees, but Carrier already is planning to expand to 400 by the end of 1993.

The operation is distinctive because of the production process, known as Demand Flow Manufacturing. Carrier, also with a plant in Maumelle, is converting all its other facilities nationwide to the process.

At the plant's opening ceremonies Oct. 13, Karl Krapek, Carrier's chairman and chief executive officer, said, "Make no mistake about it. You are standing in not just another factory, but rather you have stepped into the very future of Carrier itself."

"It's a fast-paced, quick through-put method," says plant manager Geary Pope.

In a traditional operation, a plant might have a press department, a welding department and an assembly department all scattered through the building.

What Carrier does with DFM, Pope says, is remove any "non-value added" transactions to reconstruct the flow of the manufacturing process. All related jobs are placed as close as possible to each other.

"It takes time out of the process and it takes out inventory," says Pope, a native Arkansan who worked for Timex Corp. for 18 years before joining Carrier in 1990. "It improves quality. My personal feeling is that it really does improve productivity. We can't say how much because this is the only way we've ever done it."

There are no supervisors at Carrier's Arkadelphia plant. Every section of the plant is organized under a "team concept."

The entire plant is designed into separate areas or cells. One team runs the business of each cell. At the beginning or end of each shift, the team meets for about 15 minutes to discuss safety, the quality level, the schedule and possible problems.

After proper training, every worker in each "cell" of the plant can do each job in that cell. Every employee has input into the daily operation, Pope says.

Team Culture

Pope notes that all employees at the plant, located on "84 tobacco-less acres," are salaried. Everyone is paid twice a month on a direct-deposit basis.

"While we didn't influence Carrier's Demand Flow Manufacturing concept, we like to think that in some way we'll influence Carrier's culture in other plants," he says.

Pope says he looks for individuals who will accept responsibility, who will be committed to the job and who are deeply involved in running the business.

"We find that local people who come to us from traditional roles enjoy having a say-so in the activities of their operation day to day and enjoy being asked for an opinion," Pope says. "Part of the team culture is to push the decision making process down to the lowest level. The more training you give people, the more decision making you can push to lower levels."

Pope relies on pre-employment training to prepare workers for the operation.

Carrier's team concept is the peg that attracted The Wall Street Journal, Pope says.

"Earl Norton, a manufacturing writer for The Wall Street Journal, was interested in doing an article on modern manufacturing plants," Pope says. "He had in front of him 22 plants to visit in 12 different states. He was more interested in the culture here than he was the product.

"I happen to share his opinion that it's people who make the difference."

Tedious Competition

Boyette was the AIDC's industrial representative who worked hard to bring Carrier to Arkadelphia. He says it was a difficult and tedious process to persuade Carrier to choose Arkadelphia to build its plant of the future.

"The final competition was between Alabama and Arkansas," Boyette says. "Basically, they liked the existing facility in Arkadelphia. And it is close to Carrier facilities in Collierville, Tenn., and Tyler, Texas."

Arkadelphia agreed to make changes to meet Carrier's needs before the company moved to Clark County. The local airport's runway was expanded in length from 4,000 to 5,000 feet and from 50 to 75 feet in width, at a cost of $870,000.

The Federal Aviation Administration, the Arkansas Aeronautic Commission, the AIDC and the city provided funds for the expansion, Dane says. The expense, he says, was worth attracting a company spending $100 million and bringing in 250-400 jobs.

Pope says, "We needed the runway extended, but other industry in the area needed it extended, too. I like to think we were a driver in having the runway lengthened. The benefit is it makes it easier for visitors to get here.

"Our senior management can hop on a corporate jet and be here in two or three hours from our corporate offices up in |Farmington~ Connecticut. But most of our visitors come here to help us do a particular job or project."

He adds that the longer runway also will be beneficial to Rohr Inc., which is building a 600,000-SF plant in the industrial park.

The Carrier plant has had a dramatic influence on Arkadelphia's economy as well as its employment rate. The employees are paid more than the average Arkadelphia wage.

"Making a wild guess, there were probably 30-40 new homes that were built to house the people Carrier brought in," Dane says. "Those houses range in prices from $80,000-$135,000, probably. The builders in this town really saw the light of day when Carrier management people started to move in."
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Industry Report; manufacturing plant of Carrier Corp.
Author:Smith, David (American novelist)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jan 4, 1993
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